Backlog funnel or go crazy 😱

Deyvid Nascimento
3 min readAug 30, 2021

On the stakeholders meeting, there are usually new insights and feature ideas, but when you look at your backlog you realize that you don’t have a delivery forecast and you also don’t have an argument to deprioritize or to just simply say no.

Both to deprioritize and to say no you need to be grounded in facts. Sorting the task based on the Eisenhower Matrix (Important vs. Urgent) is not always enough, because more often than not you receive that “not-important not-urgent boss task”, that “you have to deliver”.

The problem doesn’t stop there, sometimes we can’t stop to analyze our backlog, which is a list of stuff we might, hope and would like to do, but is often impossible to translate into realistic deadlines or even estimates.

Whether you’re a PO or a tech lead, maybe you’re currently on a small project and you don’t have the problems above, but as the project grows, your number of users become hundreds, thousands or even millions and if you don’t have a strategy now, later it will become impossible to implement it and your backlog will deteriorate into a mess.

A backlog funnel is a tool you need, either for argumentation or simply for you to have an organized and visual representation list. If you work in an office, it’s ideal for you to have a board at your office’s entrance. If your work remotely, it’s important for you to present it in meetings as often as possible.

The funnel is divided in 2 macro sections: backlog and sprint. Each story must necessarily start on the first backlog step (Could Do), however it doesn’t always gets to the last sprint step (Done). Regardless, this will only work if you are disciplined and follow some rules. For example, a good practice is to create time rules for tasks on each step, say, when a task is created, it has a “date created” tag, and if it remains idle for more than 30 days, it should be archived.

Backlog section

There are 3 steps on the backlog side, “could do”, “should do” and “must do”. On the meetings all tasks should start on “could do” because it is our funnel’s top — regardless of it being very urgent –because before moving any tasks, you need either a feasibility analysis or troubleshooting.

Sprint section

You will come to realize that, by employing the backlog funnel, your sprint section will get leaner and more robust, because for the task to enter the “To Do” step, it must go through the “Could Do”, “Should Do” and “Must Do” steps on the backlog section.