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Product Backlog Refinement in Scrum

27th Sep, 2023
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    Product Backlog Refinement in Scrum

    Product Backlog Refinement is an important event in Scrum methodology that occurs regularly throughout the development cycle. During refinement, the team discusses each item, clarifies its requirements, and assesses its priority and complexity, leading to a more clearly defined and actionable backlog. By regularly refining the backlog, the team can ensure that the development process remains agile and responsive to changing needs and priorities. Let us dive more to understand backlog refinement, objectives of product backlog meetings, and more through our blog. 

    What is Backlog Refinement?

    Product Backlog Refinement also referred to as Product Backlog Grooming, is a method for keeping the backlog updated, clean and orderly. It is a basic process in Scrum. PBR is a collaborative discussion process that starts at the end of one sprint to confirm whether the backlog is ready for the next sprint. Let's take a pause and read about scrum interview questions first.

    A backlog can be defined as a set of user stories that are not present in the current sprint that defines the project’s scope context. The stories which are left unattended may interfere with the functioning of the development team. 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. 

    The backlog grooming meeting is attended by the scrum master, who facilitates everything for team members, the team, and the product owner. They decide among the top items from the product backlog. The team comprises mainly developers, testers, and scrum masters. The team can raise queries during the sprint planning session if they find any unresolved issues. The expected doubts can arise in the following forms :

    • How to handle the situation if the user enters invalid data?
    • Which part of the system are the users authorized to operate on?

    For the product owner, it will be easy to get a conclusion over the queries, by asking these questions in the early stages. If there is a question that is unanswered by too many people, it is time to make some changes in your backlog items by curating higher priority items to the top of the list and assigning the highest priority to the unanswered questions.

    The Objective of the PBR meeting

    A lot of time is saved at sprint planning meetings if the backlogs are well maintained. If the backlog item is clearly specified in the acceptance criteria and cross-checked properly by the team members, the planning process can be accomplished prior to the meeting. PBR offers the team members the opportunity to interact with each other regarding stories.

    Who attends a Backlog Refinement Meeting? 

    Here's who you can expect to see at a Backlog Refinement Meeting: 

    1. Product Owner 

    The product owner is responsible for defining a product's scope and ensuring it's ready for development. As such, they attend Backlog Refinement meetings to ensure that the tasks added to the backlog will help the product succeed. 

    The product owner also ensures that there are all the requirements in their product. They may collect feedback on how well each task meets its goals from stakeholders, users, and other interested parties. 

    2. Scrum Team 

    The scrum team is responsible for creating a product backlog in a refinement meeting.  The development team has many responsibilities during this process. They are responsible for estimating how long it will take them to implement each feature and then prioritizing those estimates by their importance and urgency.  

    They also estimate how much they need from other departments, like marketing or customer support, to make these features successful and how much time they require to provide input or resources.  

    Finally, After accumulating all information, the team creates a plan for implementation to inform all stakeholders regarding the project.  

    3. Project Sponsor 

    The project sponsor is responsible for the project's overall success and for maintaining a positive relationship with all stakeholders. The project sponsor prioritizes work, identifies risks and issues, and communicates with stakeholders throughout the product backlog grooming process. 

    The project sponsor also has many roles in creating a software product. The project sponsor must communicate effectively with team members, stakeholders, and key individuals involved in the development process. They must also have strong leadership skills to motivate others to perform at their best. 

    4. Scrum Master 

    The Scrum Master is responsible for ensuring that the team can work efficiently. They're responsible for removing obstacles to the team's progress and helping them reach their goals.  

    In a product backlog grooming in an Agile approach, the Scrum Master is responsible for facilitating the discussion and keeping everyone on topic. They also keep track of time and ensure that everyone gets to contribute their ideas, regardless of rank or seniority. 

    5. Product Manager ( Optional ) 

    In product management, the Product Manager is responsible for creating a product backlog and managing it throughout the life cycle of a software product. The Product Manager creates the product backlog by identifying what features and functions will be included in the final release. The Product Manager's responsibilities include: 

    • Defining user needs and goals, gathering requirements from users and stakeholders, and prioritizing the requirements based on business value. 

    • Ensure all stakeholders agree with the prioritization so they can be included in future planning sessions. 

    • Designing requirements that enable the business to achieve its goals while remaining within budget constraints. 

    • Conducting interviews with end users to understand their needs and problems with current solutions. 

    • Conducting usability tests with potential customers to test designs against real users' preferences. 

    Who facilitates a Backlog Refinement Meeting? 

    The scrum master facilitates a backlog grooming meeting. The product owner and team review stories at the top of the backlog to prepare for upcoming sprints. 

    The scrum master facilitates a backlog grooming meeting by ensuring that everyone is focused on the work and not distracted by other things, like emails or other meetings. The Scrum Master also keeps track of what is being discussed during the session so that it can be reviewed later, if necessary. 

    The product owner describes each story in detail, including what will be delivered; how it adds value; who will use it; when it will be delivered; and why this story should be prioritized over others in the backlog. The team then discusses each story as a group to determine which ones are ready for development in upcoming sprints and which ones need more work before they can be developed into features or stories. 

    Why is PBR important? 

    PBR and its sessions are important mainly due to the following features-

    • It increases the efficiency of the team by reducing uncertainty
    • Properly refined stories are easy to estimate, test, and implement.
    • PBR session increases the efficiency of the team due to the knowledge shared among the team members.
    • If the PBR meeting is maintained properly, it helps reduce the time for a Sprint planning meeting.

    The Product Backlog grooming can be made effective if the following aspects are considered-

    • Do not schedule backlog refinement meetings during the first and last 20% of the Sprint Planning session.
    • The backlog refinement meeting should be considered as the first part of Sprint Planning.
    • The backlog items list should be well understood by the PO, or development team member to work well in the meeting. Make sure that the set of predefined acceptance tests is present.
    • Keep an eye on the meeting goals.
    • Make sure to assign action items for any unknown thing.
    • Do remember that the backlog items are a collaboration between the PO and the team.
    • Feel free to break down the product backlog items during the meeting.

    After the product backlog refinement meeting, the team can update the Product Backlog items in the line, based on the discussions held. Finally, you can get a potentially shippable product, ready to be deployed in the market.

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    Best Time for Backlog Refinement  

    If your team works in one-week sprints, consider holding backlog grooming meetings weekly. If you are on a two-week cycle, hold these meetings alternately with other kinds of standup sessions. 

    The primary reason to conduct such meetings is to ensure the team delivers valuable product increments. The work done during this meeting should be time-boxed and scheduled on the calendar to avoid backlogs. 

    The backlog refinement scrum meeting should be held after each iteration or sprint. A backlog grooming meeting should be held at least twice per month to address issues immediately before they become bigger problems later down the road! 


    The KnowledgeHut courses for learning project management are a great choice for anyone interested in learning about project management. The course includes a lot of content relevant to what you would want to know as a project manager, including how to manage your team, work with clients, and manage finances. 

    This course also covers all of the core skills that are required for project managers, including planning for the future, managing deadlines, and budgets, working with stakeholders and sponsors, communicating effectively with stakeholders and teams, creating well-written reports that are easy to understand by all parties involved with them (including internal stakeholders), and ensuring that everyone can access information about projects so they can make informed decisions about them. 

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1What activities are part of Product Backlog refinement?

    Product Backlog refinement is adding detail, estimates, and orders to items in the Product Backlog. The Product Owner and the Development Team collaborate on this effort. 

    The following activities are part of Product Backlog refinement: 

    • Add specificity to each product backlog item (PBI)
    • Order PBIs from the highest value to the lowest value 
    • Estimate the size and effort for each PBI.
    2Who leads the backlog refinement?

    The backlog refinement is led by the Scrum Master, who facilitates discussion, guides the team to consensus, and keeps the product owner honest about what's actually on the backlog. 

    3Does Scrum require Product Backlog refinement?

    Scrum requires product backlog refinement. It breaks down the items in your product backlog into tasks, estimates, and expected values. This allows you an ongoing process to help maintain a prioritized list of features and functionalities that can be added to your product in the future. 

    4How many hours is backlog refinement?

    The amount of time it takes to refine the backlog depends on the project. Typically, a backlog refinement session will last between 45 minutes and an hour. 


    Lindy Quick

    Blog Author

    Lindy Quick, SPCT, is a dynamic Transformation Architect and Senior Business Agility Consultant with a proven track record of success in driving agile transformations. With expertise in multiple agile frameworks, including SAFe, Scrum, and Kanban, Lindy has led impactful transformations across diverse industries such as manufacturing, defense, insurance/financial, and federal government. Lindy's exceptional communication, leadership, and problem-solving skills have earned her a reputation as a trusted advisor. Currently associated with KnowledgeHut and upGrad, Lindy fosters Lean-Agile principles and mindset through coaching, training, and successful execution of transformations. With a passion for effective value delivery, Lindy is a sought-after expert in the field.

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