9 Tips for Effective Backlog Grooming Sessions

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Their input helps depth the understanding of your project’s direction and can support certain decisions you may contemplate. The most significant way to motivate your team ahead of sprint planning is by grooming the backlog beforehand. This helps teams push forward continuously and increases the team’s overall efficiency.

It may take some testing before you decide the best backlog item qualities to monitor; you don’t necessarily have to use the ones envisioned by scrum rulebooks. With a product management platform, you can constantly tailor your unique criteria and attributes to measure, prioritize and categorize items. Prioritize– The product backlog should be ordered from high to low, from the most valuable items at its top to the least valuable at its bottom. It’s fully aligned with your company’s strategic goals and business value for current and future stakeholders. There will constantly be a backlog, but not all items on that backlog are equivalent.

Nothing gets done unless it’s on the backlog, but simply listing an item doesn’t guarantee that it will be accomplished. Product backlog refinement is the process of selecting which tasks are the most relevant to work on next – so you’re only working on what matters. Some people feel that grooming backlogs once a sprint is essential for productivity.

backlog grooming best practices

Many employees feel like they already attend too many meetings, so make sure you’re not scheduling meetings just to have a meeting. Doing so helps your team go into sprint planning sessions fully equipped to be productive. Backlog grooming meetings may also be helpful at the end of the sprint, mid-sprint or on an ad-hoc basis when your team needs to regroup. In backlog management, team members prioritize tasks that deliver the most user value. Then, those priority tasks are updated with details so team members can understand what they need to do to complete the tasks involved in the item’s development. Example details may include stakeholder feedback, new bugs and changing company policies, for example.

Best practices for product backlog grooming

Trying to keep a backup backlog creates too much overhead and can make it messy and difficult to sort through later. This team should have people from sales and marketing, and the customer service team also. The quality assurance team has a place at these meetings, too. Since it’s their job to ensure that the completed product is up to standards, they need to be a part of the grooming process from start to finish. Whether you’re practicing scrum or kanban, it’s all about pulling a team together with a variety of tools to create a high-performance environment that maximizes productivity. Backlog grooming is part of that — and it’s a meaningful way to keep product development organized and running smoothly.

backlog grooming best practices

Even if you don’t lay out their full acceptance criteria, you can share what they will be and why they’re important enough to be on the backlog. Iguratively to mean an accumulation of tasks to start or resume in the future. Product teams quite perform this approach to calculate and compare the ongoing monetary costs that would result from delaying the completion of each initiative on the team’s backlog. Cost of Delay is a prioritization framework that helps businesses quantify the economic value of completing a project sooner than later. The Product Backlog is a live document requiring continuous updating based on the evolving project requirements throughout the development phase. When the stakeholders or clients, or business gets the most valued functionality at the earliest, we conclude the project being successful.

Last but certainly not least, is that you need to foster strong communication in order to have an effective backlog grooming meeting. It’s really important to listen to your team members during these meetings and to keep an open mind when it comes to anything product related, and adjust accordingly. There needs to be a precedent set amongst all parties involved to respect the differences in opinion and utilize the different skills and competencies of all individuals. At the end of the day, you’re all working towards creating the best product possible. There’s no better way to prepare for your backlog grooming meeting than to take a look at your key metrics or OKRs. Monitor your key metrics to see if your items are prioritized accordingly and to notice if there have been any significant changes.

So, invest more in discussions and motivate the participants to express any concerns they may have. 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. If you are adapting agile to work on time-bound projects, Backlog Refinement will be particularly vital. In order to make your deadline, you may have to sacrifice some of the ‘nice to have’ items in the backlog in order to get the priority items finished and polished.

Recommendations for Product Owners

However, understanding how to conduct a backlog grooming session and how to conduct backlog management has been an ongoing challenge. The goal of backlog refinement is to fill the backlog with activities that are relevant, well-documented, and prioritized in line with the demands of the customer and business. To identify and list relevant initiatives, make sure that items are documented clearly and prioritized in accordance with your team and any other parties involved. Make sure that you and your team are only committing to the most relevant tasks for delivery in the following sprint. Your refinement sessions serve as a way to take that messy-looking list and create a manageable list of tasks that the team can refer to in order to prioritize their tasks appropriately.

  • As team members gain more information on a backlog’s user relevancy, new discoveries and information and the “why” behind prioritized backlog items, they gain clarity regarding future sprints.
  • We’re sure you’ll love it, and if you need a hand, we’re here and happy to help.
  • Many Scrum Masters and other product leaders time box user stories to maximize efficiency.
  • The refinement meeting itself is an effective communication means within the Scrum Team.
  • Teams that resort to adding last-minute work to an ongoing sprint end up with scope creep, which isn’t an ideal situation.

Try to invite only the people who are critical for helping in the grooming session. 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.

Eliminate Unwanted Stories

Where there have been changes, think about how you can adjust the strategy so that you can still hit your main goals. Because the backlog is always having items added to it, sometimes by upwards of 10 individuals in different positions, the backlog can get pretty loose. Backlog grooming agenda helps alleviate some of the messiness created by your product manager, project manager, developers, QA testers, or anyone else contributing . Sometimes, when we know we have more time, the conversation can deviate from its initial purpose.

backlog grooming best practices

Agile Product Backlog Grooming, also known as product backlog refinement, is an activity that helps you to improve your product backlog continuously. It is essential that every team member has a chance to contribute ideas and participate in the debate on backlog items even if they don’t attend the meetings in person. Once you have the backlog items listed and grouped, it’s time to prioritize them. Backlog grooming progressively defines and prioritizes all tickets found in the backlog, so your team is well-prepared to begin development.

Who attends a backlog grooming session?

Ensure upcoming user stories meet the team’s “definition of ready” by adding key contextual information and acceptance criteria. In a backlog grooming meeting, there will be different opinions, but everyone on the team is working towards creating the best product. They might clash on how to do that, but their motivation is passion and experience. A product owner or manager must keep this in mind and act kindly towards all.

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. As grooming progresses, a very rough list of work turns into precise and defined granular tasks. Imagine starting with the ticket “bake a cake” in the backlog. 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.

backlog grooming best practices

Don’t make the product grooming sessions overly crowded by inviting too many people. The whole point of backlog grooming sessions is listening to everyone and ensure that all team members get an opportunity to speak their minds. Sometimes during a grooming session, the team discovers another task that must be completed before executing a new feature. Adding new user stories in this situation ensures there are no gaps or missed steps as the team works on tasks in the backlog. The objective of a backlog grooming session is to position the team to deliver a better product more efficiently.

Regular grooming keeps the backlog organized, and helps to ensure the most urgent and valuable stories are developed first. Backlog grooming backlog refinement techniques must have a lodestar to follow and the guide is always the customer. Customers can be like a rule against which all else is measured.

How Long Should Backlog Grooming Take?

This one is a no-brainer, as it’s the basic function of this process. Consists of tickets that represent all the work that needs to be completed during a project, no matter how detailed the information. Scheduling the session and ensuring the right people are invited . With a well-groomed backlog, no one needs to ask another person what’s going on.


Further in the process, a backlog grooming session is conducted to reevaluate priorities, clean, and organize the product backlog for improving sprint planning productivity. The goal of a backlog grooming session is to keep the team’s backlog up to date and make sure that backlog items are prepared for sprints or for sprint planning. This pre-planning and process of backlog refinement assists product managers https://globalcloudteam.com/ explain the strategy that inspires updates and changes to the prioritized backlog items. One of the major purposes of product backlog grooming is to maintain an efficient workflow and boost the productivity of the product development team. A groomed backlog helps your team to understand the requirements better. Also, backlog refinement ensures no room for confusion and all tasks are clear for the team.

Let us understand the basics of Product Backlog Refinement first before we proceed ahead with understanding the best practices. Principle and drive the conversation towards the missing elements. Save judgment and questions for after someone finishes saying their piece. When the time is right, follow up with questions, clarifications, or offer opinions in a constructive, empathetic way. This approach provides a solid structure that keeps meetings — and more importantly, the backlog — consistent and easy to follow.

Stakeholders from other departments probably won’t understand vague descriptions or technical jargon. You’ll also want to look at the key metrics up to this point and be ready to talk about any changes or discrepancies that have occurred recently. Every item in the backlog must be thoroughly explained with all the appropriate details. Categorization of features depends upon how customers react to the offered functionality.

Taking your entire team’s advice can be disruptive – it’s often better to involve those most informed and experienced in the matter. Once the team has prioritized their Product Backlog, they should start at the top of the list and work down. Prioritization only works if the team follows through on their commitments. Teams should make an effort to make sure the priority items remain the most important. Score your Product Backlog items based on how much they matter to your project and the people who benefit from it. Consider metrics like customer value, ROI , or interdependencies.

The individual who leads the meeting — product manager, product owner, or someone else. Now, let’s observe some handy prioritization techniques to identify the backlog items that should be addressed the soonest. 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.

The product is being created for customers, and hence, you should keep them in mind every step of the way. As the product team is the one delivering the increments, they need to have an impact on its shape. They are often best placed to offer insights into what works and what doesn’t. Friction logs are a good source of user feedback.The product discovery process never stops. The needs of users or market trends change and you should be constantly looking for new opportunities. To start with, the Product Owner or Product Manager should review the product roadmap and the strategic objectives.

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