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Product Backlog Prioritization

The following article is a sample from the full BVOP™ Ultimate Guide and is part of the preparation for the BVOP™'s modern Agile Product Management Certification Program.

The items at the top of the product backlog are considered to be the most important, meaningful, and have significant business value for the product or organization, and are usually developed before the tasks that are down the list.

Prioritization of the product backlog is an important activity by the product management office. Items order guides the upcoming work on the product and focus the attention of all teams in a given direction.

Product Backlog Prioritization is a part of the Product Backlog management activity.

Business attributes of the Product backlog items

The BVOP suggest that for transparent and accurate prioritization, each product backlog item needs business attributes like:

  • Importance
  • Urgency
  • Attractiveness
  • Long term
  • Profit
  • Cost-saving
  • Time-saving
  • Innovation

Attributes can have a numeric value and are taken into account when prioritizing the product backlog.

Importance

The importance level of the item. Presented with a numerical value (from 1 to 10, for example).

Urgency

Indicates how urgent the item is. Presented with a numerical value (from 1 to 10, for example).

Attractiveness

It presents the level of attractiveness for users. Presented with a numerical value (from 1 to 10, for example).

Long term

Represented with a boolean (yes or no) or a numeric value of 1 to 10, for example, where 1 does not mean a long-term benefit, while 10 registers a very long-term value or opportunity for the product or organization.

Profit

It symbolizes whether users or organizations will gain a profit from the realization of the item. It can be presented as a boolean (yes or no) or in a numeric value of 1 to 10, for example, where 1 can mean a very low-profit rate, or none, while 10 indicates high or guaranteed profit.

Cost-saving

Will the organization, users, or other parties save cost if this item is implemented? Presented as boolean (yes or no) or numerical value from 1 to 10, for example, where 1 means a few cost-saving, while 10 means very serious cost optimizations.

Time-saving

Is the item providing a time-saving opportunity for the product users? Presented as boolean (yes or no) or numerical value from 1 to 10, for example, where 1 means a minimal amount of time saved, while 10 means that users of other parties may benefit from substantial time savings opportunities.

Definition of business attributes

Each product backlog item may have more business attributes like Speed level, Team enabling, Difficulty level, and more.

The Business Value-Oriented Product Management (BVOPDM) office creates the business value attributes, decide their number, usage, and names.

The values of all the business attributes are validated with users with product knowledge. Best guesses for each attribute should be given. The initial given values may be changed later if new information about the users, product, or other factors is collected.

Business value points of the Product backlog items

All items in the product backlog need all their business attributes filled, so calculations of total business points of each item are made easy.

Business attributes may be added or removed at any stage, but this may seriously break the business points calculations, and all the product backlog items would need recalculations.

The total points of all business attributes of an item return an abstract representation of its business value.

For increased transparency and accuracy, the numeral values of the attributes may be based on questions and answers, where each answer represents actual value (from 1 to 10 or yes or no).

Example

Defining “Urgency” attribute

Product teams ask stakeholders a question like:

"What will happen if we do not implement this product backlog item this quarter?"

and provide predefined answers:

  • Don't know (Represents numeral value 1)
  • Nothing significant (Represents numeral value 2)
  • Product, in general, may be harmed (Represents numeral value 3)
  • The product will definitely suffer (Represents numeral value 4)
  • Severe business losses (Represents numeral value 5)

 

Defining “Importance” attribute

Product teams ask stakeholders a question like:

"What is the expected users' adoption of the outcome of this item?"

and provide predefined answers:

  • Don't know (Represents numeral value 1)
  • Some of them will notice it (Represents numeral value 2)
  • Some of them will use it (Represents numeral value 3)
  • Most of them will use it (Represents numeral value 4)
  • It is crucial for the entire product (Represents numeral value 5)

Creating predefined questions for all business attributes and providing answers from stakeholders may return a transparent total business value (business value points) of a product backlog item when all numeral values are summed. 

Product backlog items prioritization (ordering) based on business value points

The total business value points of the items in the product backlog may be criteria for ordering the items. Ordering by business value points is a fully transparent backlog prioritization method where each item has a specific position in the backlog based on multiple business attributes and validated with stakeholders.

Product backlog items ordering based on business value attributes

Based on the users' or development needs, processes, resources, and other factors, the product backlog items may be ordered or filtered at any time by any of their business attributes. This allows the BVOPDM office to focus on specific items at any time.

For example, the ordering may be based on items with high Urgency and Importance values, which returns the most important items that need to be done as soon as possible. Ordering or filtering may be based on items with high Innovation and Attractiveness values, which returns items that may amaze the product users. If the order is based on items with high Cost and Time-saving values, the current product development effort is spent on optimization and profit-oriented functionalities.

Product Backlog Prioritization as a Product Management activity
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