Category Archives: Product Launch

Backlog Elaboration: A Win-Win Proposition

As we all know, Product Managers are responsible for maintaining the Backlog such that it reflects the demands of the market. As market dynamics change, the backlog changes too. The Agile way of constantly prioritizing the backlog and keeping the most relevant features or stories at the top are key to ensuring that the product stays competitive in today’s dynamic market.

Many times, the Product Manager and the Product Development team go into Sprint Planning without enough clarity on some features or user stories. This causes the planning meeting to go in circles Continue reading

Hey Product Manager, is your backlog mature?

As the world embraces the Agile methodologies with gusto, it is important to get certain elements right to ensure that the key Agile principles are properly implemented. One such element is Transparency. A mature Product Backlog goes a long way in ensuring transparency.

For the beginner, a Product Backlog is a wish list of features or enhancements that would make your product great. It contains User stories which are features or enhancements written in the language of the end user. Contrary to Waterfall projects which have a baselined and frozen list of requirements, the Product Backlog is kept alive and constantly modified through the life of the Product. It is this changing nature of the Product Backlog that is both an asset and a potential liability. It is important to ensure that the Product Backlog does not become just a stale document of EVERYTHING that might or might not get implemented in the product’s lifetime. It is the Product Manager’s responsibility to maintain a mature backlog and once done, everyone involved in the organization stands to gain from it.


With this background, I shall now attempt to define the characteristics of “A Mature Product Backlog”.

Valuable User Stories: A Mature Product Backlog contains user stories that deliver value to the customer. Each user story should take the product one step closer to the product that the end user desires. Additionally, each user story should have Acceptance criteria clearly listing the boundary conditions, performance criteria and other quality expectations.

Prioritized Backlog: The Product Backlog should be prioritized by the Product Owner in terms of the highest value stories at the top of the list. Another factor to be considered is the Risk involved in implementing the user story. It is a good idea to categorize user stories on Value and Risk and then prioritize the backlog on Value first and Risk next. High Value Low Risk stories would be at the top with the Low Value High Risk stories at the bottom.

INVEST(ed) User stories: A mature Product Backlog has user stories that follow Bill wake’s Independant, Negotiable, Valuable, Estimable, Sized appropriately and Testable (INVEST) mnemonic.

A definite list: The backlog is a list of user stories that will make your product great and it is not possible to only have a certain number of user stories in it. However, instead of having an endless list of small and big features, all I want you to do is a) Keep features that are due to be implemented in the current Release very detailed, b) Group similar features that are part of future releases into Epics and c) Keep user stories from future releases big and break them down into smaller user stories only as you come close to implementing them.

Estimated User stories: This is an Optional requirement for a mature Backlog. It is great to have a Product Backlog with user stories that are assigned story points to determine the size and effort involved. This helps the Product Owner in prioritizing the user stories. For estimating a large number of user stories, Planning poker could be ineffective and the Affinity estimating technique will be a better method.

Over to you now. do let us know if something is missing in this list.

(Pic: Thanks to Flickr: Creative Commons for the Backlog pic)

Who let the product die?

One evening, few products who registered to the Products Anonymous forum met at a local cafe to introduce themselves and share their experiences. They started off in a round robin fashion and we shamelessly listen in…

I died as I arrived as I did not serve any significant purpose for my users. People did not pay for me as they were convinced that I am not good as existing products they were using. Few who dared to risk by buying me but they did not like me. I am result of reactive product manager.

I made good sense to my buyers and they too fell in love with me but none took me home simply because they could not take me home. I did convince them about benefits that I can bring to them and they did agree to most however owning was not so cheap. Their hands did go in their pockets but only few could come out. I wish I could have been better priced but my over confident product manager thought otherwise.

I made success the moment I hit the stores and I was at all the places. I was talk of the town. This was 2 years back, the same people who rushed to shops 2 years back to buy me are the one who hate using me. It is not that I am a bad quality product but like all other products I too need some maintenance which my makers really did not bothered about. My buyers find it hard to repair me or replace my parts, my mechanics are difficult to reach and they simple do not live up to my buyer’s expectations and my product manager believes customer satisfaction is not his responsibility. I am suffering because my product manager never bothered about customer satisfaction.

People liked me and they want me. Few took me home but returned me to the store simply because they find me little too complex to set me up, forget using me. And for those who could configure me correctly found difficult to use me. I know I am a good quality product but at the same time I am difficult to use. My product manager could never appreciate importance of user experience and even though I am efficient I died premature death as I was made me so complex for my users.

I was created so well by makers that I never thought I will spend most of my life in warehouse. Somehow my product manager screwed up big time. He put me in the wrong shelf. He should have put me in the second from right shelf instead he put me in second from left shelf. Pathetic, people who came buying me could not understand my need to be on second from left shelf and those who went to shelf at second from right could never find me. This guy made me nice but could never understand my use. My product manager only had technical sense but marketing sense was missing big time.

I was born with bad luck or shall I say bad timing. The day I hit the shelf I was liked by buyers but most refrained from picking me for simple reason that they knew what my product manager did not knew. There was something new coming in few days and most anticipated that product to be better than me. As a result no one picked me and though I was at par with my competition I did not gain enough word of mouth and eventually lost the batter. My product manager’s ignorance killed me.

All went well for me but I still could not make it big. I was good but business leaders never believed in my potential or success. They always wanted a reason to shut me down and my product manager never bothered to advocate about me to executive team. I died slow with great pain. I could only wish that my product manager should have been stronger in advocating me.