Courage! Close off old and stale backlog items.

The following question is one that comes up every few months. A product owner is overwhelmed by all the items in their backlog, and quite often the backlog is growing faster than the team can work through it. Every time a product owner wants to visit the backlog it is a mess, which causes waste.

We have a giant backlog of 400+ tickets. We’ve been cleaning it up, but some tickets are great ideas that we just can’t get to in the foreseeable future. We’d like to resolve these tickets so we can more effectively prioritise our backlog, but our users get upset when we Won’t Fix things.

How do you suggest we handle this? Is there an appropriate status for this? Must we wade through hundreds of backlog tickets and risk losing good work for fear of upsetting people by closing? Must we use lame labels? 🙂

Being good lean practitioners we want to minimise that waste. And we also want to focus on the highest value and impact items we can deliver to our customers.

As this product owner uses JIRA I suggested that he search for old, untouched issues via the Issue Navigator. I generally recommend that all issues untouched in over six months are triaged and the ones that aren’t going to be addressed soon are resolved as Won’t Fix.

If a customer does return to an issue then we want to make sure they know they can reopen it for the team to explore again so it is always nice to add a comment to the effect of:

“Thanks for your suggestion, while this may be a fantastic idea we don’t envisage addressing this in the foreseeable future. As such I am closing this issue as Won’t Fix to focus the product backlog on the highest value work. If you believe this is really important and we should be looking at it sooner please reopen this issue and I’ll be notified.”

Give it a try and see how much you can clean up your backlog. Minimise the noise, minimise the waste, focus on the high value work.

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