The Product Backlog: A Rock Concert of User Stories

Last Updated: July 28, 2023

In the realm of product development, the backlog is often perceived as a monotonous list of tasks. It’s seen as a necessary evil, a relentless setlist filled with features, bugs, and technical debt. But what if we’ve been viewing it through the wrong lens? What if the backlog could be a tool for understanding, a roadmap that guides us through the customer journey?

David Hussman, a trailblazer in agile development and a former hair band member, saw the potential in the backlog. He understood that it wasn’t just a list of tasks, but a narrative of the customer journey. Each item in the backlog is a track in the rock concert of product development, and when played together, they create a rhythm that resonates with the customer.


The Backlog: More Than Just a Setlist

Many product owners feel like managing the backlog is just shuffling around tasks for the engineering team. But Hussman saw it differently. He saw the backlog as a tool for understanding the customer journey. Each item in the backlog is a user story, a narrative that captures the essence of what the customer wants and needs.

But these user stories aren’t isolated tracks; they’re part of a larger album. They’re interconnected, each one influencing and being influenced by the others. And just like a rock concert, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.


The Problem with Separate Setlists

Some teams separate their backlogs into different categories: features, bugs, technical debt, and so on. But this approach can lead to a disjointed product. The team loses sight of the overall rhythm and gets lost in the individual tracks.

Hussman argued for a single, unified backlog. A backlog that includes everything‚ÄĒfeatures, bugs, technical debt, and more. This approach allows the team to see the big picture and to understand how each item fits into the overall customer journey.


User Story Mapping: The Key to a Harmonious Backlog

So how do you create a backlog that tells a coherent, customer-focused story? Hussman’s answer was user story mapping.

User story mapping is a method for organizing and prioritizing the backlog. It involves arranging user stories in a way that reflects the customer’s journey through your product. The map provides a visual representation of the customer’s experience, from their initial interaction with your product to the achievement of their goal.

This approach keeps the customer journey at the forefront of the team’s mind. It helps them understand how each item in the backlog contributes to the customer’s experience. It also makes it easier to identify gaps in the customer journey and prioritize items that will have the most impact on the customer.


The Concert Continues

David Hussman may no longer be with us, but his ideas continue to resonate in the world of product development. His approach to the backlog and user story mapping has influenced countless teams, helping them create products that truly meet the needs of their customers.

In the end, managing the backlog is not just about shuffling tasks. It’s about understanding the customer journey and crafting a product that enhances that journey. It’s about listening to the rock concert of user stories and creating a rhythm that resonates with your customers.¬†

So next time you look at your backlog, don’t just see a list of tasks. See the tracks of your concert, the narrative of your customer journey. And remember, you’re not just building a product. You’re composing a rhythm that will resonate with your customers. Just like David Bowie, you’re creating a concert that will captivate your audience.