Why Is It Essential To Use A Prioritization Framework For Sprint Backlogs?

Have you ever found your scrum team challenged to balance addressing stakeholder requests and production bugs while also making progress on developing roadmap initiatives?

Even if we use frameworks like RICE, MoSCoW, Kano, or Impact-Effort Matrix to prioritize the most critical issues during the sprint, we will have problems reported from production or an internal stakeholder request something that requires immediate attention. Such events can lead to confusion within the scrum team and disrupt the sprint goals.

Using a prioritization framework for the sprint backlog is crucial to minimize confusion and effectively allocate mid-sprint changes. Yuva Murugan's adaptation of the Three Feature Buckets model by Adam Nash is a helpful tool to maintain a balance between developing roadmap initiatives and addressing stakeholder requests or bugs.

The framework categorizes activities into buckets, each with a recommended size based on priority. For example, the Metric Movers bucket represents 75%-70% of the sprint size. You can estimate this based on the team's historical sprint velocity: The number of story points they have completed in previous sprints.

These are the buckets:

  • Emergent Issues (5-10%): A buffer reserved for issues that require immediate attention and cannot wait until the end of the sprint. These are hotfixes since they are outside the release cycle.
  • Metric Movers (75-70%): Focuses on roadmap initiatives, with the features being broken down and prioritized based on user stories.
  • Customer and Stakeholder Requests (15-10%): Critical requests from customers or internal stakeholders. These also include technical debt or infrastructure updates.
  • Customer Delights (5-10%): Small bucket at the end of the backlog to address improvements for customers, such as Dark Mode or the ability to save the logo as an SVG by right-clicking, which would be hard to prioritize among other features.
Diagram explaning the framework for prioritizing sprint backlog

The percentage allocated on each bucket would vary depending on the company, product, teams, or even across sprints. However, using a framework and openly sharing how we prioritize provides clear visibility and promotes open communication, leading to better outcomes and higher satisfaction among team members and stakeholders.