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We need to talk about your backlog

2 minutes read

So you've done an audit a while back and it surfaced a laundry list of issues. You didn't have time to plan them all in the next few sprints and now they've been stuck in your backlog for the past six months.

That's not the outcome anyone was expecting when you paid all that money for the audit. Certainly not what the business was expecting when they approved the budget.

How did you get from "the audit will put us on track to be accessible" to "our backlog is teeming with accessibility issues" and, more importantly, how do you get out?

I've got news for you. The only way out is through.

You need to dig deep and figure out what caused the issues to be stuck in your backlog. To do this, I ask three questions:

  1. Did you prioritise and schedule the issues identified in the audit for the upcoming sprint?
  2. Did you identify any resource constraints (e.g. lack of accessibility expertise, competing priorities) that stopped you from prioritising the issues?
  3. Did you assign accountability and ownership for the issues?

I'd want to dig into whether it was a prioritisation problem, a resourcing problem, a process problem, or some combination thereof that led to the accessibility debt piling up over 6 months.

With teams I've worked, the cause was inertia. The teams had the knowledge in most cases, they had the time and resources, but the issues just weren't prioritised properly. So they lingered in the backlog as competing priorities kept pushing them down the list.

So here's my homework for you.

  1. Go to your backlog
  2. Filter for issues tagged with accessibility
  3. Sort the results by the date they were created, oldest to newest
  4. Pick the first five issues and assign them to one or two people for the next sprint

What you discover might surprise you. Those issues might be completely solvable. You'll never know until you actually start working on them.

If you're going to look at the long list in your backlog, of course you'll get overwhelmed by the estimates of long time frames. Carving out a few issues at a time, prioritising them and holding the team accountable for solving them forces everyone to take a step forward.

That's how you turn inertia into momentum.

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I send out short emails like this every day to help you gain a fresh perspective on accessibility and understand it without the jargon, so you can build more robust products that everyone can use, including people with disabilities.

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