The Process of Prioritizing Backlog – Top factors to Consider

A product backlog represents a list of new updates to features, bug issues, infrastructure upgrades, and other types of tasks that a team might provide to fulfill a specified goal. A product development framework, for instance, includes a prioritized range of items. The prioritized items are an important element that gives a backlog significance. As a result, the things at the top of the list reflect the team’s most essential and urgent tasks to perform.

However, in order for the Project Managers to effectively bring products to the market, their objectives must be translated into task-level specifics, which is why backlog is usually so important. It gives the team a predetermined set of actionable tasks that should be done according to the priorities. Project managers generally use a backlog to ensure that their team always has a set of listed activities and tasks which keep the product’s progress going forward.

Although, when there are hundreds of tasks in the backlog list, it sometimes becomes extremely difficult to decide which one is the highest priority of them all. This is why there are different types of tools and methods that can be used in the process of product backlog prioritization. In this article, we are going to further discuss some of the most essential ways that project managers use while prioritizing the backlog which includes Backlog matrix, long-term prioritization, Customer Feedback, Customer insights, Product Market Fit and so on. We will talk about each of these factors down below.

The Value vs. Effort Backlog Matrix

product backlog prioritization.

The Value versus Effort matrix is a lean prioritization technique that assists in the decision-making process by identifying what is essential and where to concentrate resources. The matrix is generally being used by the product managers in order to evaluate strategic projects and it provides a balanced approach by concentrating on the elements that are most useful to consumers in relation to the work necessary to execute them. The Value versus Effort matrix is intended for product managers, operations managers, or anyone in charge of bigger projects as well as work teams. This approach is convenient and simple to use, with just two variables – Value and Effort – and the features are displayed along the X and Y axes. (with Effort being X and the Value being Y).

This Backlog Matrix makes it clear for the stakeholders to see why the specific task might be more significant than the other one. Besides, this Matrix illustration makes the communication between the PMs and stakeholders more simple and convenient.

Therefore, the matrix includes four quadrants including Quick Wins, Major Projects, Fill-ins, and Thankless Tasks. For example, if you have an online shopping project, making a catalog is considered to be one of the most valuable tasks that require relatively less effort. Therefore, this task will be a high priority and according to the Value vs. Effort Matrix, it would fit in a Quick Win quadrant. This is one of the methods how PMs make the final decision on prioritizing the product backlog.

Urgent Tasks

In most cases, when the product has already been launched, there are various urgent tasks to do. The clients or partners might require you to accomplish certain tasks that they believe are a top priority in the given period of time. So usually, the Project Manager who is responsible for prioritizing product backlog is making the decision to make these types of urgent tasks at the top of the activity list since they do not have any other choice.

However, the important thing to consider here is the fact that sometimes those urgent tasks are not as significant as they might seem at the first glance. There are a lot of cases when the other types of assignments might have a lot more value for the specific project in the long run than the ones that seem to be urgent right now. Usually, the tasks that will have a huge impact on the project in the long term period should be prioritized by PMs as it will definitely increase the sales and grow the company in the long-run period.

Customer Feedback

Another essential factor according to which the product backlog is prioritized is Customer Feedback which generally plays an important role in this type of process. Among the most essential tasks of Project Managers are collecting client feedback, converting that information into usable insights, and then prioritizing the input information for the team. In order to ensure a proper customer experience, agile PMs begin the process of gathering feedback from users even before something launches. This is accomplished through a variety of methods, including usability testing, forums, interviews, emails, and many others. Following the collection of input, the next stage is to categorize it into distinct categories (typically user stories) for better results.

Most project managers use in-person interviews and face-to-face interaction with potential clients. It provides them with a genuine knowledge of their objectives, their experience with the specific product, the difficulties they are experiencing, and the goals they’re attempting to attain. That’s why they find it simpler to collect feedback directly from potential clients rather than from any other source.

On the other hand, Although face-to-face client interactions are a fantastic method to obtain a direct answer from consumers, they are usually related to the high costs and are also difficult to scale. Client meetings typically consume far more time as well as resources than the other methods like online surveys, emails, and so forth.

Overall, Customer insights help the Project managers to either accept or reject their hypotheses in the process of agile backlog prioritization. This means that they use the customer feedback in order to reassess the backlog prioritization list and rearrange the tasks according to the final information they have gathered from the interviews. By collecting consumer input prior to the release of the final product as well as after its launch, the team may save energy and extra costs on pushing unneeded functionality ahead. Furthermore, By employing customer interviews and gathering insights from them, you will have a more valuable and improved customer offering that is precisely suited to the specific company’s target audience.

Why is Product-Market Fit important while prioritizing Backlog?

On top of that, while talking about how to prioritize a backlog the important concept that should also be taken into account is Product-market Fit. It is that wonderful stage in the company’s life when they become a must-have in the eyes of their clients, which usually implies that the product provides them with genuine value. In most cases, Product-market fit is required for long-term growth. Developing product-market fit is critical to the success of any organization. It indicates that there is a marketplace as to what you’re offering, and consumers are ready to pay for it since it is superior to the alternatives in the market at the given moment.

There is a product-market fit questionnaire that allows the company to verify with clients to see if product-market fit has been attained. This is a simple test with only one question: How would you feel if you couldn’t use the specific product?

  • Very dissatisfied
  • A little letdown
  • Not disappointed

This test should be distributed to as many consumers as possible, and you should expect at least 40% of responders to say “Very dissatisfied.” This is significant since if you do not discover these people, you will most likely need to go further into the product to determine what kind of benefit it provides to clients. After this sort of study, the company will be able to proceed with a qualitative method of determining “why” people use their product, helping the organizations to develop and retain clients.

So when the customers say the reasons why they think the product is valuable for them, it gives the Project Managers a clear sense about which tasks should be prioritized in the Backlog activity list and which ones should be rejected. This is how Backlog prioritization works in general.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you Prioritise a backlog?

There are several tools and approaches that may be utilized in the product backlog prioritizing process. Backlog matrix, long-term prioritization, Customer Feedback, Customer insights, as well as Product Market Fit are some of the most important methods that project managers employ while prioritizing the backlog.

What is the Value vs Effort matrix?

The Value versus Effort matrix is a lean prioritization approach that aids in decision-making by determining what is vital and where resources should be concentrated. With only two variables – Value & Effort – and the characteristics shown along the X and Y axes, this method is easy and straightforward to use.

What Role does Customer Feedback have when Prioritizing Backlog?

In general, customer feedback is quite essential in this process. The project managers conduct in-person interviews with prospective clients. It gives them a true understanding of their aims, their experience with the specific product, and the challenges they are facing. This information will provide PMs with hints on how to prioritize the backlog.

Who is Responsible for Prioritizing Backlog?

The Product Owner is the person that prioritizes the product backlog in Scrum. The product owner is the one person in charge of determining priorities. However, the responsibilities are sometimes divided with the Scrum master. They have decided to prioritize the urgent activities at the top of the activity list. On the other hand, in most cases, the situation might change according to the team. However, the main idea behind the prioritization process always remains the same.


Written by Keti Getiashvili

Based on an interview with Ilia Chigogidze

Meet the authors

We are a 150+ people product design, software development, and growth marketing agency from Tbilisi, Georgia. Delivering hundreds of successful projects for industry-leader enterprise companies and startups earned us 100+ international awards, partnerships with Laravel, Vue, Facebook, and Google, and the title of Georgia’s agency of the year in 2019 and 2021.

If you are looking for a partner to extend your product or growth team or design and build a digital product, we are always open to a meeting!