9 Tips for Effective Backlog Grooming Sessions

Thursday, March 3rd 2022.

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. The product owner usually conducts the session as soon as user stories are ready from a product, design and technical perspective. If a sprint starts on a Monday, backlog grooming can happen anytime between Monday and Friday before the sprint starts. If it happens on a Friday, then sprint planning might get pushed to Monday morning before a sprint starts.

Since backlog grooming is not an official ceremony according to the agile method, it’s not uncommon to also see project managers, Scrum Masters, or other team members facilitating the sessions. One way to prevent disorganized agile sprints is to maintain a healthy product backlog. Items are entered into the backlog in the form of issues or tickets, depending on which agile project management system you use. In this article, we’ll discuss what a healthy backlog looks like, why backlog grooming is essential, and how to do it effectively.

backlog grooming best practices

As a product manager, you serve as a link between stakeholders and strategy. When executed rightly, it will help your team maximize their efficiency but also smoothens the product development process. You should aim to groom your backlog three-quarters of the way through every sprint so that the backlog is up-to-date and can be streamlined for sprint planning. Effective backlog grooming can also help the team stay aligned with the roadmap and meet the needs of clients as well as stakeholders. The Product Owner should influence estimation by helping the dev team understand and select trade-offs, but the final decision is theirs. If the agreement still can’t be reached, the facilitator , can go with the highest, the lowest, or the most common estimation.

Keep the List of Attendees Short

Refining also means breaking down big items and initiatives into smaller, more doable tasks. For example, some teams hold the refinement meeting during the Sprint Review. All the necessary people are present, so after they are done reviewing the increment, a Product Owner can gather feedback to update the backlog. This way the sprint backlog is ready even before the Sprint starts. The backlog refinement meeting takes place before the Sprint planning.

backlog grooming best practices

We have worked with hundreds of companies and helped refine their product backlogs in product management. Whether you are a start-up or an enterprise, get in touch with us for a free consultation and see how you can benefit from our product development services. While a plan with stated goals is 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. This helps to ensure that issues are seen and understood from multiple perspectives as you work on refining user stories. Try to invite only the people who are critical for helping in the grooming session.

How to groom product backlogs?

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. A product owner must keep this in mind and be professional towards all.

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. Nothing gets built unless it’s on the backlog, but listing an item on the backlog doesn’t guarantee that it will be executed. The backlog refinement process ensures that only the most relevant tasks get committed for delivery in the following sprint. You must keep things flowing and ensure that discussions stick to the plan.

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.

To prepare for the sessions, the PM needs to review the roadmap, seek key stakeholder input and analyze user feedback. Estimate — the estimated effort required to complete the item as defined by the product delivery team. It is easier to embed best practices in your agile teams when you have strong processes and clear oversight. 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.

Get The Insights!

Every backlog item is graded based on its business value and fit with the company’s strategic goals. 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.

Backlog Grooming: Who, When and How –

Backlog Grooming: Who, When and How.

Posted: Tue, 04 May 2010 07:00:00 GMT [source]

By estimating backlog items, we have an understanding of the cost to implement them, which is must-have information for prioritization. You can check your estimate against the actual, thereby improving future planning. deep backlog As the team progresses through the backlog refinement session, it is important to review the estimates and check if they require an update. Remember that nobody expects your first estimate to be 100% accurate.

Interact with Stakeholders

Product backlog refinement is one of the most critical meetings in an agile project. This is where one makes sure that the product backlog items are built. It’s the place where the product owner and the team collaborate to understand the requirements, estimate the product backlog items, and fill up the release. It’s easy to transform a product backlog into a catch-all for ideas that never materialize. User stories without a clear purpose or definition make the product backlog harder to manage.

Without a properly-groomed backlog, the planning session won’t be as productive as it could have been. As grooming progresses, a very rough list of work turns into precise and defined granular tasks. After a few grooming sessions, that ticket turns into “get the recipe, go to the grocery store, buy eggs, milk and butter, pre-heat oven to 400 degrees”, and so on. To prepare for backlog grooming, think back to the overarching strategy that you’ve already outlined in the product roadmap.

  • Conversely, when a backlog is unorganized, the urgency of items becomes unclear and it can lead to miscommunication across individuals and teams.
  • This backlog includes the full set of user stories that aren’t in the current sprint that define the remainder of the project’s scope.
  • Their input helps depth the understanding of your project’s direction and can support certain decisions you may contemplate.
  • Thorough backlog grooming will lead to accurate prioritization.

Jira is the go-to project management tool for experienced Scrum teams. As teams move through sprints, backlogs are created automatically within the software. 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. Apart from the product owner, the product development team members attend the backlog grooming sessions. Sometimes, other internal or external stakeholders can also attend these sessions if they have important information about the product. The product owner is responsible for leading the backlog grooming sessions.

Recommendations for Product Owners

If you don’t go through a process of project or product backlog refinement, you’ll waste time trying to make up for insufficient information. You’ll spend more time in Sprint planning just trying to understand which tasks need to be dealt with first, rather than creating your plan and cracking on with the work. After completing a backlog grooming session, the team should have enough user stories for two sprints. In this manner, they will have enough work to keep them busy until the next backlog grooming, as well as tasks to accomplish if priorities fluctuate. One of the most prominent issue and project tracking tools in the market is Jira.

Meeting MinutesCreate official records of the discussions and action items generated during meetings and save time with Fellow’s meeting minutes templates. Chiefs of StaffTrack key takeaways from executive meetings, enhance alignment across scaling teams, and amplify the CEO’s communication to help the company flourish. Fellow for EnterpriseSupport company leaders with Fellow’s uniform meeting templates, collaborative one-on-one meetings, and feedback tools. Objectives Stay on top of your team’s goals by clearly recording, defining, and tracking the progress of your OKRs in Fellow’s Objectives tool. ProductFeatures OverviewSee how high-performing teams are using Fellow to level-up their meeting and productivity habits. If you have too few stories on the backlog, your team will run out of work to do and they’ll be idle.

Right Folks, Right Time

Have a ‘Definition of Ready’ prepared to help guide you and your teams towards deciding on backlog items that are fit enough for the sprint backlog. Refine your backlog items with as much information as you can to provide clear context to the team who will be taking on the work. It’s important that data such as deliverable specs, due date, instructions, and requirements are stated properly for each item.

Know what is in your backlog

But since teams work on short development cycles and multiple iterations, it’s impossible to accomplish all tasks in a single sprint. The refinement meeting is facilitated by the Product Owner or the Scrum Master. The dev team reviews the prioritized items in the backlog before accepting them. They make necessary adjustments for clarity and estimate the effort and time it will take to complete each user story. Things are constantly changing in the product world, and that includes changes to priorities and estimates. Make sure that you and the members of your team are continuously updating your backlog, as changes happen so that any changes are reflected in the backlog and the listing of the user stories.

Backlog refinement meetings are often facilitated by the product owner or product manager. That does not, however, imply that they are entirely responsible for holding backlog grooming meetings. These meetings can also be rarely led by the Scrum Master , a project manager, or the other team members. Review the product strategy along with business goals that you want to achieve to ensure that current backlog items are well aligned with them. Whether you’re performing product backlog grooming or project backlog grooming, it’s good to keep in mind that your backlog shouldn’t be swamped with too many items.

People Involved in the Process

This is done to those user stories that are of a high priority but too large to fit comfortably in an upcoming iteration. Don’t refine or polish the backlog of the current sprint until it ends, even if there is time left. You might feel tempted only to refine commitments to requirements right before they are due. That’s not a good idea, as that doesn’t leave room for potential gameplay that might increase or shift your product vision. Move low-priority items to a separate list, making the Backlog list shorter and easier to understand. Description — what’s the primary purpose of the product backlog item.

Backlog grooming is the process of reviewing items in the product backlog and updating them to ensure they are ready for development. The goal of backlog grooming is to ensure that the backlog contains items that are clear, concise, and well-understood by the development team. Furthermore, we advise you to give the rest of your cross-functional team a heads up before your grooming session. Send them a list of stories that are up for discussion ahead of the meeting so that they can set some time aside and prepare as well. A well-prepared team leads to a productive backlog grooming session.

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