Pain is temporary, failure lasts forever

Lean, agile living for the running mother of Peter

2008-09-13

Themes on your backlog

Since we scaled up our scrum team, we have a separate product manager, who controls the long term priorities, what we call the product road map. You could say that the product manager defines in what direction the product should evolve during the coming year, whereas I as the product owner is responisble for making a priority which makes this implemented in the best order.

The road map consists of simple terms, for example "spatial dispatching version" or "SLA support". So how do you know if we are working on the product road map? What we do is that we have a combo with the items on the road map (when you define this field, make sure that current values are accepted, since stuff will be removed from the road map - a k a from the combo option value list). The combo value list consists of the items on the road map. Defining these lists are not a one-second job. And that is actually a good thing: if the product manager want to include something on the road map, the list needs to be changed.

What we then do is that we set this value on all stories. We call the field Theme, based on the theme term used by Mike Cohn.

What we now can do is that we can track when we spend time doing stuff concerning a theme and since we have related work items in the form of tasks which have registered actual time, we can also calculate how much time and money we spend on a theme. This makes ROI calculations possible.

There is also harder to include stories which does not lead us nearer the objectives of the product road map. I don't think the field should be mandatory but if the field is left empty on a story, that tells us something too.

Should this only be set on stories? I'm thinking about also having the field on bugs: when you calculate ROI you should include all costs and that means costs for bugs. A story could seem simple and cheap but there were lots of hidden costs in the form of unfinished or faulty work (aka bugs)

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