What Is Backlog Refinement Grooming?

When she is not writing, Arundhati likes to spend her time with her family and cooking. The moment one hears the words “product backlog” the understanding is there is a ready list of items, features or enhancements that just need to be worked upon. Longer and you’ll need breaks because people will lose attention. Less than 30 minutes and the effort to organize everyone (i.e., startup cost) is too high. Hold backlog refinement just before the midway point of your current sprint. If you hold them at or after the midpoint, everyone’s attention is focused on completing the active sprint rather than backlog refinement.

Agile teams demand a different view, unlike other methodologies. For example, Dev Teams love Agile while some other IT teams are stuck on Waterfall methodologies. According to a PMI report, for every $1 billion invested in a project, companies spend $109 million only on tackling Project Management challenges. Focus on a roadmap with a step-by-step plan of the goals to be achieved at each stage. It’s easier to show stakeholders the value of investing time and money this way. Update your stakeholders by highlighting the upcoming events.

Agility requires learning to split large epics into user stories representing very small product features. Collaboration between business people and technical people to split this epic yielded a story representing 80% of the business value for 20% of the effort of the original epic. Agile teams have a lot of freedom to decide how they want to tackle product backlog refinement. This helps you to avoid the scenario https://globalcloudteam.com/ where the whole backlog refinement meeting is simply people trying to get back up to speed with what each ticket is about. Product Backlog refinement helps agile teams improve their development process by ensuring the team always has well-defined issues to be tackled in future sprints. It’s really amazing to watch teams work through the estimation process on small, clear stories like a well-oiled machine.

Involve Your Teams In Planning

It’s important to separate the dynamic act of backlog refinement from all team backlog discussions. Successful product owners will see their stakeholders as a team, not merely a set of individuals. Mike Cohn specializes in helping companies adopt and improve their use of agile processes and techniques to build extremely high-performance teams. He is the author of User Stories Applied for Agile Software Development, Agile Estimating and Planning, and Succeeding with Agile as well as the Better User Stories video course. Mike is a founding member of the Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance and can be reached at If you want to succeed with agile, you can also have Mike email you a short tip each week.

Product Backlog Refinement in scrum

Before a sprint, the scrum team meets and discusses backlog refinement, which is why it’s often referred to as a backlog refinement meeting. It usually begins with the product owner showing the scrum team what product backlog items need refinement. This opens up a discussion between the product owner and the scrum team. They then decide which user stories are in need of product grooming.

No, during Backlog Refinement teams estimate their collective effort to complete Product Backlog Items , not tasks. It is common to write Product Backlog Items in User Story form. Traditional development breaks features into horizontal tasks that cannot be prioritized independently and lack business value from the customer’s perspective.

Notes On User Stories

You get a good handle over the development teams’ performance and the teams are also grow competent in improving their sprint execution and velocity. Hence, ensuring that the product backlog is relevant to the overall product vision at all times is of utmost importance. Open Source Light weight open source project management software to host on your server. If the person leading the backlog grooming doesn’t have confidence because of inexperience, they may feel inadequate to lead the discussion. You can reduce the number of stories to ~6 – 8 to not overwhelm the person when you start.

Teams can end up using their precious time together trying to remember what the backlog items are and why they were added. Thus further ensuring the Product Backlog is prepped with the highest priority user stories for Backlog Refinement . A good cadence of refinement, done right, The concept of Product Backlog Refinement will keep enough items in the product backlog that the team never runs out of gas. As a Certified ScrumMaster® or Certified Product Owner®, shoot for always having 1.5 to 2 times the amount of work ready than can be done in a sprint, based on the velocity of your team.

  • Let’s look at different activities that might be helpful in regards to refinement from the perspective of the different Scrum roles.
  • Officially, this activity is in the Scrum Guide referred to as the activity of Product Backlog Refinement.
  • It usually begins with the product owner showing the scrum team what product backlog items need refinement.
  • The product backlog items help achieve the goals of this sprint.
  • Feel free to break the product backlog items during the meeting.

If you’re going to dive into a topic that only one team member currently has expertise in, you probably want that person there. Start with two 90-minute sessions spaced a day apart and see how that works for everyone. Also, the Scrum Master can help in the facilitation of all kinds of activities mentioned already in this article to help everyone focus on their role. In these specific cases, that I encounter on regular basis, I explain that there is a different need for information by different people. Not only between roles, but also between people having the same role (i.e. Developers).

Even if you think you’re “done” refining an item, set it on the shelf and come back in the next meeting to be sure. The product owner is responsible for building the right product. Development team members are responsible for executing the item correctly.

Product Backlog Refinement In Scrum

PMs write stories for others, but it’s just as important to write stories for tasks you have to complete. It’s a public to-do and your tasks are often needed dependencies before the work can start or finish. Second, like other planning activities, there’s some unknowns.

If you listen to the music of your team, you’ll find your refinement rhythm in no time. This helps everyone to get familiar with the backlog and accelerates the speed at which the team gets to grips with the code-base. When that happens, you can experiment by shifting daily refinement to weekly refinement to lower the burden at the end of the sprint but keep your finger on the pulse.

Top Project Management Challenges That Need To Be Fixed

Having a robust and clear understanding of the product and the vision is crucial to getting there. Brainstorming, development stories are more around breaking down tasks. Be reasonable about how much you can achieve in, say, an hour. Whoever is running the meeting should prepare beforehand by looking through the backlog and choosing which items to look at.

Product Backlog Refinement in scrum

This is an ongoing process in which the Product Owner and the Development Team collaborate on the details of Product Backlog items. During Product Backlog refinement, items are reviewed and revised. Refinement usually consumes no more than 10% of the capacity of the Development Team.

On the extreme side, don’t let an unproductive conversation go on for more than five minutes. If a new idea is presented and you’re still heavily in the “I don’t understand” stage five minutes later, it’s a good sign the product owner needs to do more work offline. Trying to refine everything in one go denies you the advantages of perspective.

Real-time data helps you make more insightful decisions when in a backlog refinement meeting, which leads to more successful sprints. The better organization and communication that comes with backlog refinement reduces the time product managers and product owners spend planning sprints. Typically a Product Backlog item goes through three refinement meetings before it is considered to be in a ready state. First, when a stakeholder comes with an idea or wish, the team would roughly estimate the size of the item. Nobody knows the exact size of a small sized t-shirt but everybody has an idea about the relative difference in size between a small and medium sized shirt.

Once a regular cadence of Refinement Meetings is underway, this will be less of a challenge, as everything will be pretty well managed. But this is another reason why establishing good, regular practices around Backlog Refinement is so important. But if Backlog Refinement doesn’t become embedded, it can soon fall by the wayside. And when that happens, just watch the backlog become a free-for-all wishlist, full of undefined and unconnected items that lack rhyme or reason.

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You’ll spend more time in Sprint planning just trying to understand which tasks need to be dealt with first, rather than creating your plan and cracking on with the work. Estimation is less important in Agile development than it is in traditional development. Most teams that have excessive angst around estimation would benefit more from improving their technical practices, backlog refinement, and prioritization. I’d prefer to conduct the meeting without such team members.

But, if you are trying to ascertain how much time an item is going to take to execute, the team members who will be working on the task are often best placed to make that estimate. When product backlog is initially created it would have items of various sizes, clarity and value. But a scrum team needs clarity on few most important to get started. Items at the top are important right now and should be smaller in size and more details so that team could start implementing them in upcoming sprints. As you go lower the product backlog, the items are less important ad less detailed. One of the biggest reasons for having product backlog refinement is that it keeps your backlog clean.

After the discussion , the planning poker cards are drawn to give an estimation to the PBI . As a team, don’t expect bunches of stories to be estimated if the requirements and/or priorities in the upcoming story backlog are not clear. Set the expectation with one another that Refinement will be a valuable session, and work together as a team to ensure that it is not a waste of anyone’s time.

The best way to gather some of this information might be to loop in the relevant stakeholders. Expertise is an incredible resource; don’t lose out on the expertise of your stakeholders by keeping a narrow focus on the scrum team and the scrum team only. Behind every efficient and effective agile team, there is a beautifully managed, refined backlog. Every item in the backlog is clear and defined, with a reasonable time estimate. There’s no need for the team to go hunting for more context or information as all the detail needed is right there, ready for someone to take the task and get to work. The amount of refinement necessary for starting work depends on your tolerance for risk.

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