Backlog

Backlog is a place where your product vision takes shape. But creating your backlog is only the beginning. Your product is healthy when your backlog lives. It will change, grow or shrink. Things will change importance. You will discover others later on.

tinyPM not only lets you create your backlog but what is more important, it allows you to groom it. Reorder your stories with drag and drop, sort them, filter. Quickly tag many stories, change their colors. Edit story details through in-line editable fields.

User Stories

User story represents piece of your product. Agile teams usually introduce some template for a story, like:

As a (user or role) I want (a goal to be achieved) so that (benefit of that goal).

For example:

As a project manager I want the tool to present a Cumulative Flow Diagram, so that I can observe how our process works and spot bottlenecks quickly.

We also suggest the template, but in fact the template itself is not so important. The most important thing is that a good story should represent a part of your product or service that can be showed and used. When writing a story always think "How will I demo this one?". In the above template the most important part is the "benefit". You are defining a story for some user or role benefit, otherwise it's for nothing and doing it would be a waste of time.

Sometimes you will have just a raw idea of what you need, and so it be. Write it down. This may be quite large part of what you are building. We will call it "Epic". This story will evolve over time. You will gather more details, probably you will split it into smaller pieces when you know more about it. When you know enough details to start working on a story you will assign it to some iteration and treat it as "Ready".

Adding stories

When you create a project your backlog is empty. The only thing you see there is an UNASSIGNED section (green box). This is where all your stories will start their life cycle. You will add all the ideas and requirements that your product needs to meet. You don't know yet when they will be delivered, they are not scheduled and thus unassigned to any iteration.

When adding anything in tinyPM look for a plus icon in the view toolbar. On the backlog it can be a story or an iteration.

Each user story in tinyPM can have a color (look at a color-coding section for more details). You can give your story a short title. This is what you will be using when talking to your team mates most of the time, so make it meaningful and rather short. Give all the required details in the description field. It supports wiki text, so you can use some formating to make reading easier.

If you know already when you want to work on the story, then you can assign it immediately to a selected iteration. If the story will remain unassigned, then you may think of defining an importance for it. In tinyPM we use a MoSCoW categories, which are Must have, Should Have, Could have and Won't have this time. This way you may quickly show how important the ideas behind created stories are.

Color coding

Using colors for your cards is a part of visual management that you can use in tinyPM and outside of it. We encourage you to take a look at a great blog about it: Visual Management Blog

We've given a default meaning to all colors in tinyPM, but you can change it at any time. Choose what best fits your own workflow. Colors used in tinyPM are:

  • Gray (Docs) - stories related to creating documentation.
  • Yellow (Ready) - features with enough details to be implemented.
  • Red (Bug) - bugs and mistakes deserving their own story.
  • Green (Idea / Epic) - general ideas, epic stories requiring more details, etc.
  • Blue (Tech stuff) - some general technical stuff that needs to be done.
  • Orange (Other) - change the meaning of this color to fit your process.

You may change color of many stories at once. Just select them and a quick form will appear in the sidebar.

Each project can have its own color coding. You can change it in the Project Settings.

Tags

You may tag you stories. When working with user stories it's sometimes hard to create some hierarchy. Many times your stories will cover multiple areas of a product or service. Tags give you the ability to indicate those areas. When your backlog grows, tags will let you quickly filter the list of stories to see what's there.

You may also tag many stories at once using a quick form in the backlog sidebar. Just select some stories and options will appear.

Attachments

A picture is sometimes worth a thousand words. That's why you can attach files to stories. Use it to provide more details. This way you will be able keep the information related to a story in one place.

Comments

No matter how hard you try there will always be some questions regarding user stories. In tinyPM you can use comments to discuss story details. Those conversations will keep everybody in the team on the same page. But it's even more. Whenever somebody adds a comment to a story, all team members will receive e-mail notifications.

Each user can choose what kind of notifications he wants to receive. By default all kinds are turned on.

Iterations

Name them iterations, sprints or whatever you like. They are your time boxes. They represent cadence in your project - time to accomplish a goal. tinyPM does not enforce any naming for you. Iterations can have any durations.

tinyPM allows you to track a progress of an iteration. You can plans some iterations ahead. You can work on stories within iteration using task board.

The most important part of a new iteration is its goal. Stop for a moment an think what do you actually want to achieve during the selected time span. Make it clear and short, so that every team member who sees it in tinyPM can understand and follow that goal.

Iteration goal is a good starting point for a retrospective. This is in fact the main reason you actually use time boxes. To reach some valuable goals and to do it as often as possible.

When defining duration of an iteration use full weeks including weekends. So if you want 2-weeks iteration set its duration to be 14 days.

Customizing iterations

You can set preferred name and duration for your iterations separately for each project. Use Iteration tab project settings to do that.

Backlog View Options

Depending on what you are currently trying to achieve you may change the view of your backlog. tinyPM provides you the following choices:
  • 1- or 2-column view
  • list or story cards view
  • 3 zoom levels on each type of view providing different set of details visible

1- or 2-column view

Initially you start with an UNASSIGNED (green) box on your backlog. After adding at least one iteration you may switch between 1- and 2-column view.

1-column view is gives you more space for stories and current and future iterations are always on top of your backlog, so this view is good when you've already made some planning and now you want to focus on the current work.

2-column view brings the UNASSIGNED box to the left and other iterations to the right (again future and current iterations are on top). This way you may quickly move stories from unassigned space to selected iterations using drag'n'drop. This makes a 2-column view great for planning.

List or story cards

tinyPM can present your stories as cards or as list. They both provide similar level of details, so it's just a matter of your preference how you like your backlog to look like. List view allows you to sort stories, so that you can quicker review your backlog.

Zoom levels

Over time your backlog will grow. Sometimes you may need to quickly review it and sometimes you will need to see more details. That's why tinyPM provides three zoom levels for your backlog. They will allow you to either pack more stories on the screen for quick reference or see more details.

tinyPM sidebar always provides more information for a current context. When working with backlog the sidebar will contain project chart, tag could for quick filtering. Color coding legend, so that everybody knows what card colors mean. It is also a place where some group actions will appear when you select several stories. You will be able to change card colors, tag stories, etc.