What to do with a huge backlog…

So, here at my company we’ve been slowly adopting a more agile-like process. Which started with adding lots of tests and using CI to run the full test suite. As well as continual refactoring of code (once it is tested) to both make it fit the new requirements and to make it simpler. We have several release windows per week and attempt to utilize at least 1 or 2 of those, so the customer is getting our improvements as we complete them rather than in giant releases every few months.

And as we are integrating more and more agile practices into our work flow, we are hitting a problem that I have seen at a couple companies and have yet to see much that tackles this issue. Now this is nothing agile specific… it seems to happen with any sufficiently large application.

The problem is we have a backlog that is growing faster than we close tickets. Our first solution to this problem was to start having what we call ‘Bug Fridays’ and that has helped.

A Bug Friday is where we (as a company) can work on low hanging fruit, regardless of what our current projects are and how much value the low hanging fruit is worth. Since we are getting a lot of tickets done, the value adds up quickly, it makes both developers happy (because they closed a lot of bugs, especially old ones) and the client happy (because while it isn’t their highest priority stuff, often this are mild annoyances that they deal with every day)

This has had a positive effect and has even got us with a net decrease in bugs since we started them a month ago. The first one was most effective, the second one was less effective, and I am betting our third one (tomorrow) will be less effective than the second. We are doing them every two weeks and the amount of low hanging fruit in the backlog is decreasing each time. So long term I am not sure how valuable it is, it may need to become a once a month thing instead of every two weeks to allow for more low hanging fruit to accumulate.

From there, I am not sure what to do to stave off this growth of open tickets vs closed. I’d love to hear some suggestions and hear what other companies and projects are doing to attempt to win this battle.

2 thoughts on “What to do with a huge backlog…

  1. James,That post by Karl is a good one, thank you for posting that. I'll definitely be sharing that with the team at work. It definitely puts a different coat of paint on my perception of a growing bug queue.Phrasing it that way certainly makes it easier to accept a growing bug queue, but I think there are ideas and processes that can make it less of a losing battle. As well as ways to help out morale in dealing with ever growing bug queues while working on new features.

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