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Who Really Owns the Requirements Backlog?

In 2015, Agile, Business Analysis, Innovation, Lean, Product Management, Product Management Facts, Product Owner, Product Teams, Project Management, Scrum, Sean Van Tyne, Take Charge Product Management, The Study of Product Team Performance, Uncategorized, User Experience by [email protected]Leave a Comment

It’s often assumed that product owners and product managers are singularly responsible for the requirements backlog. While this is true in many instances – this assumption does not hold true in all instances. In fact, our latest market research indicates that only 45% of organizations rely upon the product manager or owner to prioritize the backlog! Far less than many probably expect.

Who Prioritizes the Requirements Backlog?

We asked survey respondents this question in order to better understand who’s responsible for prioritizing backlog requirements. Here’s what they told us.

Actuation Consulting, the world's leading product management consulting and training organization

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According to our respondents, product managers and product owners are most often assigned responsibility for prioritizing the requirements backlog (29.2% and 15.5% respectively). Interestingly, a quarter of teams assign no single title responsibility for the backlog (25.1%). Also receiving a significant number of responses is the CEO at 9.3%.


Backlog ownership is not as clear cut as many might expect. While many organizations rely upon product managers and owners to prioritize the backlog 55% of organizations rely upon someone other than product owners or managers to lead this important activity.

It’s quite clear that start up organizations rely upon founders or other C-level executives to play this role as the product management organization is not fully formed.

What’s less clear is the 25% of organizations who indicate that there’s no single party responsible for prioritizing the backlog. Our data shows that organizations with over $2B in annual revenue typically rely upon cross-functional teams to drive innovation activities and it’s therefore likely that organizations of significant scale may also be taking this approach with backlog prioritization activities. However, we lack conclusive data on this front to say with certainty.

What’s your opinion? Is your organization relying upon a cross-functional team to prioritize requirements? If so, how large is your organization?

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