Product Backlog Flows

By Robert Boyd
August 13, 2015

There are plenty of discussions in the agile community about how agile teams work and develop over…


During this stage, the product owner keeps an open and running dialog with customers and potential customers. This is part of the ongoing review to confirm or adjust the priority of the product backlog based on business value. This priority can change at any time. Perhaps the feature in the product backlog loses its competitive advantage or there’s a spike in requests for it.

At Nilezon, the product team manages stakeholder expectations by keeping them informed of any changes in business value or priority. The product owner keeps the product backlog and business model canvases available and accessible to all stakeholders.

Release State

A product backlog item moves to the release state when it’s the highest-priority item in the future release column and a spot in the release column opens up. The item is now tagged for a specific planned release. The product team makes every effort to complete the business model canvas for Mom’s Gift. All customer problems and solutions are validated. The product owner and technical SME conduct a detailed analysis including a high-level architecture and more comprehensive risk analysis based on the design. User interface mockups are created and validated with customers and users.

Features are reviewed and analyzed by the agile team that is expected to implement the epic. The feature epic may be broken down to facilitate estimation or to isolate its riskier aspects. The goal is to confirm the feasibility of implementing the feature within a specific release window.

The product owner is responsible for maintaining the priority of product backlog items in the release state. Once a week, the product owner of Mom’s Gift reevaluates the business value and priority of product backlog items with the other product owners.

Sprint State

A product backlog item will move to the sprint state when it’s the highest-priority item in the release column and a spot opens up in the sprint column. The backlog item is broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces of work that can be completed inside a single iteration or sprint. Because development will have addressed outstanding questions in earlier meetings, that team will already have a thorough understanding of these small slices of functionality—known as sprint-ready user stories.

It takes Nilezon’s development team four sprints to implement Mom’s Gift. Each sprint adds functionality and capability, and the results of each are shared with stakeholders and customers so they may determine whether the development team and product owner are building the right solution.

When the acceptance criteria are met for all user stories and customers and stakeholders agree the feature is fit for its purpose, the product backlog item moves into the “Done” state, completing the journey through the product backlog.

Incorporating the four sub-flows into your product backlog flow will increase the transparency of the customer request process and ensure that each stakeholder can provide input and feedback. It places a real focus on customer requests and personalizes those customers for internal stakeholders.

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About the Authors

  • Robert Boyd is a CSM (Certified Scrum Master) and CSPO (Certified Scrum Product Owner). Robert began his career with the U.S. Navy, where he worked on nuclear submarines. He transferred his skills to the private sector, working on submarine combat systems at Raytheon for 22 years. During that time he helped streamline processes and systems for the Australian Collins Submarine. He moved to Australia permanently in 2002 and began creating new software development processes for Integrated Research in Sydney. He also introduced agile methodologies to software and product management departments, resulting in a 300 percent increase of feature deliveries. Bob earned a B.S. in computer science from University of Rhode Island. He can be reached at

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