#Spelunking your #Backlog

it all seems so simple on first blush. Process the items in your backlog in priority sequence, rinse, and repeat. What could possibly go wrong?

Simply put if you process your backlog only by one measure of client priority, you are probably missing a lot.

The key comes when your backlog isn’t a simple list owned by one person. Like most issues in Agile, the trick always comes when you need to apply the Agile trappings to an enterprise scenario. When I have a backlog for one project with one owner and one solution, one rating system probably is sufficient. But when we move to an enterprise when we have a ticketing system for 50-60 applications, one rating system probably doesn’t suffice. In that enterprise situation, only going by one rating system probably means that entire applications or departments would be ignored and the systems would stagnate. Departments would become frustrated, write their own Excel and Access applications and create FileMaker Pro applications on the non-standard Macs they purchased.

So what to do?

Go spelunking

Mine the Data. Look for trends. Take a look at the data and see about the work required by:

  • Priority
  • Size
  • Age
  • Department
  • Technology
  • Effort
  • Strategy
  • etc…

Essentially understand your problems as much as you understand your solutions. ensure that you are not neglecting an area of the backlog. If you totally ignore an area of the backlog, the clients will create coping behaviors to address.

Although they don’t seem important, those small reporting tickets can results in a Data Warehouse being fully replicated if they never get attention. Clients will just copy data off and do the work themselves. Clients are also very reasonable when provided with the rationale between choosing between two competing priorities, but you need to give them some hope. Without that hope they will bypass IT and just do it themselves. And this will cause more work for IT in the long-term.

Recommendation

I recommend you take 80% of your budget and process the highest priority items. But then take the other 20% and ensure that IT is not ignoring departments or strategies entirely. Ensure that some tickets aren’t being left around for years and years. It is certainly proper to process less of these lower priority items, but it is fair to verify that we process some of them.

Author: Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

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