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30 Nov 2019

What are the most common problems faced in managing a product backlog?

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A product backlog is an integral part of any digital product management lifecycle. Never static, I am fascinated by how it keeps on evolving along with the product. Of course, managing a dynamic list is never easy – and there can be issues around the workflow. To help you combat just that I’ve put together a handy guide to the most common problems that product teams face.

ISSUE#1: How to manage the Influx of continuous customer comments from various channels

Solution: It is a good sign that you are receiving comments from your customers. This is how to handle them:

  1. Fix one day a week when you get a download of all the comments
  2. Use an excel sheet to give relevant column headings, your notes, priority, type of issue
  3. Go through these comments and put your notes and assign its priority

ISSUE#2: How to manage expectations of internal customers?

Solution: Once you become the custodian of the product backlog, the internal teams will look up to you to delivering those product-related items. This is how you can manage them:

  1. Pick the urgent issues raised by your internal team, and call them in product backlog prioritisation sessions to showcase how their items are being prioritised to be delivered by the product team
  2. Involve them in the product demo sessions, and share the product backlog to show how things are placed in relative priority
  3. Send out end-of-sprint comms to your internal team about the progress made on the backlog items

ISSUE#3: How to manage expectations of external customers?

Solution: Once the external customers submit their comments, they expect someone to act upon it. In this case, it will be you – the product manager responsible for delivering those product-related items. This is how you can manage them:

  1. Pick the urgent issues shared by customers, and if there is a way to communicate with them, assure them that it is being looked into by the product team
  2. Pick the other non-urgent issues raised by customers, and put them in your backlog, making sure these items don’t go amiss
  3. Share a comms with your customers after every major release, sharing what value-added items have been made available to them on the product

ISSUE#4: How to define a product backlog if I don’t have a software?

Solution: Sometimes companies do not have a software to create a product backlog, or sometimes they do not have enough licenses for the whole team.

  1. In that case, excel sheet could be used as an alternative
  2. Use my template to create a product backlog with relevant columns
  3. Utilise the features of excel sheet – sort, filter, pivot to define and manage the product backlog

ISSUE#5: How to keep my product backlog up-to-date?

Solution: Product backlog should be like a river – always flowing, otherwise it will stagnate and the product won’t make any progress.

  1. Dedicate two hours every sprint to take a look at your product backlog
  2. It is best to do this exercise on the last day of the sprint, when you know what items have been delivered, what items have been prioritised for the next sprint
  3. Go through the list, shift the priorities, put comments, mark some items redundant or duplicate (as the case maybe), add anything new that has come up

Every team encounters their own personal issues. If there’s something I haven’t included in my guide, I’d love to hear about it.

Share your thoughts with me here: https://digitalskillsmastery.com/contact-us

Your trainer & product coach,
Onkar Singh Lohtham
Founder & CPO | DSM

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