Is the Product Backlog Management Tool Serving or Hindering the Scrum Team

Selecting a product backlog management tool can be a daunting task, as there are a plethora of options available on the market. Some of the most popular tools include Jira, Azure Dev Ops, Kanbanize, Trello, and Rally, to name a few.

As a Scrum Master, it’s important not to view yourself as an administrator for the chosen product backlog management tool, but rather to focus on understanding how the tool can support the Scrum team to be an effective team. This post is a guide on how the product management tool should support the Product Owner, Developers, and Scrum Master in executing their accountabilities as defined in the Scrum Guide.

Product Backlog Management:

The Product Owner is accountable for effective product backlog management. The product backlog management tool should assist the Product Owner in:

Making the Product Goal Transparent:

The product goal describes a future state of the product, serving as a target for the Scrum Team and stakeholders. And because every product backlog item emerges to deliver the Product Goal, the tool should increase the transparency of the entire Product Goal by providing features that allow progress towards the product goal to be inspected. The Scrum Master should collaborate with the Product Owner to decide on a structure that supports the product goal to be expressed as part of the Product Backlog. For instance, In Jira the Product Owner could use Labels to capture the product goal or could use the Epics issue type to capture the product goal.

Creating different types of product backlog items:

A typical product backlog will consist of various items, such as requirements, technical debt, defects, and retrospective items. The tool should allow the Scrum Team to create different types of items, making product backlog management more effective. The Product Owner and other team members can search and filter for items during Scrum events and the refinement process. For instance, the product should be able to count all technical debt items or defects that have been recorded in the Product Backlog Management Tool.

Reordering and removing product backlog items:

The Product Owner is responsible for ordering the product backlog, and the tool should enable the Product Owner to make the order visible and persist the ordering decision made by the Product Owner. Often time, Product Backlog item become obsolete and are no longer required; the Product Owner should be able to remove such items from the backlog.

Support self-management of the Scrum Team:

An effective scrum team will over time adapt its processes and the product being built; Adaptation can only be meaningful if it is based on inspection. The product management tool should provide data points for the following

  • measuring progress toward the Sprint Goal.
  • measuring progress toward the Product Goal.
  • Measuring the quality of the increments being produced for every PBI done.

These are examples and not an exhaustive list of data points that a product backlog management tool should provide. Some Product Backlog Management tools provide these datapoints and are bundled with visualisations, while others provide datapoints api that can easily be integrated with other tools.

The Scrum master has a responsibility to support the organisation in choosing the Product Management Tool that best support the Scrum team as the choice of the Product Backlog Management Tool has to direct correlation to the Scrum Team’s ability to inspect and adapt effectively.

Credit: Photo by Alex Lion on Unsplash

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