By Sue Persichetti
No matter where you are in your ServiceNow journey, backlog is an issue that you’ll eventually be faced with. Handling it properly can be the difference between having a lean, mean machine that’s beloved and valued throughout your organization, or an expensive and bloated flop that end users refuse to buy into.
If you don’t support the backlog properly through the lifecycle of your project, then you’re opening yourself up to a number of things that can go wrong. Your aim will always be to minimize anything that can impede the success of your project, meaning your management of potential issues is critical.
It’s all too easy to hire a team of top-class professionals, and have that talent’s attention diverted away from what they’re best at by avoidable problems. In this situation, they can’t use their skills to bring innovation to your implementation, which slows it down and causes frustration as you lose sight of your long-term goals. On a financial level, any waste of time is also a waste of money.
Here are five of our best practices when it comes to managing your ServiceNow backlog successfully.
Unsurprisingly, it all begins with planning. A good starting point would be looking at your design in process inventory. Always set a limit as to how many items you can have in the backlog at one time, and make sure that’s communicated properly so that everybody stays on track with it.
Research shows that each product owner can typically deal with up to 150 backlog items at one time, which may be fine for a larger enterprise, but could sink smaller organizations. Either way, there has to be someone accountable for this, so that the number doesn’t get out of control.
Despite your best efforts, backlogs will develop over time. Make it a goal to continually review and purge; you should always be closing requests that are no longer relevant. Don’t leave them floating around taking up room, simply get rid of them. The fewer backlogs you have, the quicker you’ll be able to find urgent tasks and prioritize them.
You need to have someone in Admin taking control of this, but good practice also means that they’ll leave a note to explain why they have been closed. People move around the ecosystem, and you don’t want a new recruit trying to figure out everything from scratch. If the worst does happen, it means in their absence there’s still a coherent record of what has happened and why.
With so many issues arriving both internally and externally, it’s easy to build up a backlog. At this point, it’s critical to have a point person to identify issues that aren’t relevant. With so many people using ServiceNow throughout the organization, tickets can quickly get duplicated, or requests left that are really for other departments to deal with. Having your Admin or a Junior Developer managing this, so that requests that should be completed by another department are quickly moved on, will keep your backlog manageable. Just be sure not to delete them!
It’s only natural that people will get excited about having this amazing new tool and want to use it as much as possible, but getting distracted with new requests can quickly lead you off your roadmap. And can you guess what that means? Your budget always goes with it. Make sure that when triaging that you’re also allocating things to the right people, so your department doesn’t get bogged down with irrelevant tasks that are wasting their time and your money.
You may not have considered this, but your product backlog and team backlog can be divided into several stages. It’s a really great way to keep everything organized and sets a precedent so that your admin can make sure everybody is on top of it. For example, you could dedicate one portion of the backlog to new ideas, then set aside a separate space for those that have already been approved, but do make sure they are restricted in size.
Give your new ideas a time limit, too. That means anything that isn’t prioritized will disappear, to prevent this part getting flooded. When a task is moved to approved status this indicates it will be released eventually.
We’ve mentioned the importance of having a designated person looking after the backlog and really, having an Admin to focus solely on doing this will save you so much resource in the long run. Rather than pulling people from their day to day activities, have someone in place who makes this their absolute priority. In some cases, having a Developer spending 20% of their time away from their actual role to look after the backlog might work, but most of the time it’s just not a great idea.
You’ve invested heavily in ServiceNow and it’s too valuable not to staff it properly. It’s not worth taking a chance that it’ll probably be okay having such a vital role carried out collaboratively between people who, ultimately, aren’t really responsible for it. If you’ve not implemented it yet, having someone dedicated to the upkeep of your backlog should be a big priority when considering the makeup of any ServiceNow team.
The risk you take without it is that the backlog is full, which causes problems, and your end-users lose faith in what is a terrific platform that otherwise transforms businesses. If you’re already into your journey, it’s not too late, but the longer you leave it the more critical it becomes. So ask yourself—is your backlog manageable or is it getting worse, regardless of what speed? If it’s the latter, and in most cases we see it certainly is, then you need to look at getting an Admin for your team as soon as possible.
These tips are part of a webinar we hosted in November 2019, which also features a Q&A from a panel of professionals who work with ServiceNow. If you’d like to watch the full presentation, click here. If you have any more tips on how you manage your ServiceNow backlog, we’d love to hear them. Tweet us—we’ll add them and credit you!
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