All You Need to Know about Backlog Grooming for Agile Teams


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. A product owner must keep this in mind and be professional deep backlog towards all. Some tasks cannot begin until another dependent task is completed. These dependencies can halt team members and delay progress if not identified or managed. Make sure to identify any dependencies when backlog grooming.

  • Prepare an agenda with explicitly original objectives, and ensure that everyone in session understands what those goals are and how they are expected to contribute to their achievement.
  • When your backlog is looking clean and shiny, it’s going to help your product teamwork a lot faster and in a more focused manner.
  • Highly prioritized backlog items should be more detailed than other items so team members thoroughly understand the task involved in realizing the item and can easily act on them.
  • Score your Product Backlog items based on how much they matter to your project and the people who benefit from it.
  • If you’re struggling with disorganized sprints, getting things done on time, or finding value in your agile ceremonies, contact DragonSpears.

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. Product Backlog Refinement can be productive only when it becomes a collaborative platform – each open to sharing ideas, brainstorming, and discussing the same. Let us understand the basics of Product Backlog Refinement first before we proceed ahead with understanding the best practices. The acronym D.E.E.P., coined by long-time Agile advocate Roman Pichler, is commonly used to describe the ideal, well-managed backlog. Principle and drive the conversation towards the missing elements.

Keeps the backlog clean and relevant

MeetingsBuild collaborative agendas, record notes and action items in real-time, and never forget what was discussed. Discover how adopting agile retrospectives can empower your team members to get better results out of scrums. From developing business strategies for our clients to building teams and ensuring teamwork at every level, he runs the show quite effortlessly. Address the high-priority tasks first, save less important tasks for the future. Estimate — the estimated effort needed to complete the task.

backlog grooming best practices

Backlog grooming must have a founding principle, and the foundation of all principles is the customer. When considering which stories to choose from your backlog, always remember that you’re eventually aiming to satisfy customers. The product is being created for customers, and hence, you should keep them in mind every step of the way. Many ideas are thrown into the mix, as with every other team meeting.

You don’t need to know all of the details of each one, but you should at least know what they are and the reasons why they want to add them. That way you can make more informed decisions about whether to add them to the list. Regular backlog refinement is important because it keeps the lines of communication open to your teams and stakeholders.

Team Management

When a product backlog is consistently updated during the sprint cycle, the team is more aware of what’s going on with the project. The clarity of your backlog will help keep morale high among development team members. They can trust that no sudden surprises wait for them around every corner without being informed beforehand.

If other team members are helping you manage your product backlog, it’s possible that they will add their own items to it. Your backlog could grow to be a large and unmanageable list of wishes. If other team members want to add PMIs to the backlog, make sure they run them by you first.

Who owns the backlog grooming process?

This communication ensures that everybody involved is on the same page when it comes to changes, additions, and prioritizations. This is very helpful in large organizations where the completion of tasks or the initiation of new tasks depend on the work being done on other teams. In an agile environment, the product owner manages and maintains the product backlog. The most important or urgent PBIs are placed at the top of the list so the team knows what needs to be worked on next. This helps the team to stay on track and to monitor progress.

For product development teams using the Agile project management methodology, Agile backlog grooming is a critical process that should be performed regularly for maximum impact. However, there is no standard rule for who runs these grooming sessions. Sometimes a scrum master or the product manager can also arrange and run the backlog grooming sessions based on availability. Ideally, all product team members should attend backlog grooming sessions to ensure a shared awareness of different perspectives. Scrum teams shouldn’t be larger than 9 people, so it’s easy to accommodate such a number in a meeting. Listening during the refinement process is possibly the most important tip we can give you for improving your backlog grooming sessions.

Who Should Attend Backlog Grooming Meetings?

De-prioritize user stories that you don’t plan to implement in the next 2-3 sprints. Eliminate user stories that add little or no value to the product. Also, work with the product owner to identify which stories are a must-have vs. nice-to-have. You may be surprised by the number of user stories that don’t survive this simple check. This process ensures important requirements are more visible and appropriately prioritized so that the team can focus on the right stories during sprint planning.

backlog grooming best practices

The person who serves as the backlog grooming lead may differ based on the team and its needs. However, it is common for a Scrum master or project manager to lead. Unlike other parts of the agile methodology , backlog refinement doesn’t have an across-the-board ideal cadence. Rather, the scrum team can set up the backlog grooming meeting whenever they feel it’s the most effective, efficient, and inclusive for attendees.

Eliminate and Add User Stories

Discuss user stories with the team, answer any related questions to smooth out any ambiguity. 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.

The Product Owner presents a user story and the Development Team asks questions to get a common understanding. They also discuss what needs to be done and how it needs to be done to satisfy the acceptance criteria. The meeting is usually recorded so that the Product Owner can document the summary afterward.

Once you have the backlog items listed and grouped, it’s time to prioritize them. Although there are no prescribed durations, many teams decide to timebox their backlog refinement sessions to minutes. All team members should contribute to the refinement process to increase shared understanding and encourage the ownership of the backlog items.

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. Agile advocate Roman Pichler came up with the acronym DEEP, which stands for detailed appropriately, estimated, emergent and prioritized.

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. The objective is also to keep the Product Backlogs populated with relevant tasks to-do, which is because, in its basic nature, the Product Backlog is a storehouse of information. The dynamic nature of the Product Backlog needs to be ensured at all costs; so that there are ample stories ready for iterations, at any given time.

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At Dialexa, we normally hold the backlog grooming meeting 3–4 days after the start of a sprint , and the meeting typically follows a demo of the prior sprint’s deliverables. As the project status is then fresh on participants’ minds, the client is familiar with recent project progress and gaps prior to discussing the backlog. Meetings can be an invaluable tool for developing a product roadmap — or they can unnecessarily interrupt workflow. To avoid disruption, it’s better to hold backlog meetings only as often as is necessary. Minimize the amount of time spent on meetings to maximize the amount of time team members have to do their jobs. Another way to help prioritize items is to categorize them into groups like user stories, bugs, feature requests, user insights, etc.

FAQs on Product Backlog Prioritization and Backlog Grooming

This team should have people from sales and marketing, and the customer service team also. The purpose of refinement is to ensure that the continuity between user expectation and market feedback and project deliverance is always maintained. It is also important to complete the Product Backlog tasks on priority. Johan Karlsson is an Agile coach and Senior Consultant who builds bridges between customers and product teams. With an engineering and development background, he is responsible for Hansoft’s international customer base and Helix Swarm. He’s a backlog nerd with the ambitious goal to bring Agile and lean principles into modern enterprise environments.

They pick items for discussion from the top of the list and create their sprint backlog according to the capacity and complexity of parameters. It starts with a brainstorming session after which all the ideas are grouped together thematically. After that, all the clusters are prioritized to create a list of new user stories. While prioritizing backlog items based on user feedback, beware of the 1% trap and make sure that you deliver value to the majority of your users, not just the most vocal ones.

She is passionate about economic development and is on the board of two non-profit organizations seeking to revitalize her former railroad town. Prior to joining the team at Forbes Advisor, Cassie was a Content Operations Manager and Copywriting Manager at Fit Small Business. Backlog items should be estimated to reflect the cost of implementation. These estimations should then be continually reviewed to update them based on current information. Tasks are estimated based on the amount of effort it will take the team to complete them, then assigned points to reflect that effort.

In order for the refinement process to be considered a success, the team needs to agree that the item has been refined to the extent that it is now actionable. As a result, there would be little point in going through the process without consulting the team. Get them involved, so that they can verify that items are being refined to the correct extent. It means that you commit to the regular delivery of increments. To achieve this, agile teams need to be focused and effective.

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