If your product backlog grows fast, there is a solution for optimizing your priorities and put things in order. In this tutorial, you’ll find out how to focus on key priorities and maintain a product backlog with Hygger.
So you have a problem, you have many ideas bunched up from different sources: from Intercom, Zendesk, Satismeter, from private talks with your clients, from your employees, from user research. It’s becoming complicated to pick things for the next sprint. And the cost of a mistake is really high. It’s a risk to make a feature that won’t be popular among the audience and won’t bring expected benefits.
Backlog constantly increases, and it becomes more difficult to control it as product managers spend a lot of time on grooming it. They review ideas, prioritize them and throw away outdated things. Every time they do this they need to look through all the ideas.
We, in Hygger.io, offer you a systematic solution for the issue of making a choice. Our solution consists of the main blocks:
- Backlog structuring with the help of the Kanban board, labels and Swimlanes.
- Prioritizing ideas, tasks, features or projects using different techniques, such as Value/Efforts (aka 2x2 priority matrix), RICE, ICE, and Weighted Scoring.
- Pushing features to the development and tracking their progress.
1. Backlog structuring
As a rule, Backlog is a plain list of ideas. In Hygger backlog is represented by a two-dimensional Kanban board. Moreover, we have Labels and Swimlanes. That’s more than enough for structuring your backlog of all sizes.
For example, Backlog columns may be the working stages of ideas, such as:
- Backlog – you put all new ideas here. One sentence or one word may be enough. It could be raw insights from your customers, or it could be a dialog from your IM.
- Next up – you move ideas here when you decide to work on them. Your ideas are already prioritized, and you know what to focus on first. So cards are ordered in this column according to their scores. We will talk about prioritizing and scoring a bit later.
- Specification - you start researching your ideas, you talk to customers, you analyze competitors and review analytics. And you are collecting feature's requirements, creating mockups and writing functional specifications. You can also re-prioritize features according to new feedback and knowledge you obtained during the feature's research. Once the specification is ready, you make the exact efforts estimation together with your developers. Now everything is ready for feature's implementation, so you put it to the "Done" sub-column.
- Development – you pushed your feature to some Kanban board or Scrum board for development. It means that the new task was created on another board and it was linked to the feature's card from Backlog. So you can come to Backlog and track the development progress without visiting Kanban/Scrum board where it is being implemented by developers.
- Done – once the implementation task is done and reaches the Done column, the original task at Backlog is moved to Done column too. Your feature is ready and serves your customers. Now have some fun with your team and celebrate a new release.
That’s only an example of a process. There is probably a design department in your company, and you need to prototype an idea first, write a technical specification and only then it may go to the development. You may tailor a board structure to your development process.
In case if you would like to create a blank Backlog please follow these steps: on the header click on Plus icon> Board>Blank> Board Type > Kanban. Then name it as Backlog.
You can also create a new Backlog board using our templates collection. We have a sample of Product Backlog and templates for each type of prioritization.
You may arrange ideas with the help of Swimlanes
Hygger Swimlanes as horizontal columns are used to separate different kinds of issues. With their help you may arrange your ideas like this:
- According to system components (backend, frontend, API, mobile apps, etc.)
- According to high-level areas of the product lifecycle (usability, new features, marketing, technical debts, etc.)
Use Labels to mark tasks on the board.
Label is a colored tag with a caption on it. Their colors will help you to easily find the tasks on the board.
Group tasks by a certain parameter with the help of the labels. You may use them for different purposes.
For example, to tag ideas from particular users or from particular employees. Or to tag especially important ideas.
To add Labels on the task’s menu click Add.. > Labels
2. Backlog Prioritization
Hygger has 4 types of prioritization:
- Value/Efforts - simple 2x2 Priority Matrix. We will use this method in this tutorial. Btw, it's mainly used for ideas prioritization because you have a lot of ideas and a little time for their estimation and this method consumes a minimum of time.
- ICE - impact, confidence, and ease. Learn more about ICE here.
- RICE - reach, impact, confidence, and efforts. Read here about how to use RICE for prioritization.
- Weighted Scoring - you specify your own criteria and scales. It's a good fit for you when you have a product strategy and you want to keep your development aligned with it. This method is very time consuming hence you need to think twice which features should be evaluated. And it's definitely not for ideas prioritization.
You select a prioritization type right after backlog board creation. Further, you can change the prioritization type in board's menu on the right.
Hygger offers you to rate all ideas/features with the help of 2 criterias: Value and Effort which will help you identify the most valuable tasks for your product.
- Efforts rate shows the feature development cost,
- Value rate shows the potential profit a feature may bring.
For each of the parameters you can choose a value from 1 to 100. Try to move the slider for Value and Efforts to set or change the Rate of the task.
Once you have evaluated all the ideas, you may start choosing an idea. It’s not mandatory to do it right after evaluation sometimes it’s better to take a pause and let the ideas stay there for a while. As you may get new data from the outside and that may affect your estimation for Value and Efforts.
Hygger supports 3 different scales for both Value and Efforts parameters:
- Fibonacci numbers: 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40 and 100
- T-Shirt size: S, M, L, XL, XXL
You can change the names of axes. For instance, you can use an Eisenhower matrix by changing Value/Efforts to Urgency/Importance.
Picking ideas with the help of a 2x2 Priority Matrix
You can easily define tasks priority and optimize them by using Priority Matrix. You may see estimated ideas on this matrix.
The matrix consists of two axes:
- the X-axis corresponds to Efforts rate
- the Y-axis corresponds to Value rate.
These axes will help you to choose which tasks you should implement and the ones you should avoid if you want to make the most of your time and opportunities.
There are 4 quadrants on the matrix:
- Quick Wins – ideas with a really high value and low efforts. These are the low-hanging fruits that should be worked on immediately. The earlier you finish the earlier you will get the results.
- Big Bets – ideas with high value and efforts. You may do them in the second place. They will take more working time than Quick Wins but they will bring the same profit. Try to break down these features into smaller, bite-sized tasks and remap them against other features.
- Maybes – these features offer lower value for customers but are easy to implement. They are great fillers which can be slotted in when there are small amounts of downtime, or between larger features. It’s also a great way to ensure continued momentum.
- Time sinks – ideas with low value but significant effort to deliver. While it is still offering some benefits to the customer, these shouldn’t be prioritized at this point in time.
The matrix is useful for evaluating ideas relative to each other. During evaluating sessions ideas are being rated independently from each other. But once we begin to compare ideas that have a similar estimation, there’s a possibility that some of them will be more useful or less labor intensive. Based on that, we may correct idea’s estimation, its Value and Efforts indexes.
So, you’ve estimated all ideas and sort the most useful one with the help of a matrix now you can push them to development to Kanban or Sprint board.
3. Push to Development and Track Progress
There’s one useful feature on Backlog board that will help you track the development stage of your idea. It’s a Push option. It allows you to send a task from a Backlog board to Sprint/Kanban board for its implementation with the help of task link. The pushed task is linked to the original one from a Backlog board which shows you its development status.
With the help of tasks link pushed items will be automatically synchronized. Once a pushed task is completed and moved to the Done column, its parent task will be automatically moved to the Done column on a Backlog board.
This connection also works backward. You can link a task from the development board to a task on the Backlog.
You can push several tasks to different boards at the same time. For example, you gathered all the requirements and created an Epic or a Story and splitted it to 10 tasks for a realization. Some of them can be pushed to a Sprint board, the rest - to a Kanban board. After the push, you can see the cross links in a parent and copied tasks. This helps you to track the status of the epic/story and their subtasks.
Usually, you should have 3 sprints planned ahead so you can create 3 columns for each of them. I.e, the columns on your Backlog represent future iterations. Once you are ready to launch a new sprint, just Push All Tasks from a certain column to the board where your development is happening, with no need to manually add those tasks. These items will be automatically linked between each other.
As you can see, managing a product backlog can be a simple and enjoyable process if you know and correctly use the necessary tools and effective methods for prioritization.
Using Hygger, you will optimize your product backlog with the help of smart boards, labels, and Swimlanes. Value and Effort criteria and the visual Priority Chart will make prioritization clear and simple. Keep your backlog tidy and gain success from a product strategy to its release!
For more detailed guidance of using Backlog in Hygger, please read more articles on Hygger University.
Or watch the short video tutorial 'How to Manage your Product Backlog'.