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Backlog Grooming Best Practices That Drive Successful Agile Sprints

By October 22, 2021January 16th, 2023No Comments

Get them involved, so that they can verify that items are being refined to the correct extent. Ultimately, the question of who attends Backlog Grooming sessions is dependent on the context and information you need. Client services or account managers, for instance, can shed valuable light on the client’s perspective. Depending on the item in question, the client themselves might want to be directly involved in the refinement activity. Understanding what backlog refinement is all about and how to run sessions regularly and effectively is critical.

backlog grooming best practices

During these meetings, the product owner, in coordination with others, will look at existing user stories and remove those that are no longer relevant. They may add user stories, split large user stories, or change priority of existing user stories. Product backlog grooming and sprint grooming go hand-in-hand because the input for sprint grooming is the product backlog. That means that in order for the sprint grooming session to be as effective as possible, the product backlog items need to be well-refined ahead of time. In the end, these benefits lead to highly-productive sprints and more frequent product improvements. Other attendees include the delivery team or its key representatives and the quality assurance team.

They’re usually the ones who didn’t understand the items because of either missing or too much information. Clear, clean backlogs are powerful tools that keep teams aligned and informed, identify top priorities, and help projects move forward efficiently. Working on the backlog can get confusing and unproductive with too many people involved, so resist the urge to invite every team member to keep the session on track. The information may have been a high priority and pivotal to the outcome once but may hold little significance now. Otherwise, it’s cluttering up the backlog and hiding the true priorities. Backlog sessions are a great way to remove the “fluff” so stakeholders can focus on the priorities that drive the main initiatives.

The delivery team is comprised of product developers—like designers and engineers, for example. Their presence ensures valuable expertise is infused into user stories. They should be present at all backlog grooming meetings to verify steps are taken for quality assurance.

Backlog grooming: Definition, benefits, and best practices

Regular backlog grooming sessions are essential for the effective functioning of the product team. They help them make sure that they work on the most valuable and urgent features. With the answers to those questions in mind, you can start looking at what the next few sprints might look like. Most likely, you’ll need to re-prioritize the backlog based on new findings and evolving needs. It’s wise to shift around priorities before the backlog grooming session rather than during it. However, some teams prefer to re-prioritize user stories in the backlog together so everyone can discuss why things are moving around.

backlog grooming best practices

Sprint planning is the kickoff event of every new sprint or iteration. It focuses on the items that have been logged into the sprint backlog as these are high-value and high-priority items that set the dynamic of the new sprint. Detailed Appropriately — User stories and other items in the product backlog that will be done soon need to be sufficiently well understood by cross-functional teams. Items and initiatives that will not be delivered for a while should be described with less detail. The refinement meeting itself is an effective communication means within the Scrum Team. It accumulates a shared, comprehensive understanding of requirements among the dev team reducing the level of unplanned rework.

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The scope and goals should be clear and concise- everyone should be on the same platform. When it comes to attendance, be sure that all relevant members of the team are present. This includes the product owner, anyone who may be involved in implementing the user story, and anyone who can add value in clarifying the requirements. There is no need to involve the entire team if everyone doesn’t provide value in the conversations. The backlog should have highest priority items at the top, lowest priority items at the bottom.

Here, we will dig deep into exactly what backlog refinement events are, who attends them, and what a successful output is. Backlog refinement used to be called “backlog grooming” or “sprint grooming”. This term was changed recently to be more inclusive of Europeans. Learn how agile release planning can help you with your software development and agile project plan. There will be different opinions about prioritizing and organizing the team during development. However, there is a joint commitment among the people involved to create the best product.

backlog grooming best practices

Modern-day agile project management centers around continuous improvement and agility. To sustain both throughout a project lifecycle, an agile team must meet requirements, respond to changes with flexibility, and plan consistently. But since teams work on short development cycles and multiple iterations, it’s impossible to accomplish all tasks in a single sprint. Does the strategic direction of the items in the backlog align with your customer personas?

Build your discovery team

Another major purpose of backlog refinement is to keep the backlog populated with initiatives that are relevant. Involve the right people in your backlog grooming session so that every decision made is transparent and understood. In other words, backlog grooming is a lot like housekeeping; teams get rid of irrelevant items, add new ones, and update existing items with the latest information.

  • This way the Product Backlog Refinement session will proceed in an organized and planned manner.
  • Whoever leads the meeting, needs to have good facilitation skills to ensure that the team stays focused on the task and the refinement process moves along.
  • Identifying roadblocks and minimizing risks related to backlog items.
  • Conversations are so important because they forge user stories into concrete tasks and items of the backlog.
  • If you need input from the development team, do it ahead of the meeting, immediately after, or again include just one or two people with the right skills.
  • As a result, most of the tasks will be unattended, and the product manager will have no choice but to push the deadlines of the deliverables.
  • We have worked with hundreds of companies and helped refine their product backlogs in product management.

Value — the business value of the item, as determined by the person who runs the backlog grooming process. Depending on how big your organization is and your company structure, your backlog can receive input from several different teams and departments. Left unattended, this could lead to a messy backlog with a lack of cohesive qualities across backlog items and an overwhelming number of outdated items. As a result of the refining activities, the next chunk of backlog items is ready for delivery meaning that it has the necessary level of transparency for its accurate implementation. The Product Owner presents a user story and the Development Team asks questions to get a common understanding.

Schedule Fewer Meetings

Grooming happens at defined intervals with meetings that last a minimum of 1 hour, typically only once per sprint. Grooming meetings should involve the whole team, but at the very least, product owners, team leads, and senior position members need to participate. Many agile practitioners say a “DEEP” product backlog is the key outcome of a backlog refinement session.

These backlog refinement sessions should be regular, though you can refine the backlog more informally as long as it’s an ongoing process. Besides the Product Owner, some of the Scrum team members can participate. Remember that the Development Team, the Scrum Master, and Product Owner are the Scrum Team.

Listen During the Refinement Process

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The Typical Career Path of a Scrum Master

But he needs to be supported by a team that is cross-functional with representations from teams that handle customers directly and the product Developer. Juan Carlos Brown is a Project Manager at Modus Create with a deep interest in bringing true agility to organizations. He started his career as a software developer and later transitioned into project management. Juan enjoys solving complex problems and optimizing workflows following Lean principles. He was born and raised in Costa Rica, where he lives with his wife and daughter. The DEEP format was developed by Roman Pichler, the author of Agile Project Management with Scrum.

This is because this is a dynamic process and emerging ideas are required to keep the process continuous. 30% of the stories should be in a phase where there is enough information though detailing needs to be done. These stories are such that the product Developer should take up for immediate Refinement with the concerned people, following the 20% Product Backlog stories. Participants or rather people who attend the session are the most important entity for Product Backlog Refinement. The session has to be scheduled and the same should be informed to the participants beforehand, in a planned manner.

Prioritized — The product backlog should be ordered with the most valuable items at the top and the least valuable at the bottom. Every single backlog item is ranked in relation to its business value and alignment with the strategic goal of the company. As you capture new user insights, the backlog will be changed to adapt to customer needs. Depending on the structure of your organization and whether you employ Scrum and agile methods, the backlog grooming process could be performed in the form of regular recurring meetings. Here are useful tips for Product Owners functioning as facilitators of the backlog refinement meeting. This means that they can be realistically “Done” within the Sprint time-box.

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Backlog Grooming Best Practices You Need to Know

Especially if these items are derived from goals and strategies that are due to multiple sprints ahead. Product Backlog refinement meetings are an excellent opportunity to explore progress with the products being worked on by a cross-functional team. In these meetings, product managers and product owners can easily explain the strategic purposes behind prioritized items in their backlog to help improve the alignment across groups.

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. While a plan with stated goals is backlog refinement techniques critical to intelligent backlog grooming, that doesn’t mean it has to stay the same. The product owner must keep an open mind and listen to what others in their team say to make changes as required.

When to run the refinement meeting

How do you prepare for this event and which techniques can facilitate effective discussions within the team? It means that you commit to the regular delivery of increments. To achieve this, agile teams need to be focused and effective. The phrase ‘Backlog Grooming’ refers to exactly the same practice, but the term has fallen out of favor. Besides, ‘refining’ is a much better description of the aim you are trying to achieve with this practice.

There should be at least one person representing the product team, the delivery team, and the quality assurance team. If there are broad user stories, try to break them down, or split them into smaller chunks. (Splitting user stories helps fit them into the iteration.) The team should discuss each user story and decide if it’s still a priority.

Grooming the product backlog is an ongoing, collaborative process that involves the product owner and team. Below are some tips and best practices for running a successful backlog grooming session. With the Affinity Analysis technique, development teams categorize user stories into different baskets like high, low, medium, etc.