Why Backlog Happens and 4 Tips for Optimal Management
To keep productivity and efficiency high, business leaders must have a strong core team in place to oversee project management. From minimizing duplicated efforts to timeline adherence to mitigating risks, a pivotal element of successful project management lies in backlog administration.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses across the globe are grappling with increased demand and a limited supply of resources – leading to the ever-growing issue of expanding backlog items. While backlog issues vary from industry to industry, one repercussion that impacts all businesses is the subsequent poor customer experience that comes from requests getting placed in limbo rather than in active development.
What Is Backlog Management?
In order to properly oversee a backlog, a project manager must be responsible for a prioritized list of action items created within the scope of a given project management strategy. Roadmaps and requirements – the two main components of a backlog – serve as a to-do list for the team, specifying what needs to be accomplished and by when.
Backlogs can be managed using two different basic methods: continually or iteration-by-iteration. On paper, it sounds like an effortless task. However, backlog management is an intricate and complex process, as projects are constantly evolving and changing over time.
Main Reasons Why Backlogs Occur
While a myriad of factors can ultimately impact backlog buildup, there are 3 common challenges businesses across sectors face:
Too Many Details: Backlogs tend to accumulate when an abundance of details are added to the queue. Long-winded descriptions that include too many details are unnecessary and naturally cause excessive backlog length.
Poor/No Ownership: Oftentimes, project managers fail to realize the enormous responsibility that comes with overseeing a particular project. Without dedicated ownership of a project and its corresponding deliverables, tasks quickly become neglected, causing backlogs to increase in size.
Unclear Action Steps: For a majority of businesses, their backlog resembles a lengthy and unorganized list that seems to be ever-expanding. Instead of clearly defined action steps with deadlines, the document reads more like a diary of every thought or idea the team has had regarding the project. From lousy ideas to crisis management fixes to random brainstorming notes surrounding other projects – instead of filtering and organizing information into a clear and actionable timeline of tasks, these items are continuously added, causing the backlog to grow.
Ms. Sharon Womboldt is a CBC employee with an extensive history in contracts management within many different industries. Her expertise lies in negotiations and acquisition management. Her main tip:
“You can’t reduce your backlog if you don’t fix your processes.”
4 Ways to Nurture and Refine Your Backlog Management
Commonalities across different business industries can help companies learn and grow from past mistakes. For example, the queue management techniques of the transportation industry can serve as a foundational guide for patient management in medical practices. Similarly, how retail businesses handle backorders can provide valuable insight for tech companies who need help managing software backlogs.
To help eliminate waste and ensure your backlog remains lean and clean, here are several tips to improve backlog management.
Keep in mind that without the right tools, you may never be able to reduce your backlog. Sometimes, training and possibly investments in software might be required.
Designate a Project Owner
Without a dedicated project manager to administer tasks and oversee backlog, crucial aspects, like timeline and budget, will simply fall through the cracks. This is costly from an overhead/resources standpoint in addition to increasing potential for client attrition, resulting in revenue loss. By assigning a project owner, it will create a well-defined strategy for each project, ensuring goals and deliverables are clearly communicated to the team and keeping irrelevant details from preventing forward movement.
Limit the Number of Items Per Backlog
To ensure implementation is effortless, it is important to limit the number of backlog items for a given project. According to research – including studies conducted by anthropologist Robin Dunbar – our brains are only capable of processing up to 150 relationships simultaneously. In other words, on a cognitive level, we are restricted by how much information we can digest at any given moment.
So, having countless items in your backlog is not manageable. On top of revenue and client experience concerns, the last thing your company needs is to add burnout and decreased employee morale to the mix.
Be Strategic in Scheduling Timelines & Delegate to Your Team
When devising your roadmap of deliverables, be sure to set realistic expectations. The goal is to meet demands by scheduling tasks in a manner that furnishes the team with enough space to complete the work in a timely fashion. According to Ms. Womboldt:
“Communication is key as well as understanding the approval and escalation process. Know who to contact directly and how to reach the right people.”
Always seek an expert, know your team, and do not hesitate to change and refocus if the process can be improved.
Strive to Maintain a Polished Backlog
Continually grooming your backlog is essential for keeping it lean. The project manager should place an emphasis on detecting problematic areas and items that are disrupting workflow – which can slow down the project and increase time, budget and resources.Being clever and strategic about how you manage backlog is essential to ensure your project is carried out as smoothly as possible. With a solid project management team in place, you will keep your project on track and improve productivity. To learn more about how we can help provide outsourced project management, contact us today.