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I am a product management professional. I combine my work as a Product Director at Launchmetrics with content creation and public speaking.

Using GitHub to manage the product and sprint backlogs

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Product and sprint backlog management are two of the most critical tasks for product owners. There are many tools but with GitHub’s release of GitHub projects, managing them where developers already are could make it easier for teams to adopt these artifacts and improve their delivery. In this post, I explain how to use GitHub Projects to manage the product and sprint backlogs.

Remember my love for Kanban boards and how I am an advocate of GitHub and the ZenHub plugin for project management? Well Github has finally added Kanban board support for GitHub Issues! And it’s super easy to use.

1. Create issues as usual.

I usually create my new issues from the issues tab. Github issues can be used to log work needed as user stories, epics or tasks. GitHub does not natively differentiate amongst different work types, but you can use labels for this. If you go for user stories, I would not recommend using the user story format as the title of the issue, as the text would be hard to read. Instead, use descriptive issue titles and write the complete user story in the issue description.


2. Create and see projects on the new Projects tab

GitHub now has a project tab where you can see the different projects associated with your repository. You can have as many projects as you need in each repository, so this opens up a whole world of possibilities in terms of processes and structures.


3. Create your Kanban Board’s columns

The standard is TO DO – DOING – DONE but GitHub is flexible and it lets you create the columns that best fit your team’s practices. For example, you can add a REVIEW column if you do code reviews in your pull requests or product reviews before deployment. I always stress that the tools and processes are at the service of the people working in the team, so adapt and change the columns until you find a configuration that works. More on this on my post about Kanban Boards.


4. Add and move cards

You can add new cards or convert existing GitHub issues into cards. Add a title, create a description that matches your requirements for ready work, and let members of your team move the cards across the boards as they advance in their work.


5.  Seamless

You can see the status of each issue not just from the Kanban Board, but also from the detail view on GitHub. This way teams are not forced to change the way they interact with GitHub.


Kanban has become the de facto way to visualize progress on a product backlog, and many teams already use GitHub to manage their code repositories. Bringing Kanban to GitHub will rarely be a competition for more complete and specific project management tools (such as Jira by Atlassian) but will surely help the less structured teams get started with best practices and enjoy the benefits it helps the teams achieve.

As you can see from my screenshots I used the Issues and Kanban Board in GitHub to manage bots4healths in 2016. It was an uncomplicated solution and a great contribution to my organization and my communication with the people who helped me along the way. A simple Kanban Board can do wonders so get started today with a simple implementation like this one.

If you are considering getting more organized in the way you develop your projects but need help getting started don’t hesitate to reach out to me, I’m always happy to exchange thoughts and answer questions. We use Jira, and not GitHub issues, at The Neon Project, but we’re happy to help improve your development processes no matter what your tools are.


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