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?