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Ultimate Setup Series: Best Practices for Backlog Management

Torie Mantzouranis

Welcome to Shortcut! Shortcut is project management without all the management, built by our software team for your software team. We help you plan, collaborate, build, and measure success. Speaking of success, we want to make sure that you’re set up for... wait for it…

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That’s why we’ve created this Ultimate Setup Series. This is the fifth post in this series. Read the last post here, which is about best practices for Docs. In this post, we’ll talk about best practices for creating and prioritizing your backlog of work in Shortcut. 

First, What’s a Backlog?

Good question. A product backlog is a prioritized list of work for the development team that is derived from the roadmap and its requirements. The backlog holds work that ranges from really early ideas all the way up to work that is ready to be pulled into an Iteration or Epic.

Here at Shortcut, we have some exciting plans in motion *cue suspenseful music* that will make it even easier to manage your backlog… but in the meantime, we have two recommended ways for users to successfully manage their backlogs in Shortcut… *Cue drumroll.*

Recommended Way #1: Backlog Workflow

Our first recommendation is to create a Backlog Workflow. When you create a Story that gives details of the idea, bug, or other pieces of work, you assign the Backlog Workflow. With this strategy, the Story stays in the Backlog Workflow, and then, when it’s ready to be worked on, you move it to another Workflow (i.e. Engineering Workflow) and then add it to the corresponding Epic and/or Iteration, and it’s then assigned to a Team and individual to be worked on.

This strategy makes it easy to view the backlog on the Stories page by simply filtering by Workflow. This method is great, because it won’t clog up your views with your backlog Stories, and it provides a clear place to view and triage, rather than having them in the same place as the rest of your planned work. On the Epics page, the backlog Stories won't show up unless they are assigned to an Epic. This makes it clear which Stories are actually planned and being worked on.

Backlog Management

This also allows for further organization of the Stories by Workflow State.

You can customize the Workflow States to meet your own needs; however, here are some standard States to get you started:

  • New: This State collects everything when it first comes up, ideas, Stories, etc.
  • In review: This State is designed to show this work is actively being triaged and it is being determined if it should be worked on and what should happen next.  From this state the Story can either be assigned to a new Workflow to be started, or there can be a third State. 
  • Staging: This final stage is where Stories will sit when they are ready to be worked on and picked up by a Team. You could also use this as an “ice box” or could create a 4th stage for things that fall into this lower priority category.
Backlog Management

This method works best for:

  • Larger organizations or if you have a large backlog
  • If you want to be able to organize your backlog by different states

Recommended Way #2: Backlog Workflow State

The second recommendation is to customize your current Workflows to include a Backlog State. With this method, as Stories are created, they are added to the appropriate Workflow in the Backlog State. The Story can then be moved into another State in the Workflow when it is ready to be worked on. This strategy allows you to view your backlog and all other Stories in a Workflow all in one view.

Backlog Management

You can also create a saved Space on the Stories page that will allow you to filter to view just the Backlog State, for a clear view of your Backlog.

Backlog Management

Another tip for prioritizing your backlog is to use the Priority field, then you can also sort the Stories page by backlog and priority level. Similarly, you can use the Severity field on Bugs so it is easy to sort and view Stories in the Backlog by Severity.

Backlog Management

This method works best for:

  • Smaller companies, or if you don’t have a very large backlog
  • If you want to view your Backlog Stories and Stories in other states in the same view

Epic Backlog

Use the Epic Backlog to manage and track your backlog of feature work. On the Milestones page, you will find the Epic Backlog, where all Epics that have not been added to a Milestone will sit. This allows you to drag and drop Epics from the Backlog to a Milestone.

You can also drag to prioritize the Epics within the column, bringing the priorities to the top. This page can also be sorted by Team so you can see the Epics most relevant to you. Learn more in the Milestone Column View help article.

Backlog Management

Use Shortcut

And that’s a wrap for backlog management best practices. If you’re reading his article, you most likely already have a Shortcut account. But hey, maybe you’ve stumbled here and don’t have a pile of unprioritized work to do, in which case, you should start your free 14-day trial of Shortcut.

For more best practices, check out Shortcut's training hub.

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