Bucket Sort

Bucket Sort is an algorithm and technique that categorizes tasks into “buckets” in order of priority.

Task prioritization is vital for developers and project managers in every industry. Luckily, there are tons of algorithms to help you track everything and stay organized.

The product management process involves listing tasks in a backlog—something of a to-do list for product development. Each team can use the bucket sorting algorithm to prioritize these tasks and decide which to work on next.

This article will explain what bucket sorting is, why it matters, and how to do it.

What is Bucket Sorting?

Bucket sorting is an algorithm in computer science that turns tasks into items within an array. It then sorts these items into buckets by order of priority. 

First, the algorithm sorts each bucket by importance; then, it sorts each item within the bucket. Finally, the algorithm returns all items to the original array—listed, again, in order of priority.

Why Bucket Sort’s Important

Within a development or management team’s backlog, several tasks at a time can exist. To streamline their workflow and efficiently use both time and resources, a team has to prioritize its tasks. This allows everyone to maximize their productivity.

By using a bucket sorting algorithm to prioritize their tasks, a team can focus its resources on projects with the most impact, both competition-wise and customer-wise. Plus, it can work its way down the list of priorities from necessary initiatives to low-impact projects.

With an efficient and effective design process, a team can develop products that are a better market fit. By doing that, businesses can consistently deliver excellent products that satisfy their userbase.

Bucket sorting is very effective for software development—especially agile development, which involves incremental updates to a product following release. With any number of updates and fixes needed in a product’s life cycle, bucket sorting will let a team prioritize these tasks in order of urgency.

Using a Bucket Sort Algorithm

Each product development team needs one member familiar with bucket sorting who can apply the algorithm to their product backlog. To use the bucket sort algorithm, you’ll need to first create your buckets, then run the algorithm.

Creating Sorting Buckets

To create the buckets that you will sort your tasks into, you’ll need to:

  1. Define your categories

Each category will be one “bucket.” Go through your backlog and check which ones encompass your tasks, such as customer experience enhancement, infrastructure updates, functionality changes, bug fixes, etc.

  1. Delineate the tasks

Under each category, list out specific tasks that fall under the same type. Refer to your product backlog or product strategy to outline these tasks. In general, it’s best to start with the most extensive tasks and work your way downwards.

  1. Determine your timelines

Assign a timeline to each item, depending on how much time you want to dedicate to the included tasks. Alternatively, you can assign each task a story point value to estimate the effort and resources necessary to complete a task.

You can hold a separate meeting to decide the story point values of each task to have the best estimates possible.

How the Bucket Sorting Algorithm Works

The bucket sorting algorithm will run like this:

  1. The algorithm will outline the original array.
  2. The algorithm will create an empty array.
  3. It will then pass through all items in the original array and sort each item into their respective “bucket.”
  4. Then it will sort each bucket by order of priority.
  5. It will sort each item in each bucket by order of priority.
  6. The algorithm will then move the items into the empty array, arranged by importance.

In the end, you will have a list of tasks ordered by priority which the team can then refer to when deciding which initiative to take on next.

Bucket Sorting and Agility

Agile teams can use bucket sorting to streamline their workflow, especially when used in tandem with story pointing. It organizes a team’s backlog by priority and urgency while still allowing room for flexibility in choosing which tasks to work on. 

By doing this, a team can maximize its productivity throughout a product’s life cycle and deliver quality updates that enhance a customer’s experience.