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Product Backlog Prioritization

Product Backlog Items Prioritization

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Product Backlog Items Prioritization

The following article is part of the self-preparation for the modern BVOP® 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.

  1. Business attributes of the Product backlog items
    1. Importance
    2. Urgency
    3. Attractiveness
    4. Long term
    5. Profit
    6. Cost-saving
    7. Time-saving
  2. Definition of business attributes
  3. Business value points of the Product backlog items
  4. Product backlog items prioritization based on business value points
  5. Product backlog items arrangement based on business value attributes

Prioritization of the product backlog is an important activity executed 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, for example from 1 to 10, 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, for example from 1 to 10, 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, for example from 1 to 10, where 1 means insignificant cost-savings, 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, for example from 1 to 10, where 1 means a minimal amount of time saved, while 10 means that users of other parties may benefit from substantial time saving 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, decides their count, 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 out, so calculations of total business points for each item are made easy.

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

The total points of all business attributes of an item give 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 this e item’s 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)

Providing predefined questions and answers for all business attributes to the stakeholders may return a clear total business value (business value points) of a product backlog item when all numeral values are summed.

In some cases, if stakeholders are not aware of the predefined answers they might provide more accurate and transparent information.

Product backlog items prioritization based on business value points

The total business value points of the items in the product backlog may be a criteria for prioritizing them. 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 is validated by stakeholders.

Product backlog items arrangement based on business value attributes

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

For example, the arranging may be based on items with high “Urgency” and “Importance” values, which makes apparent the most important items that need to be developed as soon as possible. Ordering or filtering may be based on items with high “Innovation” and “Attractiveness” values, which gives more significance to 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.

The following issues related to chapter "Product Backlog Prioritization" are included in the certification exam. The sequence of questions is presented in the table.
The data is current as of September 25, 2020, 2:51 pm

ID Issue Time Category
0 Time-saving 60 sec PDM, PM
1 Importance 60 sec PDM, PM
2 Cost-saving 60 sec PDM, PM
3 Attractiveness 60 sec PDM, PM
4 Long term 60 sec PDM, PM
5 Business value points of the Product backlog items 60 sec PDM, PM
6 Product backlog items prioritization based on business value points 60 sec PDM, PM
7 Product backlog items arrangement based on business value attributes 60 sec PDM, PM
8 Profit 60 sec PDM, PM
9 Business attributes of the Product backlog items 60 sec PDM, PM
10 Definition of business attributes 60 sec PDM, PM
11 Urgency 60 sec PDM, PM
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