Agile 2018

Agile 2018
Speaking at Agile 2018

Monday, April 18, 2016

Getting DEEP with the Backlog Part 3

Riddle me this?
What is an emergent backlog?
This is part three of our four part series about how to make your backlog better using DEEP principles.  This week I want to talk with you about the third practice of getting a better backlog.  Together, we have covered how the backlog needs to be both detailed appropriately and estimated.  Today, I want you to cover how the backlog should be emergent.

The word emergent has become code in the agile world for “we have not figured this out yet.”  The truth is that when you are a product owner or a business you have vague ideas about what you are looking for but you don’t know the specifics of how to get there.  In the spirit of the age, we should talk about super-hero movies and the character Batman as an example.  Batman in the 1960’s had been around thirty years, so when ABC wanted to adapt it for television they could have taken numerous directions with the character.  They decided to make the series “campy” and appeal to children.

Today, the character of Batman is very different with a dark and grim edge based on the origin story of the 1930.  I happen to be a particular fan of Michael Keaton and his portrayal of the character in the late 1980’s.  That Batman is a different character from the one which Adam West made famous.  This is because the writers and producers made numerous choices along the way so that they reached a different narrative point.  As a product owner you will do the same thing.

What this means is that you will not have a finished software product which will emerge from your requirements like the great American novel.  Instead, you are going to have many small chapters in a long story and you will be able to inspect and adapt the story based on the situation.  This is why a backlog in the words of Roman Picher is emergent.  You are not sure how the project is going to end until you are finished.

This does not mean you don’t have a plan.  It means that instead of one great big product you have numerous small products which together make up a unified whole.  The product emerges from the individual stories and from the sprints.  So for your backlog to be successful it needs to be detailed, appropriately, estimated and emergent.  Next time we will talk about the final principle of DEEP.

Until Next time.