Intro to Scrum (14 of 16): What is the Product Backlog and Product Goal?

What is the Product Backlog and Product Goal?

Does the Product Backlog take into account all the work a Scrum Team does? Should your vacation requests be placed there? How about the special requests from your boss? How does the Product Goal relate to a Product Backlog and what is the point of it all? I’ll provide an explanation, based on the Scrum Guide definition, of the Product Backlog and Product Goal, and what they entail for a Scrum Team.

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The Product Backlog is an emergent, ordered list of what is needed to improve the product. It is the single source of work undertaken by the Scrum Team.

Product Backlog items that can be done by the Scrum Team within just one Sprint are deemed ready for selection and Sprint Planning. I recommend Googling “definition of ready” for some tips on what ready could look like for your Product Backlogs.

Product Backlogs generally acquire this degree of transparency after refining activities. Product Backlog refinement is the act of breaking down work into smaller and more precise Product Backlog items. This is an ongoing activity to add details such as description, order, and size, and those attributes actually vary quite a bit with the domain of your work.

The Developers who are doing the work are responsible for the sizing. This will provide the most transparent estimates since they’re the ones doing the work. The Product Owner may influence the Developers by helping them understand and select trade-offs.

The Product Goal describes a future state of the product that the Scrum Team can use to plan against. The Product Goal is in the Product Backlog. The rest of the Product Backlog will emerge to fulfill what will fulfill the Product Goal.

Now let’s just stop here for a second to define a product. A product is a vehicle to deliver value. It has a clear boundary, known stakeholders, and well-defined users or customers. A product could be a service, a physical product, or even something really abstract.

Now back to the Product Goal. The Product Goal is a long-term objective for a Scrum Team. The Scrum Team must fulfill or abandon it before taking on the next. Remember focus, that’s important here.

That’s it for the Product Backlog and its commitment to the Product Goal.

If all of this information about Scrum is interesting to you and you’d like to learn more, consider enrolling in one of our Applying Professional Scrum courses, Professional Scrum Master courses, or Professional Product Owner courses. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact us.

Robert Pieper

Robert Pieper has been a licensed Professional Scrum Trainer since 2014 and National Public Speaker since 2013. Robb holds an MBA from Marquette University and an Electrical Engineering Degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering. Robb has 15 years of professional software development experience with a passion for making Scrum work delivering real products and services
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