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All You Need to Know about Backlog Grooming for Agile Teams

Dominic is an Agile Release Planning Consultant with over 10 years of experience helping organizations transition to agile. He has a passion for helping teams adopt best practices and improve their process. If you have too few stories on the backlog, your team will run out of work to do and they’ll be idle.

backlog grooming best practices

Detailed appropriately- This means that higher priority items should have more detail than lower priority ones. Ensure upcoming stories are adequately defined by adding additional information and acceptance criteria. Backlog grooming must have a lodestar to follow and the guide is always the customer. Customers can be like a rule against which all else is measured.

Optimize Your Meetings

It’s something your team is referring back to for updates and it ensures that everyone is on the same page. What’s even more beneficial than just you and your team getting updates as they occur, is that your information teams receive feedback from customers during demos. That way, after you showcase the product, the backlog captures stakeholder or customer feedback which will help you make adjustments and modifications as necessary. Sales LeadersFellow helps Sales leaders run productive 1-on-1s, team meetings, forecasting calls, and coaching sessions. By setting a regular time for your team to meet and groom the backlog, you can avoid these problems.

  • Backlog grooming meetings are a recurring event for agile product development teams.
  • Consider metrics like customer value, ROI , or interdependencies.
  • Conversely, items down the backlog should only be roughly estimated as they are not that well understood yet.
  • Check if the strategic direction of the items in the backlog aligns with your customer psyche.
  • Before your backlog grooming meeting, prepare well to set the stage for a productive and efficient meeting.
  • You want the items at the top of the backlog to contain the highest level of detail.

Backlog grooming allows the manager to ensure appropriate items on their backlog list and listed in order of priority. Here are some handy tips or best practices required to maintain a healthy backlog. The kanban is a favorite of scrum teams but sometimes you’re working with departments that have more traditional methodologies. Our hybrid tool has multiple project views that allow everyone to work how they want. Gantt charts for planning, task lists for your own work, sheet and calendar views—work how you want. All data is updated in real time across all views so there’s a single source of truth keeping everyone on the same page.

What is backlog grooming (aka backlog refinement)?

As a product manager, you serve as a link between stakeholders and strategy. The backlog is also an excellent opportunity to provide business updates. The sprint backlog provides a place to track any changes when deadlines or KPIs change, new initiatives emerge or clients’ demands change. The 2nd items are medium priority items that add to the problem. The PO ranks user stories in order of their importance applying different techniques.

backlog grooming best practices

It’s just as important to keep the conversation going with your customers or any other external stakeholders to get their feedback, too. Once you clean up your backlog, it’ll be a lot easier for your team to refer back to and to manage items on the list. On-Demand DemosEmpower your team to build a culture of productive meetings with these on-demand product tutorials. Team Meetings GuideLearn how the world’s best companies run effective team meetings – featuring insights from Figma, Buffer, Close, Webflow, Shopify, and more. Meeting MinutesCreate official records of the discussions and action items generated during meetings and save time with Fellow’s meeting minutes templates.

The outcome of the backlog refinement is the Sprint Backlog or a list of items that are due by the end of the Sprint. User stories involved should be clear to all team members and be ready to be implemented in the upcoming Sprint. Later, at the Sprint planning event, the Scrum Team finalizes a set of user stories for the Sprint and plans the tasks it will take to complete them. While executive stakeholders may want to participate , they usually don’t need to be present during grooming meetings. As the product owner or product manager, your conversations with stakeholders should happen in advance of backlog refinement sessions, not during.

The session is also an opportunity for the team to discuss the product vision and strategy, product roadmap, or any outstanding questions or issues that need clarification. As such, the product manager, product owner, scrum master, developers, designers, QAs, and all other stakeholders are required to attend the grooming session. A backlog grooming session is generally led by the product owner. Most certainly, you would need to re-prioritize the backlog in light of new insights and changing needs. Priorities should be shifted before the backlog grooming session rather than during it. Some teams, however, like to re-prioritize user stories in the backlog collectively so that everyone can understand why items are changing.

Scrum Process Best Practices that Set Your Agile Workflow for Efficiency

Because the backlog is always having items added to it, sometimes by upwards of 10 individuals in different positions, the backlog can get pretty loose. Backlog grooming agenda helps alleviate some of the messiness created by your product manager, project manager, developers, QA testers, or anyone else contributing . Prioritizing the product backlog before each sprint ensures that the development team is always working on the most important tasks. This helps to make sure that the product is always moving forward, and that the development team is always making progress. Ideally, you’ll have the next 2 or 3 sprints worth of stories prioritized before the grooming session. They don’t need to be fully developed stories with comprehensive acceptance criteria just yet.

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While you need to stick to its purpose, you can always start by asking how everyone is doing and how everything is around. Starting on a positive note can also lead to more productive backlog grooming sessions. For example, let’s say you have a set of features from the roadmap and you receive a requirement from the stakeholders to include another feature. Based on this change, the product owner needs to place additional stories in the backlog.

Remember that while you want entire team representation, don’t invite too many people because they can slow things down. Requesting just a few key people is best because they will pitch in with ideas if and when needed. Have an agenda with goals clearly stated and make sure all assembled are aware of what those goals are and how they’re expected to contribute to achieving them. Know what must be done, and only meet maybe every two weeks for an hour or two.

What is a technology roadmap: A guide with examples

At worst, it can hamper your agency’s growth and lead to clients waving … 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.

backlog grooming best practices

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.

Time Tracking & Timesheet

Teams use this technique to prioritize groups as per their level of importance. Product managers often admit their feature backlog seems endless, but they sincerely want to create a product roadmap with the right features. The MoSCoW method helps to sort and organize your product items in a classified manner that yields successful results.

Prioritization only works if the team follows through on their commitments. Teams should make an effort to make sure the priority items remain the most important. Score your Product Backlog items based on how much they matter to your project and the people who benefit from it.

backlog grooming best practices

Now that we understand what backlog grooming is, let’s review where it fits into the scrum process. I am passionate about solving business problems by bringing the team together and removing impediments. I started my career as a business analyst before moving into product management. I am a Certified Scrum Master and I also write my thoughts about product management at Product backlog grooming should be a documented part of the software development workflow.

Don’t try to do it all by yourself

Tasks are estimated based on the amount of effort it will take the team to complete them, then assigned points to reflect that effort. User stories are often updated to provide clarity and new details. Keep in mind that while you do want full cross-functional team representation, “too many cooks spoil the broth,” as the old saying goes. In other words, too many ideas and opinions can weigh down the session, so be careful to only invite those who are critical to the task at hand. If you’re going to dive into a topic that only one team member currently has expertise in, you probably want that person there.

The next step is incorporating these insights into the product backlog. Estimated — Backlog items at the top should include an accurate estimation of the work needed to deliver them. Conversely, items down the backlog should only be roughly estimated as they backlog grooming best practices are not that well understood yet. It’s also beneficial to invite members from customer success, support, and QA, as they have valuable user insights related to the inputs in the backlog. Product managers or other representatives of the product team.

Time for backlog refinement

Refinement sessions are meant to discover requirements collaboratively. Conversations are so important because they forge user stories into concrete tasks and items of the backlog. So, invest more in discussions and motivate the participants to express any concerns they may have. This process is also known as backlog refinement or scrum refinement among scrum teams. Do note that there are no key differences between scrum backlog grooming and agile backlog grooming. Backlog grooming is a process where the team meets to review, refine, and prioritize backlog items.

On the other hand, if the meeting is too short, there may not be enough time to properly discuss all of the items in the backlog, which could lead to scope creep or unrealistic expectations. So before a backlog refinement session, there are a few things to do to get you in the right mindset. At the end of the day, it’s up to you and your team to figure out what you need to complete during backlog grooming based on your own process and needs. Watch this video for an in-depth explanation of backlog grooming and to learn how to efficiently run a backlog grooming meeting. Everyone wants to achieve their goals, but nothing gets done if you don’t take any action towards them.

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