DEEP Backlog

What Is a DEEP Product Backlog?

DEEP identifies four key attributes of a high-functioning product backlog. It’s a simple tool that product owners or product managers can use to manage the product backlog and user stories effectively.

First coined by Roman Pichler and Mike Cohn, DEEP is simple, easy to remember, and can be done quickly. The acronym stands for: Detailed appropriately, Estimated, Emergent, and Prioritized.

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How to Achieve a DEEP Backlog

Roman Pichler, co-creator of the DEEP backlog approach, offers this advice:

“To ensure that the product backlog is DEEP and stays that way, you have to groom or refine it regularly. Grooming the product backlog is an ongoing, collaborative process that involves the product owner and team.”

Pichler’s additional tips include paying careful attention to the first and third attributes of the DEEP backlog–detailed appropriately and emergent, respectively–as they tend to be overlooked, complementing the backlog with a product roadmap.

Here are the four key attributes of a DEEP product backlog:

1. Detailed Appropriately

Items in the backlog should contain enough contextual information for your cross-functional team to understand and discuss. Higher-priority user stories will have greater detail and context and be clearly defined.

2. Estimated

The effort involved with each user story should roughly estimate with a standardized measure agreed upon by the team. While lower-priority items will have less precise estimates than items at the top of the backlog, all items should have at least a rough estimate

3. Emergent

Because a product backlog evolves, it’s easy to add new stories and items—or remove them—as new information arises. Nothing is permanent.

4. Prioritized

Items on the backlog are ranked based on their value and the strategic purpose(s) they serve, with higher-value items placed at the top.

Why Is a DEEP Backlog Important for Product Managers?

Maintaining the product backlog is the primary responsibility of the product owner or product manager. Part of that process involves refining details and estimates and prioritizing items.

Obtaining a DEEP backlog is one of the key outcomes of a product backlog grooming or refinement session, which is a recurring event for agile product development teams. Regular backlog grooming sessions help ensure prioritizing the right stories and that the product backlog does not become a black hole.

Related terms: Backlog Grooming/ Product Backlog/ User Story / Agile / Backlog / Roadmap