Goals for the project are organized in a backlog of items. These Backlog Items are used to describe what should be done in terms of what value should be created, and for whom it should be created. Value is described by both what outcome is desired and why it is desired. This helps to form a complete understanding of the goal. For software projects, these are usually referred to as a User Story. It describes who wants something, what they want, and why they want it. Other items can be cataloged in the Product Backlog such as administrative goals or identified defects that need to be resolved.
A User Story is a way to describe a goal from the perspective of the one who will benefit from the goal. In a software project, this is usually a user of the software. Sometimes there can be different types of users, and therefore it can help identify which type of user will be the focus in this goal.
During almost every project, there will often be work that needs to be done that is not actually a part of the final outcome, but must be done in order to allow the project to be successful. For example, filing a patent for a software project is not necessarily a typical development goal, yet it still requires work that may need to be done collaboratively by the team. As such, this goal needs to be captured as a Backlog Item in order for the work to be properly prioritized and managed by the team.
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Bugs, Defects or Problems
Another common Backlog Item will be a goal to fix something that is broken, or resolve a problem. In these cases, it is important to clearly identify the problem, how or when it happens, and what should happen instead. By adding this type of item to the Product Backlog, the team can be sure to capture the problem, identify the solution, prioritize when the solution should be implemented, and verify that the solution has been put in place.
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Fires and Emergencies!
Almost every project has its moments of fire fighting. This is a term that has been used often when unexpected situations arise that may require immediate attention. These events are highly disruptive and should be handled as quickly as possible to help bring the team and project back to an efficient state. Backlog Items can certainly be used to manage these items, and through the ability to prioritize the backlog in an absolute way, the team can know which items are the most important.
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When in doubt, add it to the Product Backlog. Even if you're not sure whether the work or goal you are thinking of should be added to the backlog, it is better to add it there so it can be prioritized along with the rest of the work. A common mistake many teams make is that they keep their work ideas in a variety of locations. For example, you don't want to have some of the work items identified in the Product Backlog, and some of them organized in stickies all around the office. Keeping all the items in the Product Backlog provides the team with a single place to find work that needs to be done, and it allows for a very specific prioritization of all the work items.
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