Top 7 Product Backlog Mistakes You Should Avoid

Product Backlog Mistakes

Today, new and emerging products enter the market because product leaders identify market needs and try to fill the gap. 

Product discovery is a long and challenging process. However, with increasing organizations transitioning to Agile methods for their product development, efficiency is at a peak. 

Agile methodology streamlines your product journey into various phases. These may include product discovery, product vision, your product strategy, roadmap, and finally, your product backlog

While the former is more strategic documents, a product backlog is a full-blown summary and flow of your investment and efforts for the product. 

But doing too much or too little with your product backlog can harm product excellence.

Product managers who use product management tools like Scrum may not necessarily be aware of their mistakes. 

In this post, let’s understand product backlog management and the top seven mistakes you can avoid. 

As usual, we begin from scratch! 

What Is a Product Backlog?

If you’re new to product management, you may be wondering what a product backlog is.

A product backlog is a list of all the features, tasks, and requirements you need to complete to release a product. 

Product owners, product managers, developers, and other stakeholders use it to track progress and ensure that the essential items are being worked on.

User stories are a standard format for expressing product needs in a product backlog.

The story behind “why” a user requires something reflects in a user story or a product backlog item. On an initial product backlog, we jot down all of these “WHYs.” 

When the moment arises, these stories remind the user’s needs and an opportunity to examine what is required to meet those demands.

elements of product backlog

How To Create a Product Backlog?

Creating a backlog can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few steps to get you started:

1. Define your goal

What are you trying to achieve with this product? This will help you prioritize the features on your backlog.

2. Make a list 

List all the features that you need to implement to reach your goal. Don’t worry about prioritizing just yet.

3. Prioritize

Once you have your list of features, start prioritizing them. Which features are required for the product to function? Which parts are the most important to your users?

Prioritization Based On Team Alignment
Prioritization Based On Team Alignment

4. Capacity planning

Once you have your prioritized list, start estimating the time and effort required to implement each feature. This will help you further prioritize your backlog.

We talk extensively about how you can implement resource capacity planning like a champ in this article!

Creating a product backlog is an integral part of the product development process. 

By defining your goal and prioritizing your features, you can ensure that your product is on track for success.

Okay, now you know how you can make your product backlog. Let’s discuss the top seven common mistakes most people make. 

This might help you avoid them from the start. 

What Are the Top 7 Product Backlog Mistakes?

If you’re new to Agile product management, you’re probably unaware of these product backlog mistakes. Moreover, you’re possibly committing them. 

Here’s a list of the top 7 product backlog mistakes to avoid:

  1. Making your product backlog too big. 
  2. Making your product backlog too detailed. 
  3. Not clearly defining the product vision.
  4. Not setting priorities. 
  5. Not involving the right stakeholders in backlog management. 
  6. Not updating your product backlog regularly. 
  7. Over-depending on the Product Owner.
7 product backlog mistakes you should avoid

Let’s now understand all of these in detail.

1. Making Your Product Backlog Too Big. 

We frequently experience backlogs ranging from a few hundred to a thousand items. 

However, understanding such a sprint backlog is tough. This is especially difficult for new products and those undergoing a significant change, such as a life cycle extension.

Their backlogs are more volatile and require frequent and sometimes more extensive modifications.

A few reasons are why having a large product backlog can be detrimental to your development process. 

First, it can be overwhelming to developers and make it difficult to prioritize which features to work on first. This can lead to frustration and even frustration with the product itself. 

Secondly, a large backlog can also make it difficult to track progress and see how close you are to completing your product. This can be incredibly frustrating if you are trying to meet a deadline. 

Finally, a large backlog can also make it difficult to estimate how long it will take to complete your product. This can lead to unrealistic expectations and ultimately, disappointment.

You should thus try to keep your product backlog as short as possible. 

The three techniques listed below will assist you in this: 

  1. To begin, organize similar items into themes. 
  2. Second, keep coarse-grained elements for low-priority items. 
  3. Finally, and critically, focus the backlog on a single product goal. Then, decline and remove items that don’t help you achieve your goal.

2. Making Your Product Backlog Too Detailed. 

When creating your product backlog, it is essential not to get too bogged down in the details. 

While it is important to clearly understand what needs to be done, spending too much time detailing every single task can hinder your productivity.

Here are a few reasons why you should keep your product backlog from getting too detailed:

1. It can be overwhelming.

When your product backlog is jam-packed with every detail, it can be tough to know where to start. This can lead to frustration and even paralysis, which will only slow your product development.

2. You can miss the big picture.

It’s important to remember the forest for the trees when working on your product backlog. If you focus too much on the details, you can quickly lose sight of the big picture. 

This can lead to problems down the road, so keeping the bigger picture in mind is important.

3. It can waste time.

Detailing every single task in your product backlog can actually waste a lot of time. This is because as your product evolves, those details are likely to change. 

So, it’s important to focus on the most critical tasks and leave the smaller details for later.

4. It can lead to scope creep.

Scope creep is when your product starts to include features and tasks that were not originally part of the plan. This can be a huge problem

As a result, we advocate starting with an initial product backlog that is purposely vague and incomplete, especially if your product is new or going through massive changes. 

Then, when product feedback from users, customers, and stakeholders comes in, let the backlog evolve. 

This helps you to maintain the product backlog with minimal effort and make product decisions based on practical information rather than gut instinct.

3. Not Clearly Defining the Product Vision.

If you don’t have a clear product vision for your product, your product backlog will be undefined. 

This means that your product development team will not have a clear idea of what they need to build, resulting in less effectiveness. 

To avoid this, it is crucial to take the time to define your product vision before you start creating your product backlog.

To create an effective product backlog, you need to have a clear product vision. This will help you prioritize and focus on the right features.

Without a product vision, your product backlog will be undefined and all over the place. You need to know what you’re building and why you’re building it. 

This will help you communicate with your team and stakeholders and make better decisions about what goes into your product backlog.

Creating a product vision doesn’t have to be complicated. Start by answering these simple questions:

  • What is your product?
  • What does it do?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What problem are you solving?
  • What are your goals?

Once you understand your product and what you want to achieve, you can start writing your product vision. 

This should be a short, clear statement that captures the essence of your product.

For example, our product vision for the backlog is “to help developers stay focused and deliver great software.” 

This gives us a clear direction to work towards and helps us prioritize features that will help our users achieve this goal.

Defining your product vision is essential to creating a successful product backlog. It will help you focus on the right things and make better decisions about what goes into your product.

4. Not Setting Priorities. 

If you’re a product owner, it’s your responsibility to ensure your product backlog is in good shape. 

That means understanding what items are most important and prioritizing them accordingly.

But why is it essential to set priorities on your backlog? 

For one, it ensures that your team is always aware of what needs to be worked on next. This prevents any confusion or overlap in work and keeps everyone on the same page.

Secondly, it allows you to focus on the most critical items first. By prioritizing your backlog, you can ensure that you are working on the essential features and that less necessary items don’t get in the way.

Finally, it gives you a roadmap for your product. Knowing what’s coming up next, you can better plan for future releases and ensure that your product is always moving forward.

Your team will lack direction and clarity without prioritization. Prioritizing is essential for product excellence

There are several factors to consider when prioritizing your product backlog. 

The first is the value of the item. What is the potential return on investment (ROI) for this item? How important is it to the success of your product?

Next, you’ll want to consider the effort required to complete the item. Is this a small change you can quickly implement, or is it a significant, complex feature that will take a lot of time and resources to develop?

Finally, you’ll need to consider the item’s dependencies. Are there other items that you must complete first for you to implement this item?

Considering all of these factors, you can prioritize your product backlog effectively and ensure that your product is on track for success.

5. Not Involving the Right Stakeholders in Backlog Management. 

To create a successful product, involving the right stakeholders in your product backlog is essential. 

Doing so will ensure that everyone is on the same page and that all voices are heard. 

This will help create a product that is not only high quality but also meets your target audience’s needs.

If you’re not careful, you can end up with a product backlog that doesn’t accurately reflect the needs of your stakeholders. 

This can lead to problems down the road, as you may have to make changes that you could have avoided if you had involved the right stakeholders from the start.

There are a few ways to ensure that you involve the right stakeholders in your product backlog. 

First, make sure that you have a clear understanding of who your stakeholders are and what their needs are. Once you have that information, you can contact them and involve them in the process.

It’s also essential to keep your stakeholders up to date on what’s happening with the product backlog. 

Make sure they know when items are being added or removed, and keep them in the loop on any changes being made. This way, they can provide feedback and help shape the direction of the product.

If you take the time to involve the right stakeholders in your product backlog, you’ll end up with a better product.

6. Not Updating Your Product Backlog Regularly. 

If you’re not regularly updating your product backlog, you’re likely missing out on opportunities to improve your product. 

A product backlog is meant to be a living document that captures all the work that needs to be done on a product. By not updating it regularly, you risk forgetting important features or bugs that need to be addressed.

In addition, not updating your product backlog can make it challenging to prioritize new work. 

If you’re not constantly reassessing what needs to be done and why it’s easy to get overwhelmed and start working on things that may not be the most important.

So what can you do to ensure your product backlog is always up-to-date? 

First, ensure you have a system for capturing new work items. This could be as simple as a mailing list or a shared Google Doc

Product roadmap tools like Kanban or the famous Scrumban are the best to utilize here. 

Second, schedule weekly time to review the backlog and prioritize new items. 

And finally, be sure to communicate regularly with your team about changes to the backlog.

By following these simple steps, you can ensure that your product backlog is always up-to-date and that you can prioritize new work effectively.

7. Over-depending on the Product Owner.

Suppose you’re a scrum master or product owner. In that case, you know that one of your most important jobs is prioritizing and updating the product backlog. 

But what happens when you rely too much on your product owner for this task?

Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t over-depend on your product owner for your product backlog:

1. They might not have the time.

Your product owner is likely already very busy with other tasks and might not have the time to keep your product backlog as up-to-date as you need. 

This can lead to sprint delays and impact your team’s velocity.

2. They might not have the expertise.

While your product owner is likely to be very knowledgeable about your product, they might not have the same level of expertise as you do regarding backlog management. 

This means that they might not be able to keep the backlog as well-organized as you could.

3. They might not be as invested.

While your product owner is probably very invested in your product’s success, they might not be as invested in the day-to-day management of the product backlog. 

This can lead to them making decisions that are not in the best interests of the product.

4. You need to be able to take ownership.

As the scrum master or product owner, you need to be able to take ownership of the product backlog. 

This means that you need to be the one who is responsible for keeping it up-to-date and prioritized. 

It can be difficult if you’re over-dependent on your product owner for this task.


And those were the top seven product backlog mistakes you should avoid. Bookmark this page so you can never forget these points. 

You can always avoid these mistakes by starting with a free product management tool like Chisel that helps you from a 360-degree view. We’ve got you covered!

If you want to learn more about the best product management software and methodologies, check out our blog

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