Backlog Refinement Best Practices for Scrum Teams

This avoids that not enough prepared PBIs are available in Sprint Planning. This type of preliminary work allows the development team to deal with the most important PBIs at an early stage and to ask questions that would otherwise only arise during Sprint Planning. This gives the PO the opportunity to find the answers in time for the Planning Meeting. Always have someone with “doing” skills (e.g. coder for software), someone with a visual mindset (e.g. a UI/UX person), someone with a test mindset, and the product owner. This ensures all aspects of creating an increment are covered in the refinement. Performing the activity of Product Backlog Refinement is of primary interest to the Product Owner.

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The Product Backlog is an artifact that helps provide transparency. It is the “single source of truth” for what is planned in the product. Adding details increases transparency to what you plan to deliver, as well as your progress.

This should be rare; the Product Owner should normally be engaged in multi-team PBR. But complications happen and in that case at least an overall PBR event provides some interaction with the Product Owner across all relevant upcoming items. Clarification of items is not done separately by the Product Owner or a business analysis group — doing that would increase the lean wastes of hand-off and information scatter. Rather, the entire Team does this clarification — and not a subset of the Team, but the whole Team, as Scrum rules prohibit sub-groups dedicated to particular domains such as analysis or testing.

The team are always searching for the right way to build the right product or feature. You are helping them to do that by facilitating the right conversations in the right manner. Attendees include the Product Owner and either all members of all teams or a couple of representatives from each team.

Before you bring it to a meeting

The remaining Product Backlog items are distributed among the developers. A Product Backlog item is jointly assigned a size and serves as a reference for the assignment of the remaining items. Of the Fibonacci series up to 21, supplemented by a question mark, form possible size values.

product backlog refinement in scrum

When refining a single item, don’t spend more than 15 minutes of the refinement session on it. Timebox your refinement of an individual item and come back to it at a future session. 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. Typically a Product Backlog item goes through three refinement meetings before it is considered to be in a ready state.

Scrum Reference Card Excerpt: The Backlog Refinement Meeting

The Scrum Team members learn and explore the values as they work with the Scrum events and artifacts. When these values are embodied by the Scrum Team and the people they work with, the empirical Scrum pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation come to life building trust. The Scrum Team commits to achieving its goals and to supporting each other. But once you’re racing towards the sprint deadline, solving unexpected bugs along the way, it’s quite easy to forget about the backlog entirely. It also means that everyone’s perspective is considered and that you have more eyes on the lookout for important issues. For example, the Product Owner often is often in a poor vantage point to see pieces of technical debt that are holding the team back and should be reflected in the backlog.

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product backlog refinement in scrum

This competence of the Scrum team is critical to creating trust with the management and stakeholders by regularly delivering valuable Increments. For managing the Product Backlog, this means that it should be visible for the Scrum Team and stakeholders what the order is and in what stage of readiness a particular item is. The image below shows an example of a Product Backlog Kanban board. Scrum Teams break down Product Backlog items so that the implementation of each item is immediately usable. Horizontal breakdowns of Product Backlog items only occur in Sprint Planning when a plan for the upcoming Sprint is created. After all Product Backlog items have been assigned, the developers inspect the assignments done by others.

Product Discovery, both initially, for example through Story Mapping, and on an ongoing basis. Identifying and removing items that sounded good but are no longer relevant. Ideally, a scrum master doesn’t need to be in a backlog refinement meeting at all. Do multi-team PBR to increase shared understanding, exploit coordination opportunities, align estimates, and increase adaptiveness across teams.

The Purpose of the Product Backlog Refinement According to the Scrum Guide

When this happens, the status of user stories will not be clear, and even the team can lose focus and fail to deliver within the project completion date. As they work through their structured items and have meaningful conversations around each item, both the product owner and development team are going to grow in confidence. As mentioned above, the most important items are shown at the top of the product backlog so the team knows what to deliver first. Backlog Item priority might change, requirements can be added and removed – thus the Product Backlog is a continuously maintained plan towards a growing business value.

  • Based on this information, attendees collaborate on what to do next.
  • Even though the descriptions of two or more PBIs may not be the same, they might seem to be the same at a first glance, and this could create confusion while identifying similar types of PBIs in the backlog.
  • A well-maintained backlog will prevent sprint planning meetings from lasting an unnecessarily long time.
  • The product owner ensures the product backlog is ordered properly while the developers ensure the product backlog Items are clearly understood and are properly sized to fit in a sprint.
  • It might be hard for a team to pull away from its work mid-sprint, but this preventative maintenance will help keep your sprint planning meetings productive and to-the-point.
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The developers assign a size to each of their Product Backlog items in relation to the reference entry. If they do not understand an item, the question mark is assigned. Unfortunately, the habit of managing this complexity with fixed predictions and detailed plans still exists in many organizations, even those using Scrum.

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If you cannot get past that point, any technique will result in the same frustration. If you do get everyone to agree on this, then you might consider the following techniques. Backlog refinement is about creating shared understanding on what the Product will, and won’t, do and on what it will take to create it.

product backlog refinement in scrum

Product backlog refinement is not an activity a product owner does on their own. It is for the entire scrum team which means it’s a collaborative activity with the developers. It might also include relevant stakeholders or subject matter experts to provide additional clarification on upcoming product backlog items or user stories. The product owner ensures the product backlog is ordered properly while the developers ensure the product backlog Items are clearly understood and are properly sized to fit in a sprint. Avoid having a product owner or business analysts refine the product backlog items on their own and then hand things over to the rest of the team to build and develop.

How does a scrum master facilitate backlog refinement?

The most important items are shown at the top of the product backlog so the team knows what to deliver first. The Product Owner creates, maintains, and regularly re-orders the Product Backlog. The Product Owner uses the Product Backlog to adapt to emerging requirements, customer feedback, and market changes. The refinement process may be carried out singularly by the PO, or alternately the entire Scrum team may participate in the event. There are no specific rules about who should carry out the refinement process.

product backlog refinement in scrum

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. If you’re a Product Owner working on a product, Refinement starts with having a vision for this product. Make sure you are transparent about this vision, talk about it all the time, with the team and all your stakeholders.

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Besides, ‘refining’ is a much better description of the aim you are trying to achieve with this practice. Product Backlog items that can be Done by the Scrum Team within one Sprint are deemed ready for selection in a Sprint Planning event. They usually acquire this degree of transparency after refining activities.

During the event, the Scrum Team and stakeholders review what was accomplished in the Sprint and what has changed in their environment. Based on this information, attendees collaborate on what to do next. The Product Backlog may also be adjusted to meet new opportunities. The Sprint Review is a working session and the Scrum Team should avoid limiting it to a presentation. Scrum is a tactical framework to build products, provided you identify what is worth making in advance. But even after a successful product discovery phase, you may struggle to create the right thing in the right way if your Product Backlog is not up to the job—garbage in, garbage out.

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PBIs that we won’t work on for some time should be toward the bottom of the backlog, larger in size, and less detailed. Even an excel spreadsheet can give you more clarity over things like user stories. When you look at anything for too long, it’s easy to lose perspective. 🆕 The backlog always reflects the latest information when people are adding details to items as they emerge when items are added on an ongoing basis. When autocomplete results are available use up and down arrows to review and enter to select.

Breaking down Product Backlog items

This can include guidance on value, size, acceptance criteria, supporting documents or diagrams, etc. The key here is to use it as a driver for the refinement conversation and not as a gate check. It’s important that you allow the product owner to lead the product backlog refinement meeting. The refinement sessions can be carried out in different ways as per the team’s convenience. The team may spend an equivalent of approximately 10% of the entire sprint time in refining the backlog. Alternately, the team may spend a couple of hours each week, or even half an hour on a daily basis and keep on updating the PBIs.

It gives people a voice, makes them feel like they have been heard and allows you to address any conflict before it festers and becomes a problem. Crafting the enterprise solution to make organization operationally efficient by better team collaboration and streamlining internal processes. Automate the Scrum events and related activities with self-explanatory instructions, samples and required deep backlog document templates. For this reason, you also shouldn’t consider Backlog Refinement vs. Sprint planning as an either/or activity. As with events and other activities in Scrum, it is also recommended that Product Backlog Refinements be performed regularly according to a fixed rhythm so that a routine develops. Kanban Kanban Journey The evolutionary agile framework for your organization.

Make sure that the set of predefined acceptance tests are present. If the team all tend to agree on the size of the problem or product feature, it’s a great sign that the team fully understand the problem and have grasped where that backlog item fits in the grand scheme of things. You may even be asking the team to decide which skills are necessary to achieve a specific objective or complete a specific backlog item. The team may already possess those skills, or they can make a decision to designate someone in the team to acquire those skills. As a scrum master, you want to be asking questions that help people to understand the nature of the task and why it matters. You want to be provoking conversations that help the team fully understand what is required and, in some cases, how to achieve that goal.

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