Backlog refinement (formerly known as backlog grooming) is an act of adding details and prioritizing defined items. It includes the required items being organized by priority, with items at the top of the backlog indicating that they are ready for delivery. Ideally, 7 to 10 % of every sprint must be kept aside for backlog refinement.
A good practice is to have at least two sprints worth of work ready to go to the product backlog. Sprint preparation eases as the Product Owner and Scrum team starts planning with well analyzed and carefully picked stories.
If backlog refinement is not executed (or is not executed well), sprint preparation can result in a lot of queries and/or create confusion.
How can product backlog refinement benefit your team?
#Deliver Value Sooner
Backlog refining prepares the backlog for delivering value. Doing so will let you deliver faster, increase your productivity, and build communication which acts as a backbone of highly efficient teams.
Product Owners and development teams have specialized skills in backlog refinement. Focusing on value and having organized discussions will significantly enhance the ability to transition from vision to value.
#Being ready for product refinement
Refining the product backlog requires reviewing and slicing stories in a way that enables backlog items to be ready for a sprint. A good backlog is constantly refined for the team by the owner of the product for its detail, value, and priority of backlog items.
This ongoing refining of work is the key to fast and incremental delivery of product value while maximizing the efficiency of the development team.
Backlog items that have been identified and refined in time for sprints will consequently increase the efficiency of the entire team.
#Ensuring the product is mapped to its vision and goals
A good product delivers value when it is mapped to the product’s vision and goals. A product yields its value when it provides a good return on time, money, goods, or services. Refinement implies that the owner of the product is collaborating and efficiently communicating with the development team to frame a value-based backlog.
Refining involves tough decisions that balance various stakeholders’ viewpoints with how value shifts over a span of time based on ever and quickly changing market dynamics, consumer needs, and behaviors.
#Promote structured communication which helps in value slicing
The team requires a structure to promote, research, analyze, and validate as backlog items are refined. This organized approach is called structured communication.
The structured communication approach is a valuable method for group communication and innovation. It promotes a more efficient approach to further research, explore, analyze, and find an alternative.
Refining using structured communication exposes dependencies and helps the team to concentrate on actionable, useful stories that are small enough to be estimated and completed within a sprint. Supporting requirements for this can include wireframes, data model diagrams, and related visual analysis models.
The team should concentrate on the development of prioritized items that would enable them to fulfill regulatory standards that are most helpful for regulatory enforcement. This would provide information for product support for team members who are not domain experts.
The ultimate objective of product backlog refinement is to ensure that the backlog items are populated and ready for sprint planning with items that are relevant, and detailed. In short, it should be:
- Clear and comprehensible by the team
- Sliced enough to be part of a sprint
This would help ensure those product backlog items are able to maximize the value tied to the product’s vision and objectives.
Thank you for reading!
Delivering Value in Your Products
Value may be subjective. However, there are a few indicators firms can use to gauge value in a potential product.
Author — Santosh Kumar, DLT Labs™
About the Author: He is a cheerful advocate of Agile (SCRUM) practices with an emphasis on leading team growth, working with DLT Labs as a Senior Business Analyst. He is a result-oriented professional translating business user concepts and ideas into comprehensive business requirements.