Product Backlog Grooming Tips and Tricks

Anyone responsible for maintaining a product backlog knows that the more tips and tricks you have to make it easier, the better. So in the spirit of the holiday season, here are my gifts to you!

To add items to the top or at least the first page, you have a few options:

First, you can create what I call a “ghost” story and place it either as the first item or somewhere on the first page. All it needs is a title (name is something like “keep on top” or “placeholder” and make sure you leave the estimate blank). Don’t forget you can customize and display up to 200 rows on the product backlog via the Customize option – under the wrench in the upper right-hand corner of the grid – so you can work with more items at one time.

When you want a new product backlog item/story, simply make a copy of that one and it will place the new item directly under the “ghost” one. From there you can drag and drop it to the appropriate location and add the details. It will even copy any tasks or tests you have on it.

For those who use templates to generate backlog items/stories, on the template page you can select the template(s) and rank them to the top any time you generate a new item from a template. The system will then place the item/story where that template currently is in the overall rank order. Note: you may want to re-rank items/stories periodically as new things come in and replace their location in the product backlog. See the steps below:

To move several items to the top, bottom or another page: (1) select the items you want to move, (2) select the “Move to Project” drop-down above the first column, and then (3) use the Rank option. Hint: Applying a filter is helpful in getting your list narrowed down to a subset and then selecting the items you want to move in bulk.

For those not using templates today, I encourage you to take a look; they’re useful for both product planning and for the team during Sprint/Iteration Planning.

You can create a template via the Product Planning page. Template the page by selecting “Add Template” in the upper right-hand corner:

Any data you want to copy or carry forward each time you generate a new backlog item/story should be filled in (i.e., a formatted description, the product owner, initial status, etc.).

Once you have created the template, you can then generate new items from the template in two places:

1.  On the left asset tray via the “Add New” drop-down:

2.  Or from the template page, select “Generate” on the action menu to the right of the template:

You can even take it a step further and add tasks and tests to the template. Those will also be copied when you generate a new item, and they can be copied to existing backlog items/stories via the “Plan Backlog Item” option on the Sprint/Iteration Detail Planning page:

From the “Backlog Item Planner” window, select the drop-down and choose “Copy Tasks and Tests.”

Scroll down to the bottom to see the template available, select the task you want to copy and choose “Copy to Backlog Item.”

I hope you have found these backlog grooming tips and tricks useful. Looking for more next year!!!

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