Backlog Filter

Identify and action high complexity backlog items in any context.
Contributed by

John Tooth

Published May 24, 2022

What Is Backlog Filter?

The backlog filter is a tool used to surface high risk work items. This canvas looks at work through the lens of complexity by focusing on the teams' knowledge. Understanding which work items need attention allows managers to intervene.

In most cases, this will lead to identifying and prioritizing the most unknown work higher in the backlog. Doing this will de-risk the backlog and improve predictability for the team. As with all remote:af patterns, the backlog filter is designed to be effective regardless of context and can be used across many types of teams.

The remote:af backlog filter has been made available to the public for use. All copyright in the canvas is owned by Remote Agility Framework Pty Ltd and used under license.

Based on the work of Kim Ballestrin and Dr Saeed Shalbafan

Why Do Backlog Filter?

Common signals for using the remote:af backlog filter are;

  • the team is exploring new work that has arrived in its backlog
  • the team needs to deliver work outside their regular expertise
  • the team has struggled with forecasting work effectively
  • the team needs to communicate when things are likely to be delivered and/or the risk to delivery forecasts

How to do Backlog Filter?


  • Download a copy of the remote:af backlog filter using the link provided
  • Upload the template to your preferred virtual whiteboard tool or print it out for in person workshops

Filter the backlog:

  1. Explore the work backlog with the team

  2. Individually and silently map work items in the team backlog to the matrix according to:

    • the involvement required from outside the team
    • how well the team understands how to do the work
  3. Explore any disagreements, if consensus can’t be reached err on the side of caution


  • Action the work based on how each item maps to the matrix
    • Proceed
    • Plan
    • Probe

Look at Backlog Filter

Links we love

Check out these great links which can help you dive a little deeper into running the Backlog Filter practice with your team, customers or stakeholders.

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