Monday, October 20, 2008

Don't mulch your backlog...

Jeff Patton tells a great story about his work with Gary at Mimi. It's a discussion about the typical approach to flattening product backlogs and how this is destructive to understanding the larger picture. Favorite section:

"We spend lots of time working with our customers. We work hard to understand their goals, their users, and the major parts of the system we could build. Then we finally get down to the details - the pieces of functionality we'd like to build. In my head a see a tree where the trunk is built from the goals or desired benefits that drive the system; big branches are users; the small branches and twigs are the capabilities they need; then finally the leaves are the user stories small enough to place into development iterations."

"After all that work, after establishing all that shared understanding I feel like we pull all the leaves off the tree and load them into a leaf bag - then cut down the tree."

"That's what a flat backlog is to me. A bag of context-free mulch."

I need that context in order for me to really tell a story about the system.

He goes on to discuss the problem further and also the approaches to solving the problem. Very good post. I'm adding it here for my own reference and in hope it helps you too.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kevin, this is a great post. I actually based my entire blog around another of Jeff's articles, "The Product Owner and the Product-shaped Hole" (

    Definitely worth a look if you haven't read it.