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    Avoiding Common Pitfalls to Unleash

    Your Agile Teams Productivity

    Backlog Blunders

    08 September 2016

    Joe Combs

  • While agile projects are succeeding where waterfall projects fail, more than 50% of projects can still be classified as failing or challenged

    The Standish Group

    The Chaos Report - 2012

    CHAOS Manifesto - 2013

    2 A Challenging Environment

  • 3 Backlog Blunders

  • Features masquerading as stories

    Acceptance Criteria a tangled mess of untestable

    or conflicting statements

    How is the backlog stored?

    Are there dependencies between stories?

    Too much detail?

    Too little?

    Mockups help but

    think of other ways to

    capture the work

    4 Format Matters

  • Priority: 1

    Points: 5Story #: 70

    Purchase Items

    As a customer, I want to be able to see that the

    quantity of items in my shopping cart increases

    as I add an item, so that I know that I have

    successfully added an item to the shopping cart

    Acceptance Criteria

    The quantity of items in my cart should increase

    The amount in inventory should decrease

    Statement Words:

    Drives testing &

    demos (PO


    Format Matters5

  • Meet INVEST criteria:

    Independent can be worked in any order

    Negotiable focus on meeting requirements vs. design

    Valuable worth something, clear enough to prioritize

    Estimable clear enough to estimate level of effort (points)

    Small only a portion of sprint required to complete

    Testable acceptance criteria clear

    6 Format Matters

  • Everything cant be High, MMF or whatever you call your

    top, must-have priority

    Where do you draw the release line?

    7 Perplexing Priority

  • Estimates completed outside the team doing the


    Estimates set artificially high because we dont

    know what we dont know

    8 Estimate, Schmestimate

  • Lack of Done Criteria means you cant know when

    to call a story done

    Done Criteria need to be defined

    and owned by the team

    9 Done Criteria

  • What about Technical Debt?

    Defect mitigation?

    Estimates set artificially high because we dont

    know what we dont know

    10 Whats Missing?

  • Meet DEEP criteria:

    Detailed appropriately The higher it falls on the list, the

    fewer the unknowns

    Emergent never complete or frozen

    Estimated no question marks, certainty of the estimate rises

    as the detail level does

    Prioritized the value of the item has been identified

    11 Whats Missing?

  • Agile means just in time requirements, right?

    How engaged is your Product Owner?

    Priority never changes despite feedback and

    lessons learned

    Is it VISIBLE?

    Velocity? We dont

    fuss over that.

    12 Backlog Refining

  • This ceremony needs to find a place in your

    operating cadence

    13 Backlog Refining

    2 -4 weeks

    24 hours

    Product Backlog of User Stories

    as prioritized by Product Owner

    Sprint Backlog

    Backlog tasks


    by team

    Daily Scrum


    Source: Adapted from Agile Software Development with Scrum by Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle.


    New Functionality

  • 14 Wrapping Up

  • Keep stories well formatted with clear, concise acceptance criteria

    Be honest with priority

    Ditto for estimates

    Clearly define done and ready but be careful with the latter

    INVEST the time to go DEEP with your backlog

    Refine regularly

    Deceptively simple you just have to get intentional about it!

    15 Backlog Done Right

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    Twitter - @jgcombs


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    Thank You!!

  • Joe Combs

    Backlog Blunders

    SEI Cincinnati LLC