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 which starts at the end of one sprint to confirm whether the backlog is ready for the next sprint.
Backlog can be defined as a set of user stories which are not present in the current sprint that defines 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 of Developers, testers and Scrum Masters. The team can raise queries during the sprint planning session if they find any unresolved issue. 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 the conclusion over the queries, by asking these questions in the early stages. If there is a question which 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 highest priority to the unanswered questions.
The Objective of 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.
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 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 meeting during the first and last 20% of the Sprint Planning session.
- 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 are 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 the product backlog items during the meeting.
After the product backlog refinement meeting, the team can update the Product Backlog items in line, based on the discussions held. Finally, you can get a potentially shippable product, ready to be deployed in the market.