The Scrum methodology of agile software development marks a dramatic departure from waterfall management. In fact, Scrum and other agile processes were inspired by its shortcomings. The Scrum methodology emphasizes communication and collaboration, functioning software, and the flexibility to adapt to emerging business realities — all attributes that suffer in the rigidly ordered waterfall paradigm.
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In Scrum, the product backlog is the single most important artifact. The product backlog is, in essence, an incredibly detailed analysis document, which outlines every requirement for a system, project, or product. In simpler terms, it could be described as a comprehensive to-do list, expressed in priority order based on the business value each piece of work will generate. Philosophically, the scrum backlog is the engine of the business; it breaks the big-picture story down into manageable increments of work called Product Backlog Items (PBIs).
When the sprint planning meeting occurs, the Scrum team converses with the Product Owner to determine what work they will tackle in the impending iteration. At this time, the Product Owner imports PBIs from the into the sprint backlog.
Now, you may be wondering what a backlog looks like. The answer to that rests on whether a Scrum team uses manual agile or an agile tool to track progress. With manual agile, a team would create a physical manifestation of the backlog, using a dry erase board, Post It notes, or a taskboard. This is ideal for teams that work in closely proximity, whether the same office or room. In this setting, every team member has easy access to the product backlog, the sprint backlog, and the status of its stories; they can simply get up from their desks and walk over to them.
When Scrum teams are not collocated, however, they often require a tool to help them all stay on the same page. There are numerous tools designed to bring geographically distributed teams together using a virtual taskboard. Danube publishes ScrumWorks® Pro, a Scrum management tool that gives users a Web-based task management interface that mimics the look and feel of a physical taskboard. The tool also offers more detailed views of the product and sprint backlogs, organized in adjacent panes and easily modified with drag-and-drop prioritization.
Although it is the team’s responsibility for completing the work, the Product Owner is the only one who can prioritize work in the scrum backlog or, after negotiating with the team, add work to the sprint backlog.
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