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This post is from the CollabNet VersionOne blog and has not been updated since the original publish date.

Last Updated Oct 06, 2015 — Enterprise Agile Planning expert

Guardrails for Backlog Items-7 Things Every Story Needs

Enterprise Agile Planning

People ask us all the time – “What are the must use fields that every team should use?” While this is the ultimate “It Depends” answer, I have found that setting a few key guardrails for team across the enterprise will give you the best possible chance for decision making, accelerating delivery, and ensuring alignment from the boardroom to the TeamRoom™.

7 things for backlog items

Here are the seven things that can help your company’s product backlog become a strategic alignment machine.

  1. REAL RELEASES – Every backlog item must be linked to a project asset (e.g. release). Why not make the release meaningful, and consistent? It’s very easy to see when the Quick Status Check story will be delivered and when if the story is linked to the release named “11.30.15 – Release 1.0”. In my Scrum Master world, no story is committed to production without being tied in the Org Level hierarchy to a date-based release. Try to keep your project levels as lean a possible.
  2. PORTFOLIO ITEM – All backlog items should roll-up to an item in the company’s portfolio. That is the best way to provide the visibility and transparency that leaders need to help make better decisions and support the teams overall.
  3. SIZE – Point estimates provide a relative ranking of the size of your backlog and are one measure of the potential delivery of a sprint, release, or feature.
  4. TEAM – Align the work to the team; it’s the agile way. Assigning the work to a team is even more important than an owner. The team will take it from here.
  5. DEPENDENCIES – Establish the upstream and downstream dependencies to track and manage any potential problems, and to help notify other teams of things you might be putting in their way.
  6. BLOCKERS – Is the story in trouble? Blockers are the main way to truly know this. Be transparent and use blockers to do your dirty work.
  7. CONVERSATIONS – Document all conversations associated to that backlog item using meaningful and descriptive conversations.

When every team across your enterprise follows these seven rules, your portfolio, program and team level reporting has the consistency and predictably you need to improve decision making, accelerate delivery, and ensure alignment.

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