Business analysts use backlog management to document, track, and prioritize left over work items.
A backlog happens when the amount of work items that are yet to be completed are more than the resources available to complete them.
Backlog management is the organized approach used to decide:
- what work items should be included in the backlog.
- how to describe the work items.
- how the work items should be tracked.
- how the work items should be regularly reviewed and prioritized as compared to all other items in the backlog.
- how the work items are going to be selected to be worked on.
- how the work items are going to be removed from the backlog.
In a managed backlog, the items at the top of the list have the highest priority and business value.
There should be a regular review of the entire backlog because changes in stakeholder needs and priorities may require changes to the priority of some of the backlog items.
In many environments, the backlog is reviewed at arranged intervals and any changes to the number of items in the backlog are often monitored.
The root causes for these changes may need to be explored because a growing backlog could show an increase in demand or a drop in productivity; while a declining backlog could show a drop in demand or improvements in the production process.
There may be more than one backlog being managed simultaneously e.g. one backlog may be used to manage a global set of items, while a second backlog may be used to manage the items that are going to be worked on at a future date.
There are some elements of backlog management which are:
1. Items in the Backlog
Backlog items could be any type of item which could have work related to it.
A backlog could contain, but is not limited to, any combination of the following
• use cases.
• user stories.
• functional requirements.
• non-functional requirements.
• customer orders.
• risk items.
• change requests.
• planned rework.
An item is added to the backlog management list if it is valuable a stakeholder. The backlog could be controlled by a single individual such as the business analyst or a group of individuals who add new items to the backlog list based on a voting system.
There may be organizational policies and rules that govern what is to be added to this list and when.
Items in the backlog are prioritized in relation to each other. These priorities may change over time as the stakeholders’ priorities change, or as dependencies between backlog work items become apparent. The organizational rules on backlog management may also impact priority.
When items are first added to the backlog, the prioritization may be generalized, using categories such as high, medium, or low.
The high priority items would have to be assessed regularly because they would probably be next on the list of upcoming work.
To distinguish between the high priority items, the work items would need to be prioritized using a finer approach such as a numerical ranking based on some measure of value.
Each of the backlog items may be described in different levels of details.
Items which are next in line for execution are usually described in more detail than others.
When items are initially added to the backlog list, there might be little or no information available but more information would become available as the project progresses.
Information derived from work performed on earlier work items can be used in the estimation of work to be performed on later items.
4. Managing Changes to the Backlog
As work items move up the priority list, new or changed requirements could be identified and added to the backlog list.
Whenever resources become available, the backlog is reviewed and items are selected based on the available capacity, dependencies between items, current understanding of the size, and their complexity.
Once the work items are completed or temporarily put on hold, they are removed from the backlog list but they can be added back to the list at a future date.
There are numerous reasons why an item could be added back on the backlog list and these are some of the reasons:
i. The stakeholder needs have changed.
ii. The work item would consume more resources than initially estimated.
iii. Other priority items are taking longer to complete than estimated.
iv. The developed work product might have defects.
The backlog management has both its strengths and weaknesses which include:
- An effective way of responding to changing stakeholder needs and priorities.
- Higher priority items are described in more detail than lower priority items.
- It can be used as an effective communication tool to identify which items are being worked on at any given point in time.
- The work items can accumulate quickly and the backlogs could become clumsy and difficult to manage.
- The business analyst needs experience to be able to break down the work item into enough detail for accurate estimation.
- If the work items are not promptly updated with information, it could lead to loss of information.