How To Effectively Prioritize Your Backlog Items

The success of your business depends on how you effectively prioritize your backlogs. Read on to find out how to prioritize your backlogs.

What came first? 

The chicken or the egg?

It's a paradox that'll continue to puzzle our minds till the end of time.

It's the old age question of what comes first.

Now, instead of imagining the chicken and egg, think of two or three tasks or more.

Think of a ‘backlog’ as a number of things that have not yet been done but need to be done.

Like chilling with Netflix, boiling an egg, going to the gym, or writing another line of code. 

These are tasks, activities, or backlog items that must be executed or completed.

Believe it or not, your business success depends on how you effectively prioritize your backlogs. 

But you don't need to worry.

By the end of this article, you will become a master at ranking different tasks under different categories.

The Importance Of Prioritizing Your Backlog

Your product backlog is often product/service-related tasks that you or your team needs to complete. It entails the division of responsibility and the stipulated deadline. Contrary to popular beliefs, this system doesn't make a rigid team.

Your backlog can be flexible to adapt to things as they unfold. For example, you might want to push that product release earlier than scheduled when a competitor has done the same.

That means things get pushed back to accommodate the new change. A relatable example is ditching the marketing meeting to connect with a new customer. However, your backlog needs to be well structured, organized, and easy to read and understand to achieve the company's goals.

But without effective prioritization, your product backlog becomes a literal black hole. Here are some of the ways to start prioritizing your backlog

1. Organizing Items On Your Backlog

Just like you often create a playlist on Spotify or YouTube, you can also do something similar with your backlog items by setting categories. That way, each item will fall under a specific label. 

What you choose to name your categories is entirely up to you and your team, and it should indicate their level of importance.

Here are some examples of categories: 

  1. Type - Must Do / Should Have / Could Have
  2. Priority - High Priority / Second-level priority / Low Priority
  3. Size - Large / Medium / Small
  4. Status - Refined / To Be Refined / Not Prioritized

After determining the category to use, you can go ahead and neatly organize and slot in items.

2. Ditch Second-level Priorities

Many managers have seen their backlog become a super massive black hole of items that never saw the light of day. Instead, your backlog should be lean and contain only top priority items.

Nothing second-priority makes it to onboard. So instead of throwing everything together, you'll need to create another domain, like a ‘longer-term tasks’ file, which you could complete within the next few months.

Feel free to schedule a brainstorming meeting with your team where everyone jots down viable product ideas on a whiteboard. And when you do get a few ideas, the next thing you do is prioritize.

It could mean selecting only two or three ideas and breaking them into tasks, stories, and plans your team can start working on.

3. Use Numbers

One effective way to prioritize your backlog is using a scoring tool. Remember you’re dealing with a finite amount of time, a limited budget, and development resources. With the right scoring system, you know which items make it to the top-priority items.

While you can adopt many scoring models, you can use metrics like 'customer value, 'Increased Revenue, ' and implementation costs.' Irrespective of the metric you use, you'll have some items make it to your top-priority list, second-priority list, or perhaps the low priority list. 

Without a doubt, this eliminates the need to make a decision when presented with multiple options. When your items have been sorted in the right category, you immediately know what to do - which item  to execute, and the necessary resources needed to execute.

4. Consider Time & Development Resources

When sorting through your backlog, one thing you need to note is the time required to complete a task. You also need to ensure each item is reinforced with resources that help its completion.

When you add only top-priority items on your backlog, you make it easier to review items against each other and calculate needed resources. 

While it's easy to focus on what needs to be done, never forget that your team is unique and has unique skills, strengths, and weaknesses. As a result, it can affect the completion of a task, duration, and final execution.

5. Create a separate list for lower-priority items

Like your second-level priority, you should create a separate list for lower-priority items. This approach allows you to keep your backlog organized and strategically valuable. However, you must resist throwing every request and idea onto the bottom of your product backlog.

Not only does this habit make reviewing your backlog difficult, but you're also most likely to miss something important with a cluttered interface. 

With a backlog, you and your team get to do what needs to be done while remaining focused on the big picture. It's an incredible management tool that will help you grow and scale your business.

It's a lesson of doing what needs to be done. And sometimes what you need is a compass that points you in the right direction, which is what a backlog offers. It affords you the luxury of not having to worry about low-priority tasks.

The fact is, a lot goes into running a business, and we promised to be by your side throughout this journey. Every week, there's an update that you’ll find super helpful. Feel free to subscribe to our newsletter so you never miss an update!

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