Common Product Backlog Management Issues 

3 min read

A product backlog organization can be a powerful tool that allows you to quickly capture, revise and direct the work and efforts of your development team. But it can be challenging to use a backlog effectively. 

This article will help you identify and correct common product backlog organization issues. 

The product backlog is a Wish List 

Some product backlogs can be compared to a wish list – a list that includes everything you could ever need – both ideas and requests. This backlog is often too large. This creates a ‘feature soup, a product that looks like a collection of disconnected features. It results in a weak value proposition, a poor user experience, and other typical characteristics of the not-great product. 

These backlogs exist because companies need a placeholder to store everything about their products. They lack strategic alignment and focus. This results in there being no product vision to guide the decision about whether an item should be added or removed from the product backlog.  

As the product owner, you will often find it difficult to decline stakeholder requests to add ideas and requests, and you feel obliged to comply. If you can’t say no, then your product backlog organization could serve the interests of individual stakeholders rather than maximizing the value that a product provides for users and businesses. 

To protect your product backlog from becoming a wish list, keep a product goal in mind and make sure that it is aligned with a strategy.  

Also, be willing to say no to adding work directly into the backlog. You can track all ideas, requests, and feedback on the ideation platform. You should add only ones that align and deliver real value after selection and prioritization.  

PPM Express provides an Idea and Innovation Management module that can work as a staging area for all customer feedback, stakeholder ideas, and change requests. These elements can then be fleshed out, detailed, prioritized, and added to the backlog. 

PPM Express Project Backlog Management view

The Product Backlog is too Detailed 

Developers are often unhappy with backlogs when backlog items because of a huge variety of details.

Too-detailed items make it difficult to see the big picture, and it becomes hard to update and prioritize. A backlog might contain outdated, speculative, or ultimately incorrect items, particularly if the development effort is uncertain and changeable. 

We recommend starting with a deliberately high-level backlog to avoid making mistakes. It is especially important if your product is new or undergoing a phase of significant changes. It should grow based on carefully analyzed and selected feedback from customers, users, and other stakeholders.  

The Product Backlog is too Large 

A related problem arises from the issues described above. From time to time, we see huge backlogs. Backlogs with thousands of items are very problematic.  

Due to its size, complexity, and details, it is hard to understand, prioritize, and update such a product backlog. Also, such backlogs have an outdated and poorly structure. 

Keep your product backlog organization concise, and focus it on a particular product goal. Thus, it allows you to remove items that don’t align with product goals. 

Backlog not Prioritized Properly 

None of the work in the backlog has the same priorities. If all work is high-priority, this means that there is no priority. 

Prioritize each work element and decide how vital it is. The development team cannot set clear priorities; only the product manager, customers, and key stakeholders can do this. 

You can prioritize your product backlog using one common framework. There are many of these – MoSCow, ICE, RICE, WSJF, and others – but use one.  

Problems of Strategic Alignment 

Lack of strategic alignment is the most common problem. Without clear product goals and strategic direction, the backlog will quickly grow and become difficult to prioritize.  

The Product Backlog is Not Shared 

It is standard for development teams not to participate in product backlog work. Refining, prioritizing, and updating it should be a team effort.  

A solution is to build a public roadmap using backlog elements – it will add clarity and vision for where a product is going. You can use PPM Express roadmaps for this.  

The product owner must invite every team member and ask them to collaborate on the backlog. You can rely on and expect their support, which will add clarity, transparency, better alignment, and more commitment from the team. 

Common Product Backlog Management Issues 
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