Using scrum methods with Rational Team Concert Version 4

Part 1. Set up the project, team area, and Product Backlog

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This content is part of the series:Using scrum methods with Rational Team Concert Version 4

Stay tuned for additional content in this series.

The term scrum originated in the game of rugby as short for scrummage, which is derived from scrimmage. In the context of software development, it is a method of project management in an agile development process. The purpose is to keep the focus on delivering the highest business value to stakeholders in the shortest possible time.

Of the various agile methodologies discussed and promoted across the last decade, scrum has won, at least for now. It is the approach most commonly cited by teams claiming to be agile. (Search for "why scrum won" if you need more evidence.) One often-cited reason is scrum's simplicity. There are only a few roles that you need to fill, a few artifacts to create and maintain, and a few practices to follow. Its simplicity belies, or perhaps is, its power. What the scrum approach does best is put a magnifying glass on what is limiting your success. Teams that thrive with scrum methods use that feedback to fearlessly and continuously improve

The scrum process helps ensure that the most valuable remaining features are built next, and it emphasizes that work always be completed to the point of being deliverable. Work is typically structured in two- to four-week iterations, called sprints, with working software produced by the end of each sprint.

To learn from this two-part article how to manage your scrum project with IBM® Rational Team Concert™, you'll work through setting up a project and following it through its first iteration. The data for the sample project is from the extended example in Mike Cohn's book, Agile Estimating and Planning (Prentice Hall, 2005), which describes a scrum team at Bomb Shelter Studios as they work on a new computer game called Havannah. The data for the example is in the file that accompanies this article, Rational Team Concert scrum sample data, in the Downloadable resources section.

This article is based on the assumption that you have registered at and have downloaded and installed the software according to the instructions there (see "Get technologies" in the Related topics section for a link). If you use the express installer and generally accept the default options, you should be up and running quickly. If you are installing on a Microsoft Windows system, you might want to install outside of the Program Files folder (for example, install instead to c:\ibm\...) to avoid issues with administrative permissions. You will need to reach the point where your browser can connect to your Rational Team Concert and Jazz™ repository. The software is free (no charge) for up to 10 team members.

Although you can create a project area and do some of the operations that follow by using the sandbox, rather than installing the software on your own system, you can't add arbitrary users in a sandbox project. Therefore, you can't really follow all of the steps and walk through the example that way unless you add other people you know into your sandbox project and change the names in the example. If you are working on this with several team members, the sandbox is a great option and will keep you from needing to install Rational Team Concert locally.

After a quick introduction to the scrum process, you'll start creating a Rational Team Concert scrum-based project.

Overview of the scrum process

The scrum framework consists of the following interrelated aspects:

  • Roles
    • Product owner
    • Scrum master
    • Team member
  • Ceremonies (gatherings or meetings)
    • Daily Scrum
    • Sprint Planning
    • Sprint Review
    • Sprint Retrospective
  • Artifacts
    • Product Backlog
    • Sprint Backlog
    • Burndown Chart
    • Impediments List

The product owner is responsible for the success of the product. This person defines the features and release schedule and is responsible for determining the business value of the various features. The product owner constantly refines and reprioritizes the Product Backlog.

Requirements are captured as items in the Product Backlog. This is one of the most important artifacts in a scrum project. It is a prioritized list of all desired work or features for the project. The product owner is responsible for maintaining this list and revising priorities for items as the project progresses and the business environment changes. Ideally, the items in the Product Backlog are stated in terms that indicate their business values to the stakeholders.

A scrum team should be a cross-functional mix of people with the skills necessary to complete the project (for example: developers, testers, interaction designers, writers). Team members should be committed to the scrum team full-time. Otherwise, the need to keep part-timers up to speed slows down the rest of the team.

The scrum master manages the process, ensuring that the scrum practices are properly carried out and that scrum values are understood by the team members. He or she ensures that the team is fully productive by eliminating impediments and shielding them from outside interference (at least during the course of a sprint).

The team holds a Sprint Planning meeting at the start of each sprint. At this meeting, the product owner presents the features from the Product Backlog that are most desired for the upcoming sprint, describing them so that the team can grasp what is expected. The product owner and team agree on a goal for the sprint. This is essentially a vision statement focused on the work for the next two to four weeks. The team then determines how to accomplish the sprint goal and breaks the features down into the tasks required.

This list of tasks becomes the Sprint Backlog. The items in the backlog have time estimates so that the team can determine whether the items can be completed within one sprint. If there is insufficient time, a feature can be taken off the Sprint Backlog list and returned to the Product Backlog. Estimation is done as a team exercise and is not determined by the scrum master or product owner. The Sprint Backlog represents the work that the team has committed to finish during the sprint.

During the Daily Scrum meeting, each team member answers three questions:

  • What did I do yesterday?
  • What will I do today?
  • What is blocking my progress (if anything)?

This is not a status meeting, but a planning and commitment meeting. The whole thing should take less than 15 minutes. This regular communication about what everyone is doing and what issues they are facing can eliminate the need for other meetings and help team members work more effectively together. If team members are not all in one physical location, you'll find it helpful to read A Practical Guide to Distributed Scrum , a book published by IBM Press (2010).

At the end of each sprint, the team shows off the work that it has accomplished during the Sprint Review meeting. This is a brief and informal meeting to which any and all interested parties are invited. Its purpose is to demonstrate the working software (or other valuable artifacts, such as an overview of the underlying product architecture) and to get feedback from participants and stakeholders on the results.

After the Sprint Review, the team meets by itself to hold the Sprint Retrospective (sometimes called a Reflection). During this meeting, they talk about what is going well — and what isn't — with respect to the project and their process. This meeting should result in some change in how they work for the coming sprints, because they work to continually improve their team and practice effectiveness. Given that Rational Team Concert is very configurable and adaptable to the team's process adjustments, these meetings might result in tweaks and improvements that are implemented by changing the process in Rational Team Concert.

As items from the Product Backlog are selected for completion during the sprint planning meeting, they become part of a Sprint Backlog. As mentioned previously, the Sprint Backlog contains specific tasks associated with the features from the Product Backlog. During the sprint, the status of the work items in the Sprint Backlog is updated daily. The updated status makes it possible to generate a Sprint Burndown chart. This chart is a graphical display of the amount of work remaining in the project. It is also common for it to include an "ideal" line that indicates a smooth progression of the work from start to finish of the sprint. The ideal line indicates how work would progress if even proportions of it are completed each day of the sprint. Although the actual work progress will likely not follow this line, significant deviations are a cause for concern, particularly if the actual progress continues to trend away from the ideal.

When there are impediments or blocks to progress, the scrum master might maintain an Impediments List (or Blocks List) as an additional scrum artifact. All artifacts should be kept where they are readily available and visible to all team members, which is easy when using the software's dashboard.

The Scrum Process template included with Rational Team Concert supports all of the important scrum roles, ceremonies, and artifacts. The software provides easy access to these features and many others through both an Eclipse-based rich client user interface (UI) and a Web UI.

When managing a project by using the scrum method, you need a place to keep the description of the things that need to be done for the project, namely your user stories and work items. Even though you can simply put cards on a bulletin board, using software makes this information more accessible, especially if the team members are distributed across multiple locations.

Rational Team Concert provides ways to manage all that you need. In a project area, where you can manage builds, sources, plans, and much more. This article focuses on the planning and management aspects for the scrum process. After performing the first steps, such as connecting to a repository and defining user IDs for the people who use the software, I'll explain how to create plans and work items and manage them during a sprint.

Set up the Rational Team Concert repository and users

Before you're ready to look at how Rational Team Concert and the Scrum Process template help scrum teams, you need to set up the basic project. This includes adding the users for the example, creating the project, specifying a team and team members, and setting up the project iterations. All examples here are use Rational Team Concert 4.0.1 and the Chrome web browser. Using a different browser) should create very similar results. See "System Requirements for the Rational solution for Collaborative Lifecycle Management" on for a list of supported browsers.

Connect to your server as the administrator

  1. When you installed the software, you were asked to provide a URI for the server. This defaults to https://localhost:9443/. If you changed this value, use the value that you entered. Navigate to your URI/jts/admin (for example, https://localhost:9443/jts/admin).
  2. You were also prompted to create a new administrative user (to replace the default ADMIN) during setup. Log in with the credentials that you provided.

I used a non-default URI root for my server installation (, and my admin user is named Super User. These are the values you will see in the screen captures that follow.

Figure 1. Connecting to your server as the administrator
Jazz Team Server Administration Page
Jazz Team Server Administration Page

This is the Jazz Team Server (/jts) admin page, which is different from the Change and Configuration Management (/ccm) admin page that you will use later for project area operations. If you don't see a page very much like this (for example, you see one that says you don't have access to this page or features), you did not log in with your administrator account.

The first time that you connect to a recently started server often takes a bit longer, because various services are started on demand.

Add or import users

The next step is to create the users for the sample. Users are managed through the Jazz repository, so they can participate in more than one project area and, potentially, use other Jazz-based tools hosted on the server. If you configured Jazz with an external user repository (such as your corporate LDAP server), you can import users without having to create them.

Here, let's assume that you used the default Tomcat application server and that you need to create users in this new repository.

  1. To create a new user, click the Users menu and then select Create User.
Figure 2. Creating a new user
Shows selections on menus
Shows selections on menus
  1. Enter the user information for the first user.
    1. Because you are following Mike Cohn's example, Sasha is the first user.
    2. Add a photo if one is available. That's optional, but helpful.
    3. The email address is a required field, because Jazz can send email notification of many of the team's activities. For Sasha, enter
    4. The user's initial password is automatically set to equal to the user ID.
  2. Choose the repository permissions appropriate for the user:
    They use the default permissions in a project area. This typically allows them to create and add to work items, to view plans and reports, and to use other features defined by the project's security settings.
    They can access and update many settings related to the Jazz Team Server, related products (such as RTC), and projects.
    They have administrator capabilities within project areas and only a few Jazz server capabilities (like adding new users).
    The user who will administer the project must be in the repository group called JazzProjectAdmins (in the example, Sasha must be a JazzProjectAdmin; because he will not be able to perform all necessary configuration tasks otherwise).
  3. Select the appropriate type of license for each user. All users in the example should get a Rational Team Concert – Developer license.

Figure 3 shows the resulting screen. (The license selection is further down the screen and would not normally be visible, but the inset here shows it for illustration purposes.)

Figure 3. Specifying user details
User tab for Sasha with photo of young man
User tab for Sasha with photo of young man
  1. Click Save.

For the Havannah project that is used in this example, more users need to be added in the same way as described for Sasha.

  1. Create additional users named Allan, Delaney, Frank, Prasad, and Rose.
  2. Assign them JazzUsers repository permissions with a Rational Team Concert Developer license.
  3. Log out of the user's profile menu (this is important, because you need to do the next steps as Sasha).
Figure 4. Logging out of the web UI
User Profile menu with Log Out highlighted
User Profile menu with Log Out highlighted

You've now finished what needs to be done as the administrative user.

The Jazz security model gives the administrative user basic admin privileges in Jazz but no particular rights within a given project area. For example, this administrative user cannot create and save new iteration plans in the project area, because this is for your scrum master or product owner to do.

  1. Log back into the web app using Sasha's credentials (sasha and sasha, because passwords default to the same value as the user ID). You will be taken to the last page that the administrator was using, which is probably the page where Rose's user was created. Unfortunately for Sasha, this is in the Jazz Team Server admin interface (/jts/admin) to which he does not have access. You should see a message like this one:
    The user sasha is not authorized to access the Jazz Team Server Admin UI.
  2. You need to navigate to the Change and Configuration Management administration (/ccm/admin) page in order to set up a project area. Using the browser's address bar, navigate to your URI root/ccm/admin (for example, https://localhost:9443/ccm/admin). Your screen should look similar Figure 5.
Figure 5. CCM admin page
administration page showing no projects
administration page showing no projects

Set up areas for your project and people

Now that the basic Jazz Team Server setup is finished and you have added users, you need to create a scrum project area to hold the team's artifacts, a team area for organizing the team's work, add appropriate members to each, and configure the timeline for the project. Project area configuration is an important topic that is just barely introduced here. See the references in the Resources section for additional articles that talk about this in more detail and provide extended examples.

Create a project area

The next action is to create a project area, which will serve as the container for all plans, work items, and other things related to the project that you are setting up.

  1. Click the Create Project Area link in the upper-right of the screen.
  2. Enter a name for the project (Havannah in this example).
  3. When you create the first project area in a repository, you need to deploy the process templates (they are not deployed during installation). Click Deploy predefined process templates. This may take a few minutes to finish.
  4. After the deployment finishes, from the list of Available Processes, choose the Scrum template, and click Save (see Figure 6). You'll add members in the next step.
Figure 6. Create a project area by using the Scrum template
Project area page and selections
Project area page and selections

It can take up to several minutes for the project area to be initialized on the server. You will see a message at the top of the screen while it is in progress. When the initialization is finished, you will see a screen similar to the one in Figure 7.

Figure 7. The project area for the Havannah project
Project area overview screen
Project area overview screen

Add members to the project area and specify their roles

As the creator of the project area (acting as Sasha), you are the initial project area administrator (that is different from a JazzAdmin administrator). This status gives you extra privileges within the project area. However, most of the permissions for modifying the project structure within the Scrum process template belong to the scrum master or product owner. Therefore, one of the first things that you need to do is to add members to the project area and set their roles (at least the scrum master and product owner).

Typically, membership at the project area level is for members with management or stakeholder responsibilities (or just people you want to have access to project status). By default, only those specified as members have access. People who get work assignments are normally in a team area. Everyone who is a member of an area is visible in plans and in drop-down menus for assignments, so mixing everyone into the project area is often unsatisfying and makes planning messier than it needs to be. Rather than use the bare minimum example, we'll add a few extra steps that will come in handy in real life use.

In this example, because Sasha created the project area, he becomes its initial administrator and can now make changes to the project area. Frank, the Havannah product owner, is an appropriate project area-level member, so add him now.

  1. Scroll down the project area page until you see the Members section. Members added here will be added to the project area-level membership, because you're still working on that page.
  2. Click Add to start the Add Team Members wizard.
Figure 8. Adding members to project area
Members panel show Add link
Members panel show Add link
  1. To add Frank as the product owner, type an f (letter F) in the User Name text area to search for matching names. Because Frank was already added as a Rational Team Concert user, his name will be among the users listed.
  2. Click on Frank's name in the Matching users list, and then click the arrow pointing to the Selected users list to move him to the list.
  3. Then click Next.
  4. Under Available Roles, select Product Owner, and then click the arrow pointing to the Selected Roles list and click Finish (see Figure 9).
Figure 9. Add New Members wizard
Add New Members screens and selections
Add New Members screens and selections

As Figure 10 shows, Frank is now added as the product owner for the project area.

Figure 10. Members added to the Havannah project area
Frank's name and role appear in the Members area
Frank's name and role appear in the Members area
  1. In the same way, add Sasha to the project area as a Scrum Master (this is necessary so that he has permission to change plan configurations).
  2. Save the project area by using the Save button in the upper-right corner of the page.

After saving your changes, you will be presented with a list of the new members and asked if you want to send them an invitation by email. If you have configured email support (when you set up your server) and you agree to this, project members will get a welcome email message, along with links and information for connecting to the project.

  1. Because these users are fictitious, deselect all check marks and then click OK or just click Cancel.

Outline the release timeline

The next step is to plan the timeline for the project, which means that you specify the start and end dates for the release and the sprints. When setting up your own project area, adjust the dates to suit your needs. It is fine to select a start date in the future.

You need to be authorized to make changes to the project. The user who created the project has administrator rights and can make the changes described in this section. When setting up your own project, you must make sure that you are either an administrator for the project area or a member who has either the scrum master or product owner role. Otherwise, you will get a permission-denied error when attempting to save changes to the timeline.

  1. On the left side of the project area window, click the Timelines link to view the timelines created for the project. You should see the default iterations that the process template established when you created the project area (Figure 11), including Release 1.0, with Sprint 1 and Sprint 2 under that, and the Backlog iteration.
Figure 11. Default timelines for the Havannah project
Project area timelines page
Project area timelines page
  1. Under Defined Timelines, select Release 1.0, and click Edit Properties to open the Edit the Iteration dialog window shown in Figure 12 (with the Start Date selector also open).
Figure 12. Specify release and sprint timelines
Montage of screens showing steps
Montage of screens showing steps
  1. Leave the default value for Iteration Type.
  2. The Identifier is specified on creation and cannot be changed here.
  3. Set the Start and End dates for the release (see the Notes that follow). Make sure that the check box for A release is schedule for this iteration is checked, and click OK.
  4. Edit the properties for the sprints similarly. The example will use one-week sprints.
  5. Save.


  • Because work tracking is time-sensitive, the dates are based on when you are working on this example. Start the release and first iteration today or on some day in the near future. Each member's work allocation accounts for work and non-work days (more on that later), so it's fine to include weekend days so that there are no gaps between the sprints. I typically start iterations on a Sunday and end them on a Saturday.
  • The small blue triangle decorators on the Release 1.0 icon and the Sprint 1 icon indicate that these are the current release and iteration.


  • You can make more changes to the project area later. To return to this page from elsewhere in the CCM application, use the tools menu (Figure 13), next to the user profile menu on any application page.
  • The project area is configurable, to a large extent. As you become more familiar with Rational Team Concert, you will probably want to adapt it to your team (as a result of discussions during your Retrospective meetings, for example). Process customization is a powerful tool for making the process fit your team's needs, rather than changing your team's behavior to fit the process. It's designed that way because agile developers value people over process.
Figure 13. Tools menu for administering the project area
Application admin, Jazz Team Server admin submenus
Application admin, Jazz Team Server admin submenus

Create a team area and add members

Jazz technology can support reasonably large teams with multiple timelines and subteams. Within project areas, there are team areas to organize the team members (and allow for customizations specific to a team). Typically, only team area members are eligible to be assigned work related to that team. Even though this example has just one team, it still needs to be created and populated with members.

  1. Click the Overview link on the left to return to that view of the project area. On the far right is the Team Area Hierarchy, which should show the Havannah project area.
  2. Click the Create Team icon in the toolbar (see Figure 14).
Figure 14. Creating a new team area
Team Area Hierarchy section and Create link
Team Area Hierarchy section and Create link
  1. Type Havannah Team as the name of the team.
  2. In the Members list, click the Add link (see Figure 15) to bring up the Select Users dialog window as you did for Frank, so you can add Allan, Delaney, Prasad, Rose, and Sasha as members. Click Add and Close when you are finished.
    In the Select Users dialog window (similar to the one that you used earlier), you can use the * (asterisk) wild card character to retrieve all members (do not try that if you are using a corporate LDAP server), and select them all before choosing Add and Close.
  3. Before you can add process roles, you need to save the team area by using the Save button in the upper-right. (Similar to when you added Frank to the project area, you can dismiss the email dialog.)

Your team area page for Havannah should look like Figure 15.

Figure 15. New team area
Team area Overview page with members
Team area Overview page with members

Now you need to add process roles for the members. You will assign the Team Member role to Allan, Delaney, Prasad, and the Scrum Master role to Sasha.

  1. Hover your cursor over the column to the left of the member name. When a check box and drop-down menu icon appear, click the check box next to Allan, Delaney, Prasad, and Rose, and then use the drop-down menu for any of the selected users and select Assign Process Roles to 4 Members. See Figure 16.
Figure 16. Selecting multiple users to assign process roles
Multiple users selected and role assignment menu
Multiple users selected and role assignment menu
  1. In the Add Roles dialog window, select Team Member, and click Add.
  2. Clear the check boxes on the member list, because you are finished with these users. You can clear the boxes individually, or there is a Select None option in the drop-down menu in the header.
  3. Repeat the steps to assign the Scrum Master role to Sasha. You do not need to select the check box first when using the context menu to modify just one member.
  4. Click Save.

Your completed Havannah Team area should look like Figure 17.

Figure 17. Completed Havannah Team area
Team area overview showing members with roles
Team area overview showing members with roles

Larger teams typically consist of several subteams. You can reflect your team structure by adding as many subteams as you have working on your project.

Specify team member availability

For team workload calculations to be accurate, adjust team members' availability. Perhaps a team member has responsibilities outside of the team that limits participation in this project or someone has a vacation planned. You make these adjustments on the user's page. Typically, users are expected to keep this area current themselves, but because it is an important part of calculating Team Load correctly, I'll illustrate it here (this is another thing that's not really necessary for this example but you will definitely need to know how to do in real life).

  1. In the Members list, click Rose to open her user profile.
  2. Rose is available to the team only 75% of the time. Therefore, click the Work Environment link at the left, and then click the edit icon (the pencil image) on the Main Development line in the Work Allocations list.
  3. By default, if a user is assigned to only one team, 100% of his or her time (resources) is associated with that team. Change Rose's assignment to 75% (see Figure 18).
  4. Click OK.

This will adjust the number of hours that Rose is available for work assignments. The work schedule will use this percentage to adjust Rose's workload and availability calculations.

Figure 18. Adjust the work environment for a user
Work Environment, Change Allocation pop-up window
Work Environment, Change Allocation pop-up window
  1. Rose also has a vacation day coming up. Switch to the Scheduled Absences view, click Create Scheduled Absence on the right side of the list, and enter a description and the dates for her vacation time (see Figure 19). Any description is fine. Choose a date at least a week away (so that it is not in Sprint 1).
  2. Click OK.
  3. Click Save to update Rose's details.
Figure 19. Enter scheduled absences for a user
Edit Absence pop-up window in Scheduled Absences
Edit Absence pop-up window in Scheduled Absences

Create and associate a work item category with the team area

A detailed discussion of the relationship between work item categories and team areas is not necessary for this example (and to do the topic justice would require a separate article). For now, the main thing to know is that work cannot be assigned directly to teams. It must be filed against a work item category that is associated with a team area. This indirection comes in handy later as you separate work for new development and maintenance or when you reorganize teams.

  1. Use the Project Areas menu (just above Rose's name in the upper-left of the page) to navigate back to the project area editor. (The Havannah project should be in the Recent Project Areas list).
  2. Select the Categories link in the left panel.
  3. On the row of the Unassigned <Root Category> entry, use the context menu in the first column and choose Add category. See Figure 20.
Figure 20. Add a new work item category
category page with menu open
category page with menu open
  1. Enter Havannah Team as the new category name and select OK.
  2. Use the context menu on the newly added category, select Associate, and choose Havannah Team in the Associated Project / Team Area dialog window (Figure 21).
  3. Click Associate to complete the action, and then Save your changes.
Figure 21. Associating Havannah Team with its work item category
Associate Project / Team Area pop-up window
Associate Project / Team Area pop-up window

Create the Product Backlog for the project

One of the most important scrum artifacts is the Product Backlog.

  1. To build it for this example, you need to navigate to the Product Backlog plan that was setup automatically when you created the Havannah project area. Use the Home menu (the one that looks like a little house) in the upper-left of the page and, under the Change and Configuration Management section, choose Havannah (see Figure 22).

This menu is an easy way to navigate to various locations in your projects, so it is worth investigating more later.

Figure 22. Navigating to project area by using the Home menu
Havannah selected under My Projects
Havannah selected under My Projects

This will bring you to the project dashboard for the Havannah project (more about this view later).

  1. Use the Plans menu to navigate to the Current Plans page (after you have visited any plan, it will appear in the Recent Plans list for easier access later, as shown in Figure 23 to illustrate this feature). Until you access a plan, this feature is not visible.
Figure 23. Navigating to Current Plans page
Plans menu with Current Plans selected
Plans menu with Current Plans selected
  1. From the Current Plans page (not shown) select Product Backlog.

A tabbed editor will open for the Product Backlog iteration plan (see Figure 24). Within the Notes tab, you can enter information about your product by using wiki-style formatting. This is a good place to link to external documentation that should be easily available to all project members. The Planned Items tab (which should already be selected) is where you will build the product backlog.

Figure 24. Empty product backlog
product backlog page with no items
product backlog page with no items

You need to make one more change before you start. Even though it is possible (and would be sufficient for this example) to have all work items assigned to the project area, rather than a team area, it's not scalable. If your project got a little bigger and you decided to have another scrum team doing some of the work, it would require a bit of rework. You would need to create two teams and then move work that was filed against the project area to them. So it's just cleaner to work with team areas all the time.

Therefore, before adding items to the Product Backlog, you need make the Havannah Team area its owner rather than the Havannah project area.

  1. Click the Plan Details bar to display the detail area.
  2. Click the Edit link on the bar to display the editing controls (it's on the far right, not shown in Figure 25).
  3. Next to the Owner, use the Browse button to open a dialog window to select a new value. Select Havannah Team, and then click OK.
  4. This will probably reset the assigned iteration, so use the Browse button there to reset it to Backlog.
  5. Save the changes. You can click the Plan Details line again to collapse it to save screen real estate.
Figure 25. Edit the Product Backlog configuration
Plan details view and the Select Iteration window
Plan details view and the Select Iteration window

Fill the Product Backlog with work items

Within the Planned Items tab of the backlog, begin adding backlog items. In scrum terminology, the items in the product backlog are called Stories or, if they are larger, Epics (see Mike Cohn's books, User Stories Applied and Agile Estimating and Planning, cited in Resources).

A Story is a description of functionality to be implemented in the product, often stated in terms of what user role the feature supports and what business value it offers. A properly described Story includes a summary or headline, brief description or discussion of the feature, and conditions for the feature's acceptance by the product owner.

As you add items in this and later examples, if you use a different order than presented in the sample data, you might get slightly different results that don't exactly match the screen captures. That should not affect your overall results or the value of this tutorial.

In the Havannah example, all items are phrased as Stories. For brevity, most Stories used in this example include only the summary, but don't confuse this with a properly constructed Story.

  1. Click the Add Work Item link on the right side of the plan's toolbar, and select Story to add a new Story item to the plan.
  2. Enter the summary for the new item. For this example, use this summary (shown in Figure 26, which also shows the open Add Work Item menu):
    As a player, I can play against a weak engine that recognizes rings.
Figure 26. First entries in the Planned Items view in the Product Backlog
Planned Items tab with Story summary
Planned Items tab with Story summary
  1. Add all other Stories requested by the product owner. See the Havannah example document in the Downloadable resources section.
  2. Click Save on the upper-right of the Plan tab at any time to save your work. Be sure to click Save when you are finished.
  3. After you have added the Stories, the next step for the product owner is to set priorities for them. Priority attribute values are High, Medium, and Low. You can assign priorities easily by using the drop-down menu embedded in the list items (see Figure 27).

If the predefined priorities are not appropriate for your project needs, you can easily customize the list of available priorities in the project area. Then you can also rank the items within the priorities (not all Highs are created equal). You reflect this ranking by dragging the items to order them within their priority grouping (each row has a drag handle on the far left). The system remembers ordering done with the drag action. (This example does not show re-ranking of Stories.)

Figure 27. Set priorities for work items
Drop-down menu shows list of available priorities
Drop-down menu shows list of available priorities
  1. When the team adds an estimate for the item complexity, enter Story points by using the drop-down menus as Figure 28 shows. (Also see Mike Cohn's books cited in Resources, because a discussion of estimating and Story Points is beyond the scope of this article.) Assign Story Points according to the sample documentation.
  2. Save all changes.
Figure 28. Set complexity for work items as Story Points
Drop-down menu lists available Story Points
Drop-down menu lists available Story Points

By default, Epics and Stories are the work items intended for a Product Backlog (referred to as plan items as opposed to execution items). In case your team also wants to see tasks in the Product Backlog (or some other work item type, such as defect), you can remove the filter for execution items from the plan's settings (see Figure 29 for how to do this, but do not actually change this setting). Be careful, because this could include a very large number of items in the plan, which would make it slow to load and more difficult to work with. As you can see in the screen capture, resolved items are excluded by default.

Figure 29. Removing the Execution Items filter from the Product Backlog
filter menu with settings
filter menu with settings

Of course, it won't be much of a Product Backlog if all you have is Story summaries.

  1. Click a Story's summary link to open the editor (in the example in Figure 30, the Story says As a player, I can play against a weak engine that recognizes rings).
  2. In the Description field, provide additional details about what is expected of the Story. You can add whatever you like. In the figure, my example references (imaginary) documentation that is attached to the project area. You might need to click the Edit link at the top of the Description field to open the editor.
Figure 30. Details for a Story item
Details for Story 91
Details for Story 91
  1. Click the Acceptance tab. Add the acceptance tests identified by the team and product owner as proof that the Story was successfully completed and will meet stakeholder expectations. You can also make up whatever data you like for this practice example.
  2. Save all changes.

Your have now established your project area and team area and prioritized Stories in your product backlog. It's time to start planning your first sprint, so see Part 2.


Many thanks to Kohji Ohsawa and Stephanie Bagot for their technical reviews and suggestions. Thanks to Mike Cohn for permission to use the Havannah example.

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ArticleTitle=Using scrum methods with Rational Team Concert Version 4: Part 1. Set up the project, team area, and Product Backlog