Enterprise Product Owner’s Challenge

October 22, 2013

Wow! You must watch this talk from Agile 2013: Enterprise Product Owner’s Challenge: Managing Networks of Backlogs by Alan Goerner of Valtech. This is a talk that I missed while in Nashville and I’m so glad that I went back to watch it. Below are a few nuggets that I took from the talk.

Enterprise Product Owner's Challenge: Managing Networks of Backlogs by Alan Goerner

What is large scale agile?

Complex requirements and a high volume of requirements. As the volume gets larger the product owner and team needs more and more resources, and more and more discipline.

Turns out I’ve been looking for large scale teams along the wrong metric (size). Time to reset that search.


Don’t be afraid of them.

Doesn’t mean you’re not agile if you have committed dates.

Customers may want commitments, and they may need to know dates to align with other aspects of their business. There is synchronisation with marketing, manufacturing, etc.

Backlog Hierarchy

The thrust of the talk, leveraging thinking behind SAFe. While you don’t need to have each of these levels they may be useful in a large scale agile implementation (ie, a complex system).

  • Portfolio
  • Release
  • Product
  • Sprint

Each backlog level deals with a specific set of risks. If you don’t have those risks then you won’t need that level of backlog. Further, different kinds of backlogs can be defined by their content.

Another key takeaway – don’t have a backlog for each teams. Add a team field to allow you to filter the one backlog by a team later on. I’m happy to see this aligns with the approach I cover in JIRA for Agile Teams.

Don’t mix team structure with time structure.

Each stakeholder can have their own backlog – this covers multiple sources of demand yet you’ve got to have standards around the level of definition for something to go into that backlog. If the stakeholder doesn’t have the discipline to meet those standards then that stakeholders backlog is not valuable and it will not make the communication visible.

Look, honestly, you’ve got to watch this. I’ve only scratched the surface in my notes above. Great talk, go and watch it for the full deal, now.