Who owns your backlog?

If you do Scrum, the answer should be obvious. Product Owner.
But what if you don’t o Scrum?
Scrum is not the only framework in the world that will give you benefits, and for sure, is not the only way to gain agility.

This is a question that often gets forgotten, especially in the worlds of other frameworks like for example Kanban.
There is no official guide for Kanban that specifies the owner of the backlog, what we have is an adaptation of the scrum roles.

Why is it important?

Prioritization and accountability.

What is the problem?

If there is no one owner, there is no one accountable for the prioritization of the backlog, cleaning the backlog. Prioritization is focus. Without focus, well, we just waste time.

If everyone is the owner, no one is the owner. As simple as that. We see this with everything we do. Actions without an owner are never done. A backlog without an owner is never healthy.

If you have more than one owner, who trumps who? You may say that they have to work together and figure out their priorities, but what if one of them comes directly to your team and says.

“We need to change direction because of this and these business reasons”

backlog co-owner

Can he make that call? What about the other owners?
More than one owner just creates confusion and a waste of time.

How can we solve it?

If you don’t have it already, hire someone. Their job will be very simple.

  • Prioritization of the backlog – be free to make any decisions in this regard.
  • Accountable for the value produced – you have the power to prioritize, you also have the responsibility from what comes out.
  • Liaison with any Stakeholders – get everyone on the same page regarding what needs to happen, but remember, the final word is for this person, not any stakeholder.
  • Available – always available to answer questions, both from the team as from the stakeholder. Teams have priority because they need feedback to deliver value.

Sounds simple, right? Common sense. So why don’t we do it? Or worse, in our minds we do it, but we don’t make it clear.

Make sure everyone knows who is the owner of your backlog, and you will be amazed at the waste of time that just disappears.



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