What is a Product Backlog Item?

Hi! Dee Rhoda here from Collaborative Leadership Team. I'd like to check in with you about a question.  What is a Product Backlog Item? Or as I'd like to call it PBI.

This is not to be confused with the PBL. We all know that the PBL is - the peanut butter and liverwurst sandwich we enjoy for lunch every day. But really, the PBL is the Product Backlog and that is where you find the ordered list of Product Backlog Items, PBI's.

PBI's are simply work that needs to be completed for a product or a service in order to provide business value. For example, specifications, requirements, enhancements, fixes and user stories are all considered Product Backlog Items. Who can create a product backlog item? Anyone! A Product Owner, a Team Member, a Business partner or a Stakeholder can add items to the backlog at any time. 

For example, the team may add any additional work that they discovere during planning or sprinting. The customer may add requests for enhancements. The end user may see a need for a bug fix. The Product Owner can add their work too. They may need to add work for getting communication or training materials created. 

The key is to have good PBIs and to make sure that the Product Owner is aware of them because the Product Owner owns the backlog and they are ultimately responsible for the success of the product or the service.

So, what makes a good PBI? Well, here I'm going to refer to Bill Wake's INVEST concept as a starting point. A PBI should be Independent, Negotiable, Valuable, Estimable, Small and Testable. Even though the INVEST concept is a good one, don't forget the most important action that comes from a PBI is the conversation that it generates between the business and the development team. That's agile principle #4 - Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.

Ultimately, what is a Product Backlog Item? It's a reminder to have a conversation about what and in what order to work to deliver the most value to our end users and to our customers.

If you're interested in learning more about the product owner role, please visit us at our website collaborativeleadershipteam.com