Spring is near and one not so favorite but a must activity in this season you could be looking forward to is the Annual Spring Cleaning. As COVID-19 is spreading at an alarming rate, we are forced to be confined in our homes for our own good. Maybe it is time to pick the spring cleaning now as there are ample time and resources to do in a better way.
There is one more area where cleaning can be done at his point of time – cleaning your product backlog. As theoretical it may appear to be, in reality, is the most practical approach to make the most of work from home.
What is Product Backlog?
The product backlog is not a list of requirements. It is the snapshot of the current understanding of the next steps – goals, risks or options – on the path to a great product. – Andreas Schliep
In the product management universe, the backlog is a set of tasks required to complete the final product. There are a lot of ideas and features that can be incorporated as functionalities in the product. Not all can be implemented at once. Thus, a ‘Wishlist – with a lower priority’ is created of these product functionalities with short descriptions, kept aside for later use with time.
The product backlog contains product features (user stories used as descriptions for the desired functionality), potential bugs and complex issues, technical work insightful research, knowledge acquisition, and workstation up-gradation. An appropriate backlog is ever-changing, with constant improvements, and is never really “complete.”
The product backlogs are prioritized in a way that the high priority backlog is picked up first for the sprint and the development team will take actions accordingly and immediately. The developers estimate all product backlog items and will determine the number of items that will be selected for the upcoming sprint.
The day you realize your product backlog is not prioritized the right way, it then begins to look like a black hole that will suck away all your time, energy, and resources to clear it off. Just like Andreas has mentioned, the idea is not to treat product backlog like items to be ticked off the list but rather a meticulously planned move to make your product more effective and efficient.
Product Backlog Management: 8 Tips for Optimization
Below are the steps to be followed that helps to clear your wishlist and manage your product backlog, speed up the product development and making sure the product quality is not compromised.
Define an end-to-end strategy
This is the most crucial step in product planning. It is very essential to have a product vision – set a clear definition of the purpose of the product, features to be incorporated and how it is going to help the end-user in the longer run.
Along with the product, the key is to strategize market opportunities, product requirement research, target customers, an overall analysis of competition, market positioning, etc. The strategy is all about understanding the customers’ needs and how should one plan to fulfill those needs. Based on this overall analysis, a well-defined roadmap – right from the product iteration to the product launch, needs to be planned well in advance, based on the 3 major tactics:
- Market Identification
- Fixed Timelines
- Determine Key Approaches
- Wireframes or prototypes
- Product Specification requirements
- Define Testing strategy
- Hire a Development Team
Chalk out a manageable backlog
One of the most common mistakes that a product development team makes is to create a never-ending, exhaustive product backlog. It is difficult to gauge the efforts to be invested in each backlog, and thus, the team is piled with hundreds of backlogs on their table.
The backlog should not be left unorganized or it loses its transparency. This encyclopedic backlog could make the product vision become hazy and the team could get lost as to where the product is heading to.
The owner & Product Managers must make sure to maximize the outcome by keeping the backlog manageable. Re-prioritize your backlog items. Decide what backlog can be skipped. It is never easy to say “no”, but sometimes it is the only way.
Determine a Strict Timeline
Plan a seamless but powerful timeline that can accommodate and justify your overall product strategy. This helps in allocating the project to different team members and deciding on the different iterations on which it has to be completed. Given the current circumstances, the timelines can be made crisp, leading the product backlog to get done within 3-4 months.
For successful development management in a timeline, the 2 most important factors are better Team efficiency and seamless internal coordination – this helps to make sure your product is released on time. Depending on the product features, the needs of the user and the overall team skills involved in the project, a correct launch date should be defined.
Using Agile Methodology
The perfect development methodology for any product management is an Agile methodology. It helps to classify the project into several iterations of equal intervals spread across a time period. The agile method lets them monitor in detail the product development stages, so they can make decisions throughout the project.
Through Agile, a quick basic version of the software product can be created and allows us to create Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with all the user-friendly features and release it in the market. With more feedback from the end-user, more features added with time. Agile, actually, saves time as each task can be started only after completing the previous task, also making sure the of the overall team productivity.
Regular Virtual Refinement Meetings
Regular virtual video/call meetings help to keep your product backlog refined and healthy. These meetings are critical as it is important to communicate regularly, keep updated with the regular changes, all this increases the chances of creating a product that adds real value to the users. With a collaboration of the product owner and development team during refinement, the addition of details, estimation, and product item prioritization can be done as this is purely based out of a healthy discussion. Video call tools like Skype, Zoom, etc can be utilized effectively, helps to connect every member of the team for meetings.
The primary goal is to discuss the current backlog & discuss feasible optimization. During the refinement, you can:
- Write new user stories
- Re-prioritize tasks
- Delete irrelevant user stories
- Add new features, set new priorities
- Improve the priorities of previously described user stories
- Break down user stories into smaller ones
- Revise testing criteria
- Analyze time and individual assessments
- Adjust estimates, etc.
Rhythmic Automated Testing
It is very essential to conduct software tests at regular intervals for a smooth development cycle. Every time new source code is added or modified, testing becomes a must to ensure the product works well on all the supporting platforms. Both automated testing and manual testing procedures are adopted, but to save time, reduce the burden on resources, save cost and accelerate the project to adhere to the timelines, automated testing is a more preferred choice.
Automated testing is faster, gets really in-depth into the code functionality, improves software quality and you can finally release a perfect product.
The documentation describes the product architecture and functionality that is under development. It is designed for every team member involved in a software development project – designers, developers, testers, marketers, end-users, stakeholders, etc.
Documentation helps to improve software quality. The development team can come up with their own informal practice in coding documentation and code review process. Once these practices are formalized, formal documentation can be created to help track the forward project progress.
Crisp documentation can speed up the development process, helps the developers reach a consensus on how to implement a particular product functionality and in turn become cost-effective for the company. Properly documented error codes and FAQs guides developers to troubleshoot production issues as well. All of this documentation can be done with ease in the current time. All this detailed documentation is going to be an important resource to utilize wisely in the future for the growth of the product.
The following are the documents you can maintain:
- Design document
- Technical document
- User documentation
- Marketing documentation
Optimizing and Removing Unused Code
It is extremely crucial to get rid of unused codes because it can lead to a number of issues. Maintaining any code is a task in itself – if unused codes are there in the codebase, they can only create a mess.
Chances are thin that unused codes will ever be used again, so even if you have taken the time and effort to create codes, just remove them if they serve no purpose. Code cleanup can accelerate the development process, and improve the software quality.
Irrespective of the product or service in development, backlog optimization is an integral part of management functionality. Companies must concentrate on reducing development time to market their products effectively. It is equally important to gain marketing advantage and to acquire a competitive position, because, in certain situations, it could be a matter of pure survival. This is the perfect time to invest in product backlogs as it can be done without any distractions. Our Ace Experts are here to help you plan, strategize, execute and deliver in the time frame.