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Product Backlog Refinement

Product backlog refinement, formerly known as backlog grooming since it focused on maintaining a neat and organized backlog, is a meeting that takes place close to the conclusion of a sprint to make sure the backlog is prepared for the subsequent sprint.

Three days before to the conclusion of the current sprint, I prefer to have meetings to refine the product backlog. This allows enough time for the product owner to address any faults that are found. It is understandable that some teams discover that holding shorter meetings once a week instead than once a sprint works better for their cadence.


Who Should Attend Product Backlog Refinement?

  1. Refining the product backlog is not a formal Scrum activity. Nonetheless, the 2020 Scrum Guide lists it as a task that needs to be completed during each sprint. As a result, opinions on who ought to go are still divided.
    Even while I usually think that the entire team should be involved, that isn’t really feasible for this particular meeting. Here are a few explanations:

2. Two to three days prior to the conclusion of a sprint, product backlog refinement frequently takes place. Two or three days before a sprint ends, there’s nearly always someone on the team who’s insanely busy. We run the danger of not getting the product backlog item that individual is working on delivered if we force them to attend another meeting.

3. As a general guideline, backlog refinement should account for 5 to 10% of each sprint’s effort. Even though it would be great if the entire squad participated, certain team members might not be able to.


What Happens During Product Backlog Refinement?

The team members and product owner talk about the most important items on the product backlog during a meeting to refine the backlog. The following are some questions that the team members might want to ask during sprint planning:

• In the event that the user enters incorrect data, what should we do?
• Is this section of the system accessible to all users?
• What occurs if..?

The team may decide to divide the story into smaller chunks that can be completed in a single sprint based on the responses to these questions. When a team uses story points for agile estimating, they will also add estimates to newly created or split stories as they become more urgent.


Why Refine the Product Backlog?

The Product owner is able to address any questions that may not have been ready for a quick response if they had been addressed during sprint planning by posing queries regarding future stories ahead of time. It might be essential to set aside a high-priority product backlog item and not work on it during the sprint if those questions were addressed during the initial sprint planning session and too many could not be answered.

It is not necessary to answer all of these questions in a backlog refinement meeting. Instead, the product owner merely needs to touch on them enough to give the team the impression that they will have enough time to discuss the story in the upcoming planning meeting.
In that sense, backlog refinement is less of an attempt to entirely fix issues and more of a checkpoint.


14 Success Principles of the Product Backlog Refinement

Refinement’s purpose

The refinement stage involves a shared understanding of the why, what, how, and likely who, coupled with developers’ confidence in creating the Product Backlog item within a single Sprint.


Duration

The refinement of a single Product Backlog item may take several rounds. Keep refinements short and frequent.


Continuous refinement

Product Backlog refinement is an ongoing Scrum team activity, involving team members refining items they’re interested in, often during a Sprint, rather than a quick 60-minute checklist event.


Refinement is for everyone

The Product Owner should involve the entire Scrum team in the Product Backlog refinement process, not just lead engineers and designers, to avoid confirmation bias and maintain diversity of opinion and expertise in complex problem-solving.


DoR

A “Definition of Ready” represents either temporary training wheels for a junior Scrum team or an anti-pattern.


Don’t refine too far ahead

Focus on the Product Goal, aiming for three to six Sprints, and refine only items likely to be built to minimize waste and maximize refinement effort.


User research

Product backlog refinement and product discovery are closely interconnected, with user research being a key component of refinement activities, including developer interviews and prototype creation.


INVEST

The INVEST principle, popularized by Bill Wake, is used to refine Product Backlog items by identifying independent, negotiable, valuable, estimable, small, and testable items.


Definition of Done and Acceptance Criteria

A successful Product Backlog refinement necessitates a clear Definition of Done and a shared understanding of the difference between the two criteria.


Quality

When refining Product Backlog items, developers should consider technical debt and refactoring, as these continuous efforts can easily consume 15-20% of their time.


Estimation

Estimating Product Backlog items post-refinement ensures team consensus, avoiding discrepancies in understanding or skill gaps. Use relative estimates instead of absolute estimates, avoiding industrial age and Taylorism.


Not everything is a user story

Avoid using user story format in Product Backlog items, as not all items are user stories. Enforce a unified format during refinement to avoid wasting time and focus on team conversation, not selecting the correct documentation format.


Conclusion

The Product Backlog refinement is a continuous process to create actionable Product Backlogs. This competence of the Scrum team is critical to creating trust with the management and stakeholders as it allows for the regularly delivery of valuable Increments. Refinement is a very effective way of risk mitigation in a complex environment.


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