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Recently an item has been added to the Product Backlog by product owner which says "When I go to login page from x page, I see an error. I want that error to be removed".

It seems to me that this is not a use case, and shouldn't be a PBI (Product Backlog Item). However, when I discussed it, scrum master told me that user stories are not PBIs and, a PBI could be a bug report, a task, a user story, anything, and literally any item that should be addressed first.

I'm not sure about this. Also I can't find a good definition of PBI on the web. So, my question is, what sort of things can get into the Product Backlog as items? Does a product backlog item maps to a user story? Are they the same?

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Does a product backlog item maps to a user story? Are they the same?

Not necessarily, but in general, they do. Like your scrum master said, other things can be product backlog items, too. However, it depends on how your SCRUM works. Some teams have a separate bug backlog which is taken into consideration for sprints as well, while others keep such things in the product backlog.

Two separate logs make it more difficult for the product owner to prioritize tasks, as now two logs have to be taken into consideration for the next sprint. But they do offer a better oversight and both can be prioritized separately.

So, my question is, what sort of things can get into the Product Backlog as items?

This can be anything which is part of the product vision and the journey to the product you want to create. It mostly contains requirements (user stories) but can also contain actions or technical things that do not directly belong to the product (e.g. "Buy a new server for dev team", "Create advertisement for product"). The backlog should avoid uncessary details and should not try to micromanage technical things. The product backlog can contain anything that delivers value to the product.

There's not the one true Scrum. Sometimes separate backlogs are a better way to manage the product, sometimes they are just in the way. Find out what works for you best.

  • Good explanation @Falcon. Can you guide me to some online resources about how to consider something as a PBI? I'm really grateful for the quality answers you provide. Thanks :) +1 – Saeed Neamati Aug 20 '11 at 10:29
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    @Saeed: How about this? It also contains links to sample product backlogs. – Falcon Aug 20 '11 at 10:39
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When working on bugs, we add them to the backlog and call them bug stories. By adding bug fixes te the backlog in this way, it's clear it's not just the bug fix. We can add other tasks to make sure automated tests are written and verification is done. It also makes it more explicit that the DoD should be followed.

We've never used the term PBI (even though our backlog tool calls them that), it's always user stories, bug stories or simply just stories.

It's mainly just your team's choice of terminology and as long as you're all clear what is what it doesn't really matter.

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All of the above answers fail to reference the authoritative source document for the Scrum framework: The Scrum Guide.

Product Backlog

There is a section describing the Product Backlog and the items, often referred to as PBIs, contained within it.

The Product Backlog lists all features, functions, requirements, enhancements, and fixes that constitute the changes to be made to the product in future releases.

But is not fixed like a project plan.

The Product Backlog evolves as the product and the environment in which it will be used evolves. The Product Backlog is dynamic; it constantly changes to identify what the product needs to be appropriate, competitive, and useful.

User Story

The term user story never appears in The Scrum Guide because

it is a framework within which you can employ various processes and techniques.

Using a user story is just one possible technique for recording the PBIs.

ADDITIONALLY: Although it is common to see the "As a, I want, So that" format, it can be counter to its original intent. This troublesome format was also been addressed at Agile 2017.

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@Falcon has explained it well. One page that has a formal definition is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrum_(development)#Product_backlog What you have described is not to be placed in product backlog according to that discription at least.

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There is a common misunderstanding that only user stories are allowed in a Product Backlog. By contrast, Scrum is neutral on requirement techniques. As the Scrum Primer states,

Product Backlog Items are articulated in any way that is clear and sustainable. Contrary to popular misunderstanding, the Product Backlog does not contain "user stories"; it simply contains items. Those items can be expressed as user stories, use cases, or any other requirements approach that the group finds useful. But whatever the approach, most items should focus on delivering value to customers.*

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  • Distinct specifications of changes and additions to the product, are called Product Backlog Items (PBIs), that together form the Product Backlog.
  • Each PBI describes something that the Developers can develop and deliver to add value to relevant stakeholders when Done (see Definition of Done).
  • The most common stakeholder is the market, or its representative — the Product Owner.
  • However, a PBI may describe work that reduces cost to the enterprise or reduces effort for the Development Team, or a tool that helps the Product Owner Team better do its work.
  • A PBI can describe anything that has potential value to a stakeholder.
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A (user) story is a helpful standard format for backlog items. The rationale behind it is "if no one cares about it, don't waste time on it". It also allows the PO to assess the urgency of the item because it defines whom you will be doing it for and how bad it is.

In your case the bug can easily be formatted as a story.

  • As a user
  • I want to be able to log on from page X (and not get an error instead)
  • so I will not lose time, be annoyed and lose faith in the product

That sounds like it is worth some effort.

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