Choosing the content of Sprint and Product Backlogs

Organizer bio: This session is organized by Wim Codenie, Tom Tourwe and Vladimir Blagojevic of Software Engineering cell of Sirris, the Collective Center for the Belgian technological industry.


SCRUM and related agile methodologies advocate the use of iterative and incremental practices in order to control the complex process of building software. The idea is that new functionality is delivered fast and that a product that satisfies all its stakeholders is built in an incremental way. This creates a challenge of "choosing" the right functionalities for each release (= release definition). Unfortunately, as studies have shown, the right features are not always chosen. Standish has observed that as much as 45% of product features are never used. Although in many agile methods (e.g. Scrum) the importance of having backlogs is stressed and recognized, not much attention is paid to how to fill the backlog in an optimal way: what are the criteria, decision parameters, etc... Different stakeholders might have different and conflicting interests, which makes it difficult to select and prioritize functionalities appropriately for a particular release. The goal of this workshop is to discuss this challenging issue that is becoming increasingly relevant for a large number of companies. By organizing this session, we want to attract people interested in this topic, and present our initial findings with respect to the problems and challenges (the organizers of this workshop are also involved in a European Flexi project on this topic).


  • Introduce/discuss/refine/agree upon the problem of release definition
  • Identify the challenges that participants of the workshop experience with defining the contents of backlogs
  • Gain insights in the different ways this is handled by the participants of the workshop (tool support, methods, success stories, etc...)
  • Identify relevant state of the art methods/tools/techniques
  • Identify the actions needed to further address this issue

An initial study of the problems and challenges related to release definition has been performed by Sirris together with its associated partners in the context of the European Flexi project]. During the XP Days working session, the idea is to present these initial problems and challenges already identified, and allow participants to comment on them, refine them and complement them with their own problems and challenges. br />

Process & Timetable:

  • 25' introduction to the problems & challenges
  • 10' open spaces setup
  • 25' First open spaces session
  • 25' Second open spaces session
  • 20' presentation of results
  • 10' wrap-up

The idea of the open spaces session is that no predefined meeting agenda is imposed by the organisers, but that participants themselves generate the meeting agenda. During the open spaces setup, we will introduce this concept, and ask participants to identify the topics that they think are relevant to the session and that they want to discuss with others. Based on this input, we plan two session where (at most) 4 topics are discussed in parallel break-out groups. Participants are free to move between different open space groups (according to the Law of Two Feet), although the proposer of the topic is asked to remain within his break-out group, in order to record the discussions that take place and report on these afterwards. We as session organisers will act as open space facilitator in order to ensure productivity of the different break-out groups.

Session Format:
The session will be held in a workshop-like style, where participants first discuss issues in small(er) open space groups and then present results of these discussions to other participants.

Intended Audience:
We aim to attract two different sorts of participants

  • Problem owners: people and companies who suffer from problems associated with defining releases (e.g. project managers, product managers, product owners, developers, etc...)
  • Experts: Who can provide solutions to the identified problems, or who have experience in dealing with them

Benefits of participating:

  • Meet people interested in this topic.
  • Gain insight into the problems and challenges of release definition
  • Get an overview of the existing state of the art methods, techniques, tools...
  • Allow problem owners an opportunity to have their challenges discussed
  • Help shaping possible solutions
  • An opportunity to register your interest in the results of the release definition solutions that will be developed during European Flexi project