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.

Backlog1

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!

About Valerie Andrianova

Valerie Andrianova is YouTrack, Hub and Upsource Product Marketing Manager at JetBrains. Her professional interests include issue & bug tracking, project and task management, agile methodologies and team collaboration. Apart from work, she cannot imagine her life without live music, quirky books and lattes with those cute little foam hearts.
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9 Responses to Our Product Backlog

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  3. Levent Ali says:

    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 says:

      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: https://www.jetbrains.com/help/youtrack/incloud/Reorder-Issues-Manually.html

      • Julie Wrobel says:

        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 says:

          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 youtrack-icloud-support@jetbrains.com, as it looks like a bug. However, I’ve just checked and it works correctly in the version 2017.4.

  4. Ronk says:

    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.

    • Natasha Katson says:

      Hello!
      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.

  5. manuel says:

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

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