Product Experience

Who owns the product backlog and how to manage it?

February 21, 2024
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Who owns the product backlog and how to manage it?
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Determining the Ownership of Scrum Product Backlog

Product owners and developers are often at loggerheads on the ownership of the product backlog and sprint backlog. This confusion often reduces productivity and disrupts planning. The ownership of both backlogs is defined in the Scrum guide, and it's about time that we clear the confusion lurking around. 

A product backlog is a prioritized list of tasks set according to the product roadmap. The backlog communicates what’s next in the list of product development teams to achieve the end goal. 

The product owners own this backlog, and they are responsible for adding and removing items from the list along with setting the priority of each task. 

However, the best approach to create a backlog is bringing in other teams as well to ensure a streamlined development process. 

Let’s discuss this in some detail as I share personal experiences on how the product backlog execution has helped us build Qwary. 

Product Backlog Ownership and their Roles

Product owners indeed own the product backlog, but in the execution of their responsibilities, they need help from cross-functional teams. These backlogs convert the company’s high-level vision into working details, leading to product development. 

The scrum book says that the “Product owner is responsible for the Product Backlog.” This means that they are responsible for its content, availability, and ordering. 

The same guide also says that a product backlog is dynamic and it evolves. As an ongoing process, product owners may need assistance from developers and product managers to collaborate for backlog refinement. 

Product owners have two major responsibilities related to product backlogs;

  1. Scrum Backlog Item Prioritization

Product owners prioritize the items on the backlog based on their value addition towards the product, users, and the business. They look after each item to identify how closely and quickly it can address the end user’s pain points and enhance usability. 


This is followed by the task’s technical feasibility and contribution towards business revenue. Product owners at Qwary use the Value vs. Effort prioritization framework. In this, we measure the impact of a task on the development list while assessing its complexity. In addition to this, for backlog prioritization, you collaborate with developers, designers, and stakeholders to improve the list. 

  1. Product Backlog Item Maintenance

Once a backlog is built, maintaining it is crucial to review it regularly. The review and maintenance process checks the validity of the prioritization and if the feedback from the last iteration is being incorporated into the work to be done. 

Regular backlog refinement is called backlog grooming. Within this, as the backlog list grows, the responsible executives must group the items into near-term and long-term. 

While building Qwary, our product manager faced a similar challenge, and the team worked to sort items according to their near-term and long-term importance. We prioritized user interface updates, bug fixes, and adding new features while things like integrations and AI-text analysis were moved to the long-term items. 

Roles and Responsibilities of Developer, Designer, and Stakeholder in Scrum Product Backlog

Developers, designers, and stakeholders are an integral part of the product backlog management. Here’s how each of these roles contribute;

  • Product Developers: They guide the product owners on the effort required to complete each item in the backlog and break down the items into smaller and actionable tasks. 
  • Product Designers: Product designers emphasize user’s needs and bring forward their perspectives. They are strong advocates of building user-centric solutions and contribute to creating user stories, which leads to feature selection. Product backlog owners leverage a designer’s understanding of a feature’s technical feasibility visual hierarchy and share insights on how to improve user experience. 
  • Stakeholders: We have had multiple stakeholders contribute to the product backlog development and refinement, facilitating the development of a user-centric solution. They can be partners, end-users, and managers who generally contribute at the beginning of the development process. However, they also pitch in with their thoughts and ideas during the evolution of the product. 

While the roles are defined, companies also have a scrum master, who glues everything together, ensuring that all the work is done well. Here’s a representation of how each role contributes to building a healthy product backlog (sharing insights from how we worked while developing Qwary).

During development, when we received a new feature request, the developers pitched in to assess its technical feasibility and break it down into small development tasks. Developers help the product owner define clear and measurable criteria for accepting each item. 

The designers did their work on the same request and conducted user research to test how the end-users interact with Qwary's existing features and identify their pain points. They use the insights to propose changes in the feature design and improve overall user experience. 

The stakeholders offered market insights about the new feature and helped product owners prioritize the placement of the new feature request according to the business strategy and market revenue. 

Developers, designers, and stakeholders contribute transparently to build an effective product. The product backlog serves as a common point of reference for all the contributors and helps the product owner take it from ideation to conceptualization. 

How do Product Owners Manage and Refine Product Backlog?

Product owners must rigorously groom the backlogs using their scrum learning to ensure they remain reliable and provide an outline of the work. The constant discussions and planning facilitate sprint backlog planning. 

Through effective management, product owners provide the momentum for sprint planning meetings and set sprint goals. The sprint reviews leads to changes in the product backlog, creating a continuous cycle of refinement. 

  1. Ensuring Clarity

A product backlog also serves as a guide for cross-team collaboration. Product owners must craft detailed user stories highlighting clear acceptance criteria and sharing the expected deliverables from each item on the backlog. 

Do the following to ensure clarity;

  • Leverage visual aids like story maps, storyboards, and product roadmaps to clearly outline the progress and flow of work. This will help identify dependencies and improve collaboration. A mature project management system means you can meet 77% of the project goals
  • Create a clear Definition of Done (DoD) for each backlog item, as it will facilitate transparency and accountability and eliminate chances of miscommunication. You can also create a glossary of terms specific to the product to avoid confusion, ensuring everyone is on the same page. 
  1. Managing Expectations

In a world where more than 52% of software projects fail due to lack of effective management, managing expectations can be achieved by implementing the following;

  • Scope and Vision: You can define the project scope and vision, which will help the product owner set a boundary. At the same time, don’t be rigid with scope and vision. They can evolve with the market, trends, and customer expectations. 
  • Transparent Communication: Frequent and transparent communication is an important scrum learning guiding product owners to have daily scrum meetings, sprint planning, backlog reviews, and using sprint retrospective tools to get and share feedback. 
  • Manage Scope Creep: Scope creep is the uncontrolled expansion of project requirements, features, and deliverables without catering to their time, cost, and resources. We experienced a similar situation while building Qwary but were able to manage it through backlog grooming and refinement. 
  1. Prioritization of Product and Sprint Backlog

Prioritize each backlog item based on a criteria;

  • Identify Value Added to the Product: Use one of the available frameworks to identify the value of an item to the end user, market, and business. You can use the MoSCoW or the Value vs. Effort analysis to determine the importance of each item. 

Identifying the value added means you can use the priority matrix, which is the impact/effort matrix. Using this, rank the problems functionals based on their importance.

  • Use Sprint Planning: Transfer the top portion of the product backlog to the start of the next sprint. This sets a timeline for the high-priority items on the product backlog. To determine where you want to cut off the list of transferring the items, stop when you reach the medium priority items. 

Product backlogs keep the team agile and contribute to a clean and frictionless development of the product. While following the ways shared above to manage product backlogs, also conduct daily scrum team meetings to rearrange the top of the backlog. 

How to Prioritize and Manage Product Backlog Effectively?

Effective product management is the secret to ensuring success in agile team work. Here are some ways to manage your product backlog. Rest assured that these are tested and verified methods we have been using at Qwary to manage our work and for product delivery. 

  1. Clear Communication About Items in the Product Backlog

Focus on explicitly communicating the product goal and product backlog items. In addition to using a scrum product backlog tool, use instant communication tools like Slack channels and dedicated forums to share backlog updates. Generate progress reports and run Q&A sessions to invite queries from the team and address them promptly. 

You must also segment communication according to the development needs and scrum roles. Send in-depth technical content to developers and high-level summaries to stakeholders. Effective communication can increase team productivity by 25%.

  1. Transparency in Maintaining the Product Backlog

Being transparent with the developers, designers, and stakeholders can help you build a good product. Let me explain. When you are transparent, that means sharing not only successes but also failures, challenges, and risks along with the estimated delays proactively. This builds trust and helps you collaborate with others to overcome challenges. 

Use KPIs to measure backlog work items performance. Here, too, share the KPIs achieved with the defect rate, user engagement, and their impact on business goals. The last thing we did was conduct product and sprint retrospectives to encourage honest and data-driven feedback. This was an eye-opener for the team to identify areas of improvement and missed opportunities. 

  1. Like an Agile Team, Use Modern Tools and Automation

Use modern-day and cloud-based project management, development, and communication tools. You can choose tools of your liking, and it will help you streamline workflows while minimizing data silos. With cloud services, it's easier to share data across teams and collaborators, ensuring instant access to information. 

Bring AI-based automation to manage the backlog and use it for item prioritization based on historical data, user sentiment, and market trends. AI can process data much faster than you can, so it's better to use it for repetitive and time-consuming tasks. 

  1. Continuous Improvement

Before choosing the Value vs Effort matrix for prioritization, we worked with the MoSCoW and Kano Model. It's not that they are not good, but for us, the Value vs Effort framework worked well. Similarly, don’t stick with one method. 

Similarly, track the impact of the changes you make to the backlog. A product owner is responsible for measuring the improvement efforts and suggesting changes while communicating with the team and stakeholders. 


Establishing the ownership of product backlog is crucial to build, maintain, evolve, and manage it. With product owners taking ownership, they are responsible for all the tasks and are open to collaborate with product managers, developers, designers, and stakeholders. 

While collaboration is not necessary, it is recommended as this backlog serves the interests and aspirations of end-users. As you plan to build and maintain product backlog, you can use Qwary for backlog refinement and prioritization. 

You can trigger Qwary In-Product surveys at specific points in product development and improvement to get real-time feedback on specific features and functionalities. We also have a session replay feature to help you analyze user interactions with your product and understand the subtle pain points of the end users. 

Get in touch with our team to book a demo and learn more about using Qwary for effective backlog management. 


  1. Who Owns The Product Backlog In Agile?

The product owns the backlog in agile and follows the scrum principles to prioritize and refine the backlog. 

  1. Who Is Responsible For "Owns And Prioritizes The Product Backlog?

The product owner is responsible for prioritizing the product backlog. 

  1. Who Owns The Product Backlog In Scrum?

In the scrum framework, as well, the product owner owns the product backlog.