How to manage the Product Backlog for 50 teams in 3 important steps?


Disclaimer: If you haven’t read my “Managing the product backlog for 8 teams“ post – I highly recommend you read it before continuing to read this blog

First thing is first: What the hell were you thinking when you decided that you need 50 teams for your product?! I hope you had a really good reason for it. 9 out of 10 times you have made a bad decision…
But here we are, having a product that has 50 teams, which means dealing with ~600 fine grained Product Backlog items at any given moment, I think we can all agree that this is definitely too much for one person to handle (Disagree with that? Please do not stay silent and comment). So how would we go about and deal with such a big Product Backlog?

  1. Before splitting and clarifying the big PBIs, categorize the PBIs in a customer centric manner, for example: administration, reporting, user management, billing etc.
  2. Based on business considerations, prioritize the big items, and then group the categories so that they create work for groups of 4-8 teams – In LeSS (Large Scale Scrum)  we call these groups requirement areas.
  3. For each Requirement area you should have an APO (Area Product Owner) The APO will act as the Product Owner within the requirement area that she operates in, the Area Product Owner  will deal with ~50-100 items simultaneously, which as i explained in the previous post, makes sense.

There is still a risk to be aware of.
What is the most important thing about prioritization of a backlog?
That’s right folks, It should be very much aligned with business value and ROI.

When having 2 teams and one Product Owner that works in parallel on 2 fine-grained PBIs we have a small risk of working not according to business priority, How about having 50 teams, 7 APO and a Product Owner…
I am not going to explore this further on this post (hopefully in a future post if you ask nicely) but you should be very much aware that when working in a big group, you are most likely, to some extent, not working according to priority, and i recommend that you try and minimize this as much as possible.

For more, follow me on twitter @eladsof

May the force be with you
Elad Sofer

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