Managing Risk in the Product Backlog

Photo by symphony of love

Photo by symphony of love

I recently attended the Agile Coach Camp in Atlanta, and one of the discussions there was about how to manage risks and dependencies in large agile projects.  I shared some of my ah-ha's with my peers, and we've been talking more about how risks are managed and made visible in the product backlog; we're exploring the idea because in the past we've been training teams to keep a separate risk log, and we've seen mixed success with that approach.  

In addition to possibly adding risk mitigation actions to the product backlog, there's been talk of "rating" the relative risk of stories; Rally's Portfolio Manager includes a "risk score" field for stories.  This sparked the conversation of what types of risk should be considered in that risk score: is it just delivery/technical risk, or does it also include the business risk?  And is the score determined by the development team or stakeholders?

What are your thoughts on defining a risk score and using it to help prioritize stories?  Is this something that could help drive the right conversations and decisions, or is it adding too much complexity to the backlog?

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.