Skip to main content

Managing product backlog

· 16 min read

The product backlog is a prioritized list of features, enhancements, bug fixes, and other work items that need to be implemented in a software product. It serves as the central repository for all the requirements and requests gathered from various stakeholders, such as customers, users, product managers, and internal teams.

Product backlog management

The product backlog plays a crucial role in guiding the continuous evolution and improvement of the software product. Here's why the product backlog is significant in SaaS development:

  1. Requirement Management: The product backlog captures and organizes all the requirements and feature requests from customers and users. It helps in ensuring that all stakeholders' needs and expectations are documented and considered during the development process.
  2. Prioritization and Focus: The backlog allows the product team to prioritize work based on factors such as customer value, business goals, market trends, and technical dependencies. By maintaining a well-prioritized backlog, the team can focus their efforts on delivering the most valuable features and improvements to customers.
  3. Agile Development: SaaS development often follows agile methodologies like Scrum or Kanban. The product backlog serves as the foundation for iterative and incremental development. It allows the team to plan and execute short development cycles, known as sprints or iterations, based on the items in the backlog.
  4. Flexibility and Adaptability: SaaS products operate in a dynamic environment with evolving customer needs, market trends, and competitive landscapes. The product backlog enables the team to respond to these changes by allowing the addition, modification, or reprioritization of backlog items. This flexibility ensures that the product remains aligned with the ever-changing requirements and preferences of its users.
  5. Transparency and Collaboration: The backlog acts as a transparent communication tool, providing visibility into the planned and upcoming work items. It enables collaboration among stakeholders, such as product managers, developers, designers, and customers, fostering a shared understanding of the product's direction and goals.
  6. Continuous Improvement: The backlog facilitates a continuous improvement mindset by encouraging feedback and learning from the market and users. Through customer feedback, analytics, and insights, the team can identify opportunities for enhancement, iterate on existing features, and introduce new capabilities to meet evolving user expectations.

What causes a messy product backlog?

A product backlog can quickly become messy and unmanageable if not maintained properly. Here are some common issues that can arise with the product backlog:

Reasons for a Messy Product BacklogSolutions
Lack of Prioritization1. Clearly define and communicate the product vision and goals.
2. Regularly prioritize backlog items based on customer value and business objectives.
3. Use techniques like MoSCoW (Must have, Should have, Could have, Won't have) or weighted scoring to prioritize effectively.
Unclear or Vague User Stories1. Invest time in writing clear, concise, and specific user stories.
2. Collaborate with stakeholders and development team to refine user stories and ensure shared understanding.
3. Include acceptance criteria for each user story to provide clarity on expected outcomes.
Accumulation of Technical Debt1. Regularly address technical debt during sprint planning and backlog refinement.
2. Allocate time for technical improvements alongside feature development.
3. Prioritize and schedule technical debt items to prevent them from overwhelming the backlog.
Lack of Regular Refinement1. Conduct regular backlog refinement sessions to review and update the backlog.
2. Remove outdated, irrelevant, or duplicate items from the backlog.
3. Collaborate with stakeholders to ensure backlog items align with current priorities and goals.
Inadequate Collaboration1. Foster a culture of collaboration and communication among product managers, stakeholders, and development teams.
2. Encourage regular meetings and discussions to gather feedback and ensure shared understanding.
3. Use collaborative tools and platforms to facilitate effective communication and documentation.
Scope Creep and Changing Requirements1. Establish a change control process to manage scope creep and changing requirements.
2. Review and validate new requirements before adding them to the backlog.
3. Regularly reassess priorities and adjust the backlog to accommodate changing needs.
Lack of Documentation and Information1. Maintain clear and up-to-date documentation for each backlog item.
2. Include relevant details, dependencies, and context to provide a complete understanding.
3. Encourage collaboration and communication to ensure all necessary information is captured.

By addressing these reasons and implementing the suggested solutions, a product team can maintain a clean and organized product backlog, leading to improved clarity, efficiency, and overall product development.


Psst... here is one secret. One way to crush your SaaS backlog is to use ProdRoll.

80% of software features are rarely or never used. Why waste time and money building them? ProdRoll helps you prioritize your backlog based on real user needs. Let your users tell you what to build next.

Feature requst tracker

No credit card required. No-code and 1 minute setup.

How to deal with a messy product backlog?

Dealing with a messy product backlog can be challenging, but with the right approach, it can be resolved effectively. Here are some steps to address and manage a messy product backlog:

  1. Conduct a Backlog Review: Start by thoroughly reviewing the entire backlog to identify and understand the extent of the messiness. Look for duplicate items, outdated or irrelevant entries, and items lacking clarity or proper prioritization.

  2. Prioritize and Refine: Prioritize backlog items based on their value, impact, and alignment with business goals. Remove or archive duplicate, outdated, or low-priority items. Refine user stories to ensure they are clear, specific, and actionable. Collaborate with stakeholders and the development team to clarify any uncertainties and gain shared understanding.

  3. Break Down Epics into Smaller User Stories: If you have large, complex backlog items (epics), break them down into smaller, more manageable user stories. This allows for better estimation, planning, and incremental development.

  4. Address Technical Debt: Evaluate the backlog for technical debt items, such as necessary bug fixes, performance improvements, or code refactoring. Prioritize and allocate time for addressing technical debt alongside feature development to ensure long-term product stability and maintainability.

  5. Regular Backlog Refinement: Schedule regular backlog refinement sessions to continually review and update the backlog. This helps to keep it clean, organized, and aligned with the evolving needs of the product and market. Involve relevant stakeholders to gather feedback, validate priorities, and make necessary adjustments.

  6. Foster Collaboration: Encourage collaboration and communication among product managers, development teams, and stakeholders. Regularly engage in discussions to gather insights, resolve questions, and ensure a shared understanding of backlog items. Use collaboration tools and platforms to facilitate effective communication and documentation.

  7. Maintain Documentation: Keep clear and up-to-date documentation for each backlog item, including details, acceptance criteria, and dependencies. This helps maintain clarity and serves as a reference for the development team during implementation.

  8. Adapt and Iterate: Agile methodologies emphasize adaptability and continuous improvement. Be open to adapting the backlog based on changing priorities, market dynamics, and customer feedback. Regularly reassess and reprioritize backlog items to ensure they align with the evolving needs and goals of the product.

By following these steps, you can gradually clean up and manage a messy product backlog, leading to improved organization, clarity, and effectiveness in product development. Remember that backlog management is an ongoing process, and it requires active engagement and collaboration to maintain a healthy and productive backlog.

Backlog prioritization techniques

Prioritization is a critical aspect of product backlog management. It helps the team focus their efforts on the most valuable items and deliver the highest possible customer value. Here are some popular techniques for prioritizing the product backlog:

Backlog Prioritization TechniquesDescription
MoSCoW MethodMoSCoW stands for Must have, Should have, Could have, and Won't have. Prioritize backlog items into these categories based on their importance and impact on the product.
Kano ModelThe Kano Model categorizes features into five categories: Must-Be, One-Dimensional, Attractive, Indifferent, and Reverse. Prioritize based on their ability to meet basic expectations, delight users, or differentiate the product.
Value vs. Effort MatrixCreate a matrix with axes representing value (e.g., customer value, business impact) and effort (e.g., complexity, development time). Prioritize items based on their position in the matrix, giving priority to high-value and low-effort items.
Cost of DelayEvaluate the potential cost of delaying the implementation of each backlog item. Prioritize items with higher cost of delay, considering factors such as market demand, competitive advantage, and customer urgency.
Weighted ScoringAssign weightage to different criteria (e.g., business value, user impact, technical feasibility) and rate each backlog item accordingly. Multiply the ratings with their respective weights and prioritize based on the total score.
Opportunity ScoringAnalyze potential opportunities for revenue, growth, or market capture associated with each backlog item. Prioritize based on the estimated value of each opportunity.
Risk vs. RewardAssess the risks and rewards associated with each backlog item

Aligning Backlog with SaaS Roadmap and Strategy

A successful SaaS product requires a product backlog that not only addresses immediate customer needs but also reflects the long-term vision and strategic goals of the product. By aligning the backlog with the SaaS roadmap and strategy, organizations can ensure that their development efforts are focused and deliver maximum value to customers. Here are some techniques to achieve this alignment:

  1. Defining the Product Vision and Roadmap: It is essential to establish a clear and compelling product vision that outlines the desired future state of the SaaS product. The product roadmap then serves as a high-level plan that outlines the major milestones and initiatives required to realize the vision. By defining the product vision and roadmap, product managers can set the direction for the backlog and ensure that it aligns with the long-term strategy.
  2. Strategic Backlog Prioritization: When prioritizing backlog items, it is crucial to consider how each item contributes to the strategic goals of the SaaS product. By aligning backlog prioritization with the product strategy, organizations can ensure that the most valuable and impactful items are given priority. This involves evaluating backlog items based on their alignment with business objectives, customer value, market demand, and competitive positioning.
  3. Mapping Backlog Items to Product Milestones: A practical technique for aligning the backlog with the SaaS roadmap is to map backlog items to specific product milestones and releases. This involves breaking down the roadmap into smaller, actionable steps or phases and aligning backlog items to these steps. By doing so, organizations can ensure that each release or milestone brings them closer to achieving the long-term vision.
  4. Iterative and Incremental Development: SaaS products often follow agile methodologies, which encourage iterative and incremental development. This approach allows for continuous feedback and adaptation, enabling organizations to adjust the backlog based on changing market trends, customer feedback, and technical considerations. By incorporating feedback loops and regularly reviewing and refining the backlog, organizations can ensure that it remains aligned with the evolving needs of the market and the product's strategic goals.
  5. Balancing Customer Requests, Market Trends, and Technical Considerations: Backlog management requires a careful balance between customer requests, market trends, and technical considerations. While it is essential to address customer needs and requests, organizations must also consider broader market trends, such as emerging technologies or industry shifts. Additionally, technical considerations, such as architectural improvements or addressing technical debt, should be factored into backlog management to ensure the long-term scalability, maintainability, and quality of the SaaS product.

Estimating Effort and Setting Priorities in SaaS Backlog

Estimating the effort required for backlog items in a SaaS context is essential for effective planning and resource allocation. Here are some approaches and techniques commonly used for estimating effort and setting priorities in SaaS backlog management:

  1. Story Points: Story points are a relative estimation technique widely used in agile methodologies. Each backlog item is assigned a numerical value, such as Fibonacci sequence numbers (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, etc.), to represent the effort required for implementation. The team collectively assesses the complexity, scope, and technical considerations of each item to determine its story points. This approach allows for more flexible and subjective estimation, emphasizing the relative effort between items rather than absolute time.

  2. T-Shirt Sizing: T-shirt sizing is a simplified approach to backlog estimation where each item is classified into different sizes, such as XS, S, M, L, or XL, representing the relative effort required. The team assesses the complexity and effort based on their experience and knowledge. This technique provides a quick and high-level estimation, especially useful during initial backlog grooming sessions or when detailed estimation is not required.

  3. Relative Sizing: Relative sizing involves comparing backlog items to each other and placing them in a relative order of effort or complexity. The team assesses the items based on their knowledge and experience, placing them in a sequence that reflects the comparative effort required. This technique is useful for quickly gauging the relative effort of items and helps in setting priorities based on the overall scale of effort involved.

  4. Planning Poker: Planning poker is a collaborative technique where team members collectively estimate the effort of backlog items. Each team member privately assigns a numerical value or story points to an item, and then the estimates are revealed and discussed. This approach encourages team collaboration, allows for knowledge sharing, and helps in achieving consensus on effort estimation.

Setting priorities and making trade-offs in SaaS backlog management is crucial for optimizing the delivery of value to customers. Here are some methods and considerations for setting priorities:

  1. Business Value: Prioritize backlog items based on their potential business value. Consider the impact on revenue, customer satisfaction, market differentiation, and alignment with strategic goals. Items that offer the most significant value to the SaaS product and its customers should be given higher priority.

  2. User Impact: Consider the impact on users and customers when setting priorities. Focus on features or enhancements that directly address their needs, pain points, or feedback. Prioritize items that improve the user experience, increase efficiency, or add new capabilities that align with user expectations.

  3. Technical Dependencies and Risks: Evaluate backlog items for technical dependencies and associated risks. Prioritize items that reduce technical debt, address critical bugs, or ensure the stability and scalability of the SaaS product. Consider the potential impact of prioritizing items that mitigate risks or support long-term product health.

  4. Market Trends and Competitive Landscape: Stay attuned to market trends, customer demands, and competitive landscape. Prioritize items that align with emerging market needs, enable competitive advantages, or capitalize on new opportunities. Regularly reassess priorities based on market dynamics to stay relevant and competitive.

  5. Iterative Feedback and Learning: Embrace an iterative and feedback-driven approach to backlog management. Gather feedback from customers, stakeholders, and the development team to inform priority setting. Monitor user behavior, analytics, and market responses to identify areas where priorities may need to be adjusted.

By utilizing estimation techniques like story points, t-shirt sizing, or relative sizing and considering factors such as business value, user impact, technical dependencies, market trends, and iterative feedback, SaaS organizations can effectively estimate effort and set priorities in their backlog management process. This enables them to optimize the delivery of value to SaaS customers.

Tools and Software for product backlog management

In SaaS backlog management, utilizing appropriate tools and software can greatly enhance productivity, collaboration, and organization. Here is an overview of popular backlog management tools, such as Jira, Trello, or Asana, along with their support for SaaS-specific features and considerations for selecting the right tool:

  1. Jira: Jira is a widely used project management tool that offers robust features for backlog management. It supports the creation and tracking of user stories, epics, and tasks, allowing teams to break down backlog items into actionable units. Jira provides comprehensive release planning capabilities, enabling teams to define sprints, assign tasks, and monitor progress. It also facilitates collaboration through features like comments, attachments, and notifications. With its extensive customization options, Jira can be tailored to suit the specific needs of SaaS development teams.

  2. Trello: Trello is a visual and intuitive tool that offers a Kanban-style approach to backlog management. It allows teams to create boards, lists, and cards to represent backlog items. Trello's user-friendly interface makes it easy to track the progress of tasks and visualize workflow. While it may not provide the same level of detail as Jira, Trello's simplicity and ease of use make it suitable for smaller teams or organizations with less complex backlog management needs.

  3. Asana: Asana is a versatile project management tool that supports backlog management for SaaS development. It offers features for creating and organizing tasks, setting priorities, and assigning responsibilities. Asana's collaborative capabilities allow teams to communicate, share files, and track progress on backlog items. It also provides integrations with other tools and services, enabling seamless workflow management.

When selecting the right tool for SaaS backlog management, consider the following considerations:

a. Team Size: Consider the size of your team and the complexity of your backlog management needs. Some tools are better suited for smaller teams with simpler requirements, while others offer more advanced features for larger teams working on complex projects.

b. Budget: Evaluate the cost associated with using a particular tool. Some tools offer free versions or affordable pricing plans for small teams, while enterprise-level features may require higher investment.

c. SaaS-specific Features: Look for tools that provide SaaS-specific features such as user story management, release planning, and collaboration functionalities. These features are tailored to the unique needs of SaaS development and can greatly enhance productivity and efficiency.

d. Integration Capabilities: Consider the tool's integration capabilities with other software or services that your team relies on. Integration with version control systems, bug tracking tools, or communication platforms can streamline the workflow and improve collaboration.

e. Customization Options: Assess the level of customization offered by the tool. This allows you to tailor the tool to match your team's specific processes and requirements.

f. User Experience: Evaluate the usability and user experience of the tool. A tool that is intuitive and easy to navigate will reduce the learning curve and promote adoption among team members.

By carefully considering team size, budget, SaaS-specific features, integration capabilities, customization options, and user experience, you can select the right backlog management tool that aligns with your SaaS development needs, enhances collaboration, and improves overall productivity.


Setup your own feature request tracker in 1 minute.

Feature requst tracker

No credit card required. No-code and 1 minute setup.


In conclusion, successful SaaS product backlog management requires a customer-centric approach, embracing agility, and fostering collaboration. By prioritizing customer value, aligning with strategic goals, continuously improving through feedback, and utilizing appropriate tools, organizations can optimize their backlog management processes and deliver SaaS products that meet customer needs and drive business success.