We have this big backlog in which the previous owners* were using its Stack Rank just as a criteria to put the "urgent" items in the top of the list. Whenever something was added and it was urgent or critical they used to set Stack Rank = 1, no extra care was given to this attribute.

As you can imagine the backlog order started having no criteria (several Stack Rank 1 in the list), then they started putting minor numbers, and now we have a backlog of items like this:

Item A | 0,00001
Item B | 0,0001
Item C | 0,001
Item D | 0,01

Now we are organizing all the backlogs that we have and setting proper priorities to them.
Is there a template/advice/good practice that sets which values defines the criticality level of the items?

*Scrum wasn't being implemented at the time, that's why several owners

  • Is the Scrum framework being utilized now? It's been awhile since I've used TFS, but based on my recollection and current usage of VSTS isn't Stack Rank (Order) auto populated based on queuing in the Backlog? – Alan Larimer Feb 14 '18 at 3:46
  • @AlanLarimer we are using the Agile model template. In the web browser version the order column is defined based on the Stack Rank, but if I drag the 10th item of the list and drop it at the 6th position the order value will update but the stack rank won't. – Leonardo Pires Feb 14 '18 at 10:34
  • Based on the selected answer should the question be updated? Based on the selected answer, it has nothing to do with TFS and is really about backlog ordering. – Alan Larimer Mar 20 '18 at 11:53

Order them by business value

Business value can take any number of forms:

  1. Increases revenue - new features often belong here.
  2. Reduces churn - retains revenue. Bug fixes may belong in this category.
  3. Improves profits - reduces cost. Labor saving automation may belong here.
  4. Reduces risk - for example, a security fix. Companies have gone out of business due to a security leak.
  5. Compliance issues - may not improve your bottom line or top line but may have to be done to avoid adverse regulatory action.

Ranking is debatable. There is no shortcut but to apply your judgement. This is why Scrum specified a single Product Owner for this purpose.

Given your existing scenario, If I were you, I will approach the people who put those low numbers (should be in the ticket) and record the reasons why they thought these tickets were urgent or critical. Then see how to use that insight to prioritize based on that. You may also have to combine some tickets to deliver full business value.


Microsoft Docs

System Managed

These fields should not be modified manually. The items should always be in an ordered list with the indexes managed by the system.

Backlog Priority: A number usually assigned by a background process used to track the list order of items on a backlog or board in the web portal.

Bug, Epic, Feature, Product backlog item, Task (Scrum)


Stack Rank: A number, usually assigned by a background process, used to track the list order of items on a backlog or board in the web portal.

Bug, Epic, Feature, Requirement (CMMI), Risk (CMMI), Task, User Story (Agile)

User Managed

Tracking the business desires should be tracked separately.

Priority: A subjective rating of the bug, issue, task, or test case as it relates to the business.

Bug, Change Request, Epic, Feature, Impediment, Issue, Product backlog item, Requirement, Risk, Shared Step, Task, Test Case, User Story


Time Criticality: A subjective unit of measure that captures the how the business value decreases over time. Higher values indicate that the epic or feature is inherently more time critical than those items with lower values.

Epic, Feature

Other fields are also available; see the linked documentation. Shared understanding of the values used in these fields is critical. This is a part of Transparency in the Scrum framework.

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