Why Product Backlog Refinement is Important

Often, Scrum Teams come together once per Sprint, or once per week to have their “Refinement Meeting”. The Product Owner shares what Product Backlog items need to be refined and the whole team discusses them. While agile is full of different techniques, meetings and processes, you don’t need deep backlog to follow any of them by the book. When you’ve built a high Sprint Velocity, a once-per-Sprint refinement session might be the most time effective approach for you. Doing some of the team refinement and estimation work before the end of the Sprint in a weekly meeting can reduce that anxiety.

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According to the scrum framework, the entire agile team — scrum master, product owner, and development team members — will share ownership of the sprint backlog. This is because all members of the team will bring unique knowledge and insights to the project at the beginning of each sprint. For software developers, the process of refining the product backlog is one of the most useful processes to generate a shared understanding of their work. It’s the product owner’s responsibility to make sure a product backlog of agile user stories exists, but that doesn’t mean that the product owner is the one who writes them. Over the course of a good agile project, you should expect to have user story examples written by each team member. Backlog grooming is the process of refining outstanding user stories or backlog items, breaking big items into smaller tasks and prioritizing those which need to be tackled first.

Why is backlog refinement important?

The product owner takes control of the refinement process to a point where he’s the only one making the decisions. If that happens on a regular basis, address the issue with a dedicated project specialist, whether it is an Agile coach or Scrum Master. Although traditionally the whole team is required to attend, sometimes you can choose to only invite some of the team members and that’s okay. I can’t ensure that backlog refinement will solve all of your problems, but it helps the team follow one common goal, which is a pretty big success indeed.

With backlog refinement your team have a chance to shape how you want to work. This process helps to appropriately size items and assign them a value in terms of hours of work. Estimation is important because it helps teams make sure they are taking a reasonable amount of work on in each Sprint. While T-shirt sizing is great for rough estimation of effort, sometimes you need to get a bit more accurate. Using a Sprint Poker or Planning Poker process is a great way to do that. In practice, the Product Owner will introduce a backlog item and ask members of the development team to state their best estimate of how large or small the item is, using t-shirt sizes.

Product Backlog Tips to Make Work Flow

For me, boiling water is a task equal to 1 story point, baking a meringue cake would equal 8 story points, and making an omelette would be somewhere in between. What if someone asks how many minutes it will take to boil water? I wish I knew that; I’ve just bought a new kettle and have no idea! Sometimes the story requires using a completely new technology for a developer, and it is hard to guess the hourly effort. The team, and by extension the stakeholders, should have a much clearer understanding of what is being worked on, what is still pending, and what can be considered done.

During refinement, these dependencies get uncovered—then the team can choose what to do about it. They may highlight the dependencies so the team is aware of them and can collaborate on the best way to address them. They may sequence the work so the downstream dependency is completed first, thus reducing the dependency with the other work and allowing the work on subsequent stories to go faster. Or, they could split or combine the stories to remove the dependency and increase the team’s speed of delivery. Often, when teams refine a story, they discover that the story contains hidden complexity that will require much more effort than originally thought.

This would usually be the job of the product owner but any team member can take care of it. Have product backlog refinement meetings (typically 1-2 hours) on opposite weeks of sprint planning. Backlog grooming is a regular session where backlog items are discussed, reviewed, and prioritized by product managers, product owners, and the rest of the team.

Backlog refinement looks at upcoming stories to discuss, estimate, and establish an initial understanding of acceptance criteria. Teams may apply Behavior-Driven Development, using and use specific examples to help clarify stories. The outcome of each sprint has to be a high-value product increment. Therefore, it is paramount to have your priorities straight before the sprint starts because there will be no time to deal with any backlog issues once the development team gets to work. It’s important to have the officially scheduled meeting and run the backlog grooming regularly.

What is Product Backlog refinement in Scrum Agile?

But if you only look at your backlog once per Sprint it’s going to be a hot mess. The collaborative conversation facilitated by the Product Owner which involves all stakeholders and the team. The Sprint Goal must be finalized prior to the end of Sprint Planning. Various practices exist to forecast progress, like burn-downs, burn-ups, or cumulative flows. While proven useful, these do not replace the importance of empiricism.

Why the Product Backlog Refinement is Important

As it approaches, it might become clear that several parts will need to be completed separately. In the scrum project management methodology, one of the most important things a project manager can do is keep an up-to-date product backlog. That keeps the team focused on what needs to be done and ensures that everyone is always aware of the project’s progress. When the Product Backlog items are not organized, communication between cross-functional teams becomes difficult and leads to miscommunication and ambiguity.

What is the Product Backlog Grooming or Refinement im Scrum?

The product backlog in its simplest form is a list of improvements to be made to your product. But unlike Sprint Retrospectives or Sprint Planning meetings, which have a clear time and place in the agile process, there isn’t much guidance on how and when to do Backlog Refinement. As Scrum Team A-Tano discusses the benefits of refinement, a developer exclaims, “Of course! We know that every team has their own rhythm and backlog culture that they bring to the table. These recommendations should cross-cut all of those things and help your team work even better together, no matter your tools or process.

Updating them on the project’s progress and getting their feedback on what they would like to see next is an important part of backlog refinement. Backlog grooming is the only ceremony in scrum that doesn’t have a defined time box or even a frequency. It is, however, a critical responsibility of the product owner with the help of their team to add new items to the list and order them based on their priority. The backlog refinement meeting usually takes place towards the end of the current sprint.

Why the Product Backlog Refinement is Important

Failure to operate any events as prescribed results in lost opportunities to inspect and adapt. According to this sprint goal, the PO prioritizes the product backlog and selects the most important product backlog items or writes new ones. The term grooming has been discouraged since the word has bad connotations, but it is still widely used. Backlog refinement stands for the same thing, which is, keeping the backlog up to date and getting backlog items ready for upcoming sprints.

The primary goal in a Product Owner role is to represent the customer to the development team. In fact, the Product Owner is the only person who can change the order of items in the product backlog. You can’t become a great PO if you don’t know the ins and outs of development, design, agile framework, software development, scrum approach, and IT infrastructure.

When can product Backlog Refinement occur?

Velocity is a measure of the amount of work a Team can tackle during a single Sprint and is the key metric in Scrum. Velocity is calculated at the end of the Sprint by totaling the Points for all fully completed User Stories. The Product Backlog Refinement meeting should be time-boxed – usually around 2-3 hours for a two-week Sprint.

  • After a few iterations, you can see how many of them the team burns.
  • That deprived them of the opportunity to obtain earlier feedback.
  • It’s the product owner’s responsibility to make sure a product backlog of agile user stories exists, but that doesn’t mean that the product owner is the one who writes them.
  • T-shirt sizing is a simple estimation technique you may use with your team to get an initial flavour of how large or small a project is.
  • Having Scrum Master attend the meeting would be great as they are specialists in Scrum ceremonies and will instantly spot when the conversation is not going anywhere.
  • A Product Backlog can receive ideas and opinions from several different teams and departments depending on how vast the organization and company structure is.

There is almost always someone on the team who is frantically busy two or three days before the end of a sprint. Healthy and energetic discussions are great but they need to lead somewhere. Stay focused and guide the conversation towards decision-making so that your ceremony has a clear outcome. Having Scrum Master attend the meeting would be great as they are specialists in Scrum ceremonies and will instantly spot when the conversation is not going anywhere. Scrum pays a lot of attention to efficiency, only doing what’s necessary, and responding to changes quickly. To achieve all that, the Scrum team works through short periods of time called sprints and runs several Scrum ceremonies per sprint to support fast-paced progress.

This process continues until the team finds a good collection of the user stories in the product backlog to be included in the sprint backlog. The purpose of the backlog refinement meeting is to decompose the highest priority items in the product backlog into user stories which are suitable for inclusion in the next sprint. A backlog is a list of tasks required to support a larger strategic plan. For example, a product development context contains a prioritized list of items.

What happens during sprint refinement?

If you are asked to say how much a random car weighs, it will be problematic for you, and you will only be able to estimate the value by saying ‘somewhere around…’. On the other hand, if you are asked to say which car weighs less – a Smart car or a Land Rover – the answer will be obvious and simple. Perhaps it needs just three steps — draft, edit, submit — to be more effective, or if the team is familiar with the process, even just one. Importantly, don’t rush to remove things at this stage — make sure they are fully completed and can be taken out of the backlog without a future issue. Correcting estimates by understanding the newly discovered information. Breaking down larger products and services such as User Stories into smaller tasks.

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But creating a habit of daily micro-refinement, helps ensure all team members know what’s on the backlog and add detail when they have it. Depending on where you maintain your backlog, your daily practice may involve holding discussions about backlog items within Jira or GitHub. https://globalcloudteam.com/ Developers and engineers should also be adding detail to backlog items as and when new information is available. While refinement is a continuous process, it’s important to have a scheduled time where you sit down together as a team and go through the backlog together.

Check out the three most popular techniques, or dive into Mike Cohn’s book, Agile Estimating and Planning. You can also use your own creativity – as long as the items are sized according to one scale the team is familiar with. The main goal is to discuss what needs to be done and ensure the items are small enough so they can be completed during the sprint. A story point is a unit that measures the size of a story, not based on the amount of time but on the effort. To help you understand it better, let’s put an estimation on everyday activities. The idea was to put absolute time estimations to one side and to try to estimate the effort.


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