The 20/30/50 Rule of the Product Backlog — Or how to determine the Percentage of User Stories that should be ready to be developed

The Product Backlog groups the User Stories of the product. It is obvious that it is not desirable that all User Stories are detailed from the beginning of the project. This refining must be done over time. But how fast?

An insufficiently detailed backlog can slow down the team in case it needs to take User Stories from the Backlog. Conversely, a backlog too detailed, too clear, prevents the product from adapting during development and kills the creativity. The answer to this question is provided by the 20/30/50 Rule:

  • 20% of the Backlog User Stories must be fine-tuned enough to be actionable as soon as the Development Team needs it; in other words, these User Stories are ready to be developed;

This rule was introduced by Bob Galen in his book Scrum Product Ownership.

This rule can be applied at any time: during Refinement Backlogs of course, or Sprints Planning; but also at any time, as soon as the team needs to estimate the size of a User Story.

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