We are an ops and feature building team for an internal service for a large corporation. The team has a backlog of tickets that, very roughly, would take 6 months to complete plus we are adding more tickets than we are closing.

Should we limit how big our backlog is and how much should that limit be?

It would seem like a simple answer to drop tickets from our backlog but these are valid requested work.


Your backlog should first have an order. Only then think about the limit.

As you develop things, you discover new work that needs to be done, so you add that to the backlog. You might do some of this work, or with time, some of the items you added to the backlog will become obsolete or unnecessary. At that point it makes sense to purge them from the backlog. If you look at Scrum for example, this is the refinement activity where items are added, changed, removed and organized in the backlog.

If you have an ordered backlog that was properly prioritized, you will have the unneeded work at the bottom. You can then (periodically or from time to time) work your way upwards and purge whatever you don't need or has become obsolete (valid requested work now might not be valid work anymore at a later time).

I wouldn't delete them though, I would close them with some invalid status (won't fix, won't implement, duplicate of, etc). On your backlog you then just put a filter to show those that have the status open, work in progress, todo, etc, which limits the backlog to those items you know are needed at some moment in time.


A hard limit is probably not a good idea because it might lead you to discard something important. If the backlog is consistently growing faster than you can complete things then that may be useful evidence that more resources would be beneficial (assuming the open items are of sufficient business value). Regular review and prioritisation seems like the best strategy.

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