03 May 2024

Effective Product Backlogs for Early-Stage Product Companies

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Written by Madhura Pethe

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The Process of Product Development

In today's world, the product marketplace is fiercely competitive, offering extensive ranges in features, design, functionality, and pricing. New-generation consumers have numerous choices, necessitating regular innovation and adaptation. Whether you're in the product industry or service sector working for a product company, it's an exciting time to witness the evolution of products.

When it comes to products that achieved success starting from a simple idea, I always think of Fitbit, which gained popularity with its simplistic design and ease of use, allowing consumers to effortlessly monitor their physical activity, sleep quality, and overall health. Another example is Post-it Notes—simple to use for taking notes, sticking to walls, and handy for personal and office applications.

However, not all products enjoy the same level of success. Remember Google Glass or the Amazon Fire Phone? Despite being backed by prominent brands, these products struggled to capture a significant market share. Factors such as high pricing, design issues, intense competition, timing of launch, and consumer preferences contributed to the lukewarm response to these products.

From these examples, we learn that having a prominent name or expert engineering teams does not always guarantee success. What, then, plays a crucial role in a product's success? While the answer may not be straightforward, a key element is undoubtedly a well-constructed Product Roadmap.

Product Roadmaps

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A visual depiction that outlines the key milestones of a product along their timelines, product roadmaps include planned releases, software upgrades, feature enhancements, or any significant activities that could impact consumers.

They are invaluable for communication and collaboration within teams and with stakeholders, aligning everyone towards a common goal and setting clear expectations. They highlight resource requirements, objectives, and the dependencies and relationships between tasks, which are crucial for planning product sessions.

Furthermore, roadmaps provide visibility and assurance that teams are focusing on a product’s most desired and valuable features. They facilitate planning for sales, marketing, and other customer-related events and are essential in resource planning, risk assessment, and mitigation. An important aspect to remember about a roadmap is that it always evolves, updated with changing market trends and consumer needs.

The input for a roadmap is a prioritized product backlog. This leads us to a significant question: how do you build an effective and correctly prioritized product backlog, especially with globally distributed teams? Let`'`s dive into some best practices for crafting product backlogs with remote teams for optimum impact!

Best Practices for Crafting Product Backlogs with Distributed Teams

1. Market Research:

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This phase typically involves identifying target customers, categorizing them based on geography, demographics, etc. Then come the comparative analyses on features, pricing, or services offered, and drawing subsequent insights. These insights should periodically feed into the backlog. Leveraging online resources like industry reports, market research, and monitoring social media are great ways to understand customer preferences. Platforms like Google Trends and Statista.com have been known to provide valuable data here.

2. Communication and Collaboration:

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The importance of communication and collaboration in product development cannot be overstated. Remote collaboration tools like Teams, Slack, and Confluence significantly enhance these efforts. At IncubXperts, we use Jira for task management and Confluence for documentation and discussion, ensuring that every small note or question is addressed promptly. We also emphasize on face-to-face meetings with stakeholders to resolve any open items and maintain clear, uninterrupted communication.

3. Domain Knowledge:

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Gaining domain knowledge is an ongoing process. As a product manager, you may start with your technical expertise rather than extensive domain knowledge. However, it`'`s vital to discuss the broader business context regularly to ensure that the team understands the specific customer problems and demographics they are addressing. This dialog helps build a robust domain knowledge base.

4. Knowing Your Customer:

Understanding the customers needs, routines, and pain points is essential. If direct contact with end users is limited, create detailed user personas based on typical customer profiles to simulate and understand their needs and challenges. This approach plays a big role in identifying customer pain areas and enhancing product features.

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5. Determining the Scope for the MVP (Minimum Viable Product):

Agile methodology emphasizes early market entry to adapt based on customer feedback. It`'`s essential to balance between incorporating enough features to meet customer needs and launching swiftly. Some key questions in the context of an MVP include whether the business can function with v1.0, its scalability, performance, and its alignment with the overall product vision.

6. Prioritization:

Prioritization can be challenging, especially with multiple stakeholders. Understanding the product vision, goals, and priorities matters. Regularly reviewing the prioritized backlog with all stakeholders ensures synergy.

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7. Breaking Down a User Story:

While there is no strict standard for user story size, aiming for small, concise, and well-defined stories is advisable. Each story should be INVEST compliant, with clearly documented acceptance criteria and dependencies –

  1. Independent
  2. Negotiable
  3. Valuable
  4. Estimable
  5. Small
  6. Testable

8. Agile Processes:

Despite the occasional resistance within teams, understanding the importance of agile practices is essential for successful outcomes. Processes like daily standups, sprint planning, reviews, and retrospectives are critical for effective backlog management.

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9. Team Involvement:

Encouraging active involvement from all team members, not just those in product management, fosters a collaborative atmosphere and a sense of ownership, leading to more innovative ideas and productive discussions.

10. Regular Feedback:

For service companies, client feedback is as important as customer feedback, providing insights into the effectiveness of the team and individual performance areas needing improvement. Quarterly reviews can help enhance strategies and team compositions as needed.


When one observes the big picture, building a product backlog is an iterative process that requires regular updates based on customer feedback and changing market conditions. Developing a collaborative culture across various teams and aligning to a shared goal help in building the best possible product. Through these practices, companies can even surpass customer expectations, ensuring a product`'`s resounding success in a competitive market.