Have you ever been offered a “stottie” or a “balm cake” or a “cob”? Have ever been called “Pet” or “Duck” or “Hen” and not known what they meant? Have you ever been confused when someone told you to get on the “side walk” or “pavement”?
The words we use can often be used to identify where we are from. However, those words can make it harder to get where we want to because people do not understand us or have a different understanding of the words we use.
“Backlog” is one such word. It is a word that expresses the IT view of the world. This was fine when Agile was being sold to IT teams. Now that Agile is being sold to business investors, we need a new phrase to describe outstanding work.
Ask someone who has not heard of Agile “What is a backlog?”. They might look up a definition…
“Value of unfulfilled orders, or the number of unprocessed jobs, on a given day. While a backlog indicates the workload that is beyond the production capacity of a department or firm, it also serves as a pointer toward the firm’s future sales revenue and earnings. Also called open order.”
The key is “unfulfilled orders / unprocessed jobs”. They describes the commitments that the IT department has yet to complete. Backlog is a term to describe IT’s relationship with outstanding work. It does not describe how the business view the same things.
Without knowing the name, a business investor might describe the backlog as “A list of things I might invest in that will deliver business value.” Backlog implies commitment and makes no reference to value. This is why I prefer to call the backlog “A portfolio of investment options”. It is a phrase that business investors I’ve dealt with have responded well to. One that makes their role as an investor clear.
So pet, fancy a stottie and bottle of dog to celebrate our new found understanding?
September 18th, 2011 at 12:40 pm
Interesting how we arrive at the same point from totally different directions…
September 19th, 2011 at 8:37 am
And see also: “Shibboleth”
September 19th, 2011 at 10:32 am
What would the short, everyday version of “portfolio of investment options” be? “Options”? “Oppportunities”?
I like the idea of saying “We need to prioritise our list of investment options”, but I can see it becoming a bit of a mouthful without some kind of abbreviation.
September 19th, 2011 at 5:02 pm
How about P.O.O. or “poo”? Although, knowing Chris’ kind of work environment, folks would most likely call it shit – as in “we need to prioritise our shit”.
September 19th, 2011 at 2:27 pm
I’ve started using “Sushi Bar” with my current team – not my term originally but it’s a really powerful metaphor – more importantly it prompts explanation rather than assumed meaning.