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Our Product Backlog

Previously we published the Introduction and Our Scrum Roles installments from the How We Scrum series. This post is the third in the series and is devoted to our product backlog.

YouTrack Backlog

In our case, the product backlog is a set of features that we plan to build for YouTrack. At JetBrains in general, and in the YouTrack team in particular, we conduct a comprehensive planning session at least once a year. We gather the whole team for several days outside the office and discuss our plans from different perspectives: what do our customers want, what’s important from our point of view, and what do we consider to be cool to work on. We verify these points against the product mission and company goals.

As a result, we create a list of the main directions we are planning to work on and define a set of must-have, important, and nice-to-have features for each subsystem.
Must-have features go first in the list, important and nice-to-have get lower priority. We also take into account the minimal set of functionality we need to develop to share it with our customers as an early preview. The main goal is to get feedback as soon as possible and tune new features on the fly.

We take this list and create a set of issues in YouTrack. We track these issues in a separate project called YouTrack Backlog. This project only contains user stories. We create issues for all the development tasks during planning sessions and sprints in the YouTrack public project.
The backlog is stored as a saved search that is used on the Scrum board. We call it YouTrack Backlog User Stories. Here is the search query behind it:
#ytb #unresolved has: -{Board YouTrack}We order the issues manually to reflect their priority.


Here’s how we use YouTrack to manage the product backlog:

  1. Use a filter to show unresolved user stories that are not already on the board and represent meaningful pieces of work:
    #ytb #unresolved has: -{Board YouTrack}.
  2. Save this search as YouTrack Backlog User Stories.
  3. Prioritize the backlog according to our plans for the next release. We sort our backlog manually by dragging the items in the list.

Tips: YouTrack keeps your manual sort order on the saved search and highlights it with the blue vertical line at the left of the list.

4. Tune our backlog on on a regular basis, reordering user stories as they become more or less important.

The next episode Our Approach to Estimation is coming this Thursday. Stay tuned!

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10 Responses to Our Product Backlog

  1. Avatar

    Levent Ali says:

    August 23, 2017

    If you prioritise the issues list like this and go to your Scrum or Kanban board. When you open the backlog view and use the same saved search your prioritisation order is lost. This makes it really hard to manage if you have anything more than 10-20 items in total.

    • Valerie Andrianova

      Valerie Andrianova says:

      August 31, 2017

      Hi Levent,
      To set custom order and share is with other users, or use on the Agile board, you need to:
      * Select your saved search from the Search Context
      * Set custom order manually
      * Open this saved search from Search Context or from the Agile board.
      For more details, please check:

      • Avatar

        Julie Wrobel says:

        January 11, 2018

        I am having the same problem Levent describes. I followed the instructions titled “Set the Custom Order for a Shared Search or Tag” and I still cannot protect/maintain the manually-ordered backlog priority when viewing the backlog thru the board. Which other instructions should I consider?

        • Valerie Andrianova

          Valerie Andrianova says:

          January 16, 2018

          Hi Julie,
          Please double check that you open your backlog (saved search) from the Context drop-down on the Issues list for manual ordering. If you open your backlog from the search box the manual order is not saved. If it still doesn’t work on the Agile board, please contact our support at, as it looks like a bug. However, I’ve just checked and it works correctly in the version 2017.4.

  2. Avatar

    Ronk says:

    January 24, 2018

    New to youtrack – I tried to configure a setup like you described here so I:
    (from blank)
    1. Created a project for Backlog using the default template
    2. Created a few backlog items (just for testing)
    3. Configured a project for the product using the Scrum template (here is when I started guessing)
    4. Tried to create the search query but then saw two board – one Management and one Development

    What should I do next / differently?

    I am going to RTFM soon but just wanted to have a quick scrum skeleton up and running fast so I’ll have something to show the team.

    • Avatar

      Natasha Katson says:

      January 24, 2018

      In this blog post, we’ve described how we use backlog in our team. We have a separate project for the backlog for our internal issues.

      Looks like you’ve created 2 projects: backlog and a Scrum project. Normally, you don’t have to create a separate project for a backlog. A backlog in YouTrack is just a saved search, you can open a backlog from the Agile Board. Please refer to the documentation to learn how to manage a backlog.

      >Tried to create the search query but then saw two board – one Management and one Development.
      The Project Management Board is built to track the development of major features and long-term strategic planning, and represents the relationship between epics and user stores. The Project Development Board is built for planning and managing incremental improvements in a series of sprints, and represents the relationship between user stories and tasks. You can remove the second board if you don’t need it, everything is really customizable.

      Let us know if you need more information, we will be happy to help.

  3. Avatar

    manuel says:

    August 3, 2018

    How can you use this approach when you have more than 100 backlog items?
    It seems impossible to sort over the paging.

    • Avatar

      Elena Pishkova says:

      March 19, 2020

      It’s true, there is no sorting option for the backlog for now, but there is an option to modify a saved search, which is used as a filter for your backlog. This might help.

  4. Avatar

    Eric S- Legal says:

    March 9, 2020

    How can Youtrack automatically handle moving backlogs (or any non-done state items) to the next sprint at sprint completion date?
    Will epics and child tasks/tickets all be moved together at once if moved automatically, or manually?
    Are there best youtrack practices for grouping of tickets sprints effectively?

    We’ve used Youtrack over 6 years and have been looking for better automatic workflows for sprints, backlogs etc.

    • Avatar

      Elena Pishkova says:

      March 19, 2020

      Eric, would you please create a ticket for our support here? A little bit more detailed description of your ideal scenario would help us to answer. Looking forward to your request.

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