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Backlog in Business


What is a backlog in business?


Definition of Backlog in Business

A backlog in businesses simply refers to a significant amount of work that should have been completed.

A backlog is a simple concept to understand. Say you’re running a vinyl record pressing plant, and you can press 500 records daily. That level of productivity may be suitable for most of the time, but then you receive a big contract requiring 750 presses per day. That triggers a backlog of 250 records daily until you can increase your productivity to match the demand.

The term backlog is highly common in agile methodologies, referring to the tasks that need to be completed for the product to work. However, the term backlog can also describe work that needs to be completed within any business context. It simply refers to a situation where the existing workload exceeds the capacity of the business or department. 

It’s almost inevitable that a business will fall behind on work. Staff will have time off, holidays come around and cause scheduling chaos, and the sheer amount of things we need to do to keep a business running is always increasing. So having a backlog in your business isn’t always a bad thing.


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How to identify if you have a backlog problem

Many businesses try to avoid having a backlog whenever possible. But backlogs can happen for positive reasons, like a sudden influx in orders. The issues start when your backlog becomes unmanageable. 

A large backlog in business may impact your company’s future earnings. For example, a heavy backlog of financial paperwork or delayed loan applications.

There may also be concerns when businesses fall behind on production. Shareholders and customers alike can be concerned by poor turnaround times that suggest an inability to handle current demand. This can limit your business’s ability to grow and expand.

So, you should be aware of any signs that your backlog is growing out of control. This may include: 

  • Regular follow-ups for work or documents

  • Your orders are outpacing production capacity

  • Certain types of tasks are completed slower than usual

  • Deadlines are regularly missed

How to work with a backlog problem in your business

Having a backlog isn’t the end of the world, especially if you notice the signs early on. If you find yourself stuck in backlog purgatory, try the following tips!

Define your backlog

You can’t begin to tackle your backlog if you don’t know what tasks need to be completed. Compile a list of all the tasks that need to be done, including details on complexity and deadlines.

Prioritize your backlog

There is a temptation to switch gears and try to work faster to handle the backlog and existing tasks. Hitting that overdrive button will simply lead to poor quality work and high levels of employee burnout, which will have knock-on effects that could damage your business. 

The better move in this situation is to work smart, which is where prioritization comes in.

It won’t surprise you to see airfocus emphasizing the importance of prioritization, but it is crucial if you want to shrink your backlog. To best clear your backlog problem, you’ll need a good game plan. And your game plan will start to become clear during the prioritization process.

You need to look at the urgency and complexity of each task to prioritize them. Something like the ICE framework or WSJF would be perfect in these scenarios (here is a template that can help you).

Prioritization could also highlight tasks that are no longer priorities and don’t actually need to be completed. This will help speed up the process by letting you only spend time on the tasks that matter. 

Don’t lose track of the bigger picture

It can feel like everything is spiraling out of control when you’re focused on your backlog, but there’s no need to worry. Taking the time to look at your backlog and planning how you’re going to tackle it will help remind you that a backlog is simply a temporary setback that you will overcome.

Even the idea of stopping other tasks to look at prioritizing your backlog seems scary. It feels like you’re taking time away from important tasks, but it’s worth remembering that the tasks in the backlog are equally, if not more, important. 

Taking a step back and reassessing what needs to be done is the best way to ensure your business maintains and even improves productivity.


Roadmapping From A to Z

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General FAQ

What does a backlog mean in business?
A backlog in business refers to work that still needs to be completed.
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Roadmapping From A to Z
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