I'm currently using a Google Spreadsheet to manage my product backlog. It has a list of stories, each with an identifier, feature it belongs to, story points, and the sprint that it's assigned to. It works well for most of my small projects; I simply add a collection of stories, estimate the work, carve off groups for sprints, and the project gets done.
However, there are two major failings that I can't seem to surmount; these are:
- How can I effectively manage priorities within and across features?
- How do I indicate dependencies between stories?
As a preamble, I cannot move to any other project management tool, nor build my own. I tried both of these solutions; nothing works the way that I need it. (For example, I use the historical average velocity to plan new sprints.)
Issue #1: Managing Priorities. At the beginning of the project, I add dozens of stories, prioritize them amongst each other, and rank them with a priority number. However, since I need completed stories for historical purposes, I can't just sort by priority to find the next most important stories; I see a lot of clutter. I need to go through, checking the status of each story, and picking out the unfinished ones. Very tedious.
To make it worse, I add new stories in the middle, and some of them are high priority; but then, it becomes that every story is relative to every other story -- otherwise, I get a chunk of done, super-high-priority stories at the top that I always have to look at.
I've tried removing the priority number entirely and just shuffling stories; this seems to work a bit better, but doesn't let me easily view dependencies between stories.
Issue #2: Managing Dependencies I mentioned that I use a priority number; this allows me to implicitly code dependencies. if story A (with priority N) must be done before story B, I put story B's priority as N-1 or N-2.
This has several problems; first, if I split off work, I need to re-prioritize everything. Even if I use N-10 or N-100 instead, it still means a lot of manual renumbering.
Plus, I prefer not to use a priority number; but this makes it impossible to see which stories can be done in parallel, and which depend on each other.
I'm hoping there are good solutions to these. These are significant problems, and I'm keeping my scope very limited right now to work around them.