Does Prioritizing Backlog by ROI Work?

For those following the “Big Picture” series and the recent post Enterprise Agility-The Big Picture (4) Backlog, I just saw a number of posts from Luke Hohmann at Agile Commons describing some of the methods and challenges associated with prioritizing backlog.

If found the post Why Prioritizing Your Product Backlog for ROI Doesn’t Work particularly relevant, as it debunsk one of the most common myths, which is that there is a meaningful way to prioritize backlog based on expected ROI of a Feature or Story. While that seems like a logical, pragmatic and politically correct thing to do, Luke notes that in fact, it its likely to be impractical and potentially even counterproductive, (at least at the Iteration/Story level- note these are my backlog labels, not Luke’s), and he points out why that is the case. Here’s a sample excerpt to tweak your interest:

“Agilists celebrate our ability to respond to change rather than following a rigorous plan. Which sounds great until you’re asking a product manager who just invested a lot of time and money in her market research to reshuffle the backlog based on new information. They’ll be torn. The market research says that they should stick to the plan. The new information says that it should change. The greater the investment in the market research, the more challenging it is to make the change.”

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