Backlog Grooming: Benefits, Tools & Best Practices

Feature-epics in a release cycle can and should be estimated in relative size terms, but without expending the effort needed to break down all feature-epics in a release cycle into individual stories. This epic-level estimation can be done by comparing relative sizes of epics. There is no need to estimate epics in “swags” or “bigness numbers” which are entirely unrelated to story points. Easy Agile TeamRhythm transform your flat product backlog, prioritizing based on value to the customer and bringing the customer journey to life. They help teams organize and prioritize user stories while visualizing the customer journey. Keeping your customers embedded in your process will help you make refinement decisions that are in the best interest of the customer, no matter what phase of development you’re in.

deep backlog

Create a backlog refinement template in Asana to expedite your next refinement session. Work with your team to find the best process for your situation. In some cases, you may delegate backlog refinement responsibilities to team members who are focused on a specific part of the sprint. Traditionally, Agile project management includes a product leader or owner who organizes the product backlog. In some forms of Agile like Scrum, the Scrum master is the one responsible for refining the backlog.

Backlog Grooming Team

This in turn reduces the likelihood of delivering a successful product. The product backlog resembles a disguised requirements specifications, which is a common trap to fall into. Items at the top are a higher priority, and items toward the bottom are a lower priority. When deciding which items should be prioritized, consider the value each item will provide. Since not much is known about them, it’s difficult to properly estimate items that are lower in priority. When you are further down the priority list, your estimation will be more of a guess since you don’t have all of the information yet.

Team members can clarify whether old backlogs should remain, then help to prioritize those that make the cut. Doing so removes clutter that can distract from accomplishing necessary work going forward. The granularity or size of work items should be determined based on how far into the future you are planning a product, i.e., the planning horizon. The longer or shorter the planning horizon, the larger or smaller the work items.

  • Custom formulas work well for prioritizing backlogs in situations with a lot of data and a lot of complexity.
  • These estimations should then be continually reviewed to update them based on current information.
  • A DEEP product backlog clearly helps us to zero in on user stories that are most important or most valuable.
  • Furthermore, we advise you to give the rest of your cross-functional team a heads up before your grooming session.
  • Even then, it might seem like you’re squeezing a lot of work into a short block of time, but if you’re properly prepared you can easily have effective sessions.

Are there any bugs, dependencies, or other issues to be resolved? The process works only if proper people with proper knowledge should be involved. They should know items, how they fit business, and who provides item context. The Owner, scrum master, developers, and users have to share the Project’s thoughts and build a clear strategy. Developers should participate in the discussion to understand the process and what types of work they will face.

So we’re not worrying about precision; we need an approximate estimate based on our current understanding of the feature request. A Product Backlog Item is estimated when the team has assigned it a value that represents its approximate size. This mnemonic helps us remember the qualities of a healthy backlog. Once we know what healthy looks like, it’s easier to see where we can improve and advance toward that target. Product Backlog is an ordered list of everything that is known to be needed in the product.

Your financial situation is unique and the products and services we review may not be right for your circumstances. We do not offer financial advice, advisory or brokerage services, nor do we recommend or advise individuals or to buy or sell particular stocks or securities. Performance information may have changed since the time of publication. Product managers, portfolio managers, and scrum masters need visibility in the entire application lifecycle to avoid risks of application delivery delays. Note that epics and stories are conceptually different, and should not be mixed or aggregated while developing a rank order. Stories are independent; they offer distinctly different functionality and don’t overlap.

Software like Asana keeps your sprint structured, clarifies owners and deadlines for every task, and makes important details easy to find. While the language is different, backlog refinement and backlog grooming mean the same thing. The language recently shifted away from the term “grooming” to avoid the negative connotation. However, backlog refinement and backlog grooming are often used interchangeably. Five popular tools for backlog grooming include, Trello, Jira, Yodiz and Pivotal Tracker. Here is a closer look at why each one best suits backlog grooming teams.

Understanding the Science of Customer Journey and Lifecycle

The Scrum Master helps understand good items’ properties and prioritize them to maximize the value delivered. DEEP Backlog ensures that high-priority items on the top list have a Ready for Implementation level. Objects with less priority level should have less description and effort. To maintain our backlog, Jordan (our CEO & product manager) will review new issues, and compare them to the existing prioritized backlog, to see where in the stack they rank. To reach that goal, there are specific user stories that must be completed – often ones that depend on one another in a, well, waterfall pattern. If your team is in a position where there are goals with deadlines, you might choose to put critical path items at the top of your queue.

deep backlog

Every task should berelevant,contributing to the story at hand. Usually the Backlog items are independent there may still be few unavoidable dependencies and they will have an impact on rank ordering. We need to order backlog items according to their dependencies if any item X is dependent of item Y, Y need to be Ranked higher then X. Items near the top of the backlog, will be well defined enough that the team can be productive with them as soon as they pick them up.

When we approach refinement as a collective responsibility, there is an intrinsic shared understanding of the required work. We can pack stories with so much information that no one has the time or desire to read them or supply so few details they’d fit on a fortune cookie strip. The concept is applied throughout the product backlog refinement process, which is a critical part of backlog management. Backlog refinement, previously called backlog grooming, is an ongoing process that ensures a backlog is in tip-top shape. Definition of Ready is implemented to the quality standard, like the definition of Done.

Be a Great Product Owner: Six Things Teams and Scrum Masters Need

I knew the factors that mattered for our team were reaching the most users, and making the most of our limited resources as a small team. So, I settled on the RICE framework for backlog prioritization, pulled everything into a spreadsheet, and got to work. With LogRocket, you can understand the scope of the issues affecting your product and prioritize the changes that need to be made.

deep backlog

Backlog items should be estimated to reflect the cost of implementation. These estimations should then be continually reviewed to update them based on current information. As Pichler advises, we should summon the courage to tell how lengthy and overly detailed product backlogs can make our work harder rather than easier if presented with one. We may make clearer how such backlogs can hurt our ability to deliver a winning product. It’s best to put aside an excessively detailed product backlog handed down to us and develop a fresh one from the roadmap based on the DEEP principles. This attribute of an excellent product backlog is especially critical in Agile.

However, because Stack Ranking relies on just one person, keep in mind that much depends on that person’s perspective and willingness to bring others into the process. If they’re unaware of the value of some user stories or have a bias against them for whatever reason, those issues will likely get missed, even if they’re important. When teams are just starting with agile or if they’re doing a sort of hybrid model, they’ll often have a deadline for a larger feature or a goal. The task needs to be specific and clear defining what needs to be completed? It should be clear to anyone whosoever have the basic knowledge of the project.

Why maintaining a backlog is important

This article offers a deep dive into how to create and manage a backlog with various techniques used to maintain Product Backlog effectively and appropriately. That means the entire cross-functional team should be represented at refinement sessions. You need the combined expertise of the various functions on your team to effectively flesh out your user stories.

The software shows a single view of all work to be done with clear insights into which team members are responsible for each item. The tool also helps teams break down work items—like user stories—into manageable chunks, then prioritize them so team members know what to tackle first. Using this tool, backlog items can be arranged via a drag-and-drop interface onto boards in a card format. Cards allow team members to develop task checklists, tag team members for collaboration, assign tasks and mark due dates.

Backlog refinement is similar to chopping the vegetables before the dinner rush—in this case, the sprint. It helps get everything into place so that when the sprint begins, everyone has all of the information they need at hand and no time is wasted trying to find the right ingredients. It still makes sense to rank order feature-epics in a release cycle to decide which ones will be scheduled in sprint one, two, three, and so on. However, this assignment may change as each sprint is completed and more information and learning emerge.

Want to get used to shipping fast – Some teams can get bogged down, overwhelmed, or just used to shipping slowly. If you need to kick start the habit of moving quickly, focusing on getting lots of things done can help. Have a limited amount of time – Perhaps you’re in a weird seasonal break, or have a bit of extra capacity, like your free 15 minutes to sort the to-do list. The practice of comparing each item to just one other item, and making individual decisions about which is higher priority, is called stack ranking. However, if the team isn’t very experienced with the product area or the company, prioritization by team values may fall flat.

Accountability of Scrum Masters

Based on that discussion, the developers commit to work on a selected set of user stories. The product backlog items are detailed appropriately if higher-priority items are described in more detail than lower-priority ones. “The lower the priority, the less detail, until you can barely make out the backlog item,” write Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle in their book Agile Software Development with Scrum. Following this guideline keeps the backlog concise and ensures that the items likely to be implemented in the next sprint are ready.

The items at the bottom of the backlog only need to have enough detail so that future us will remember what we were referring to. If we get to the next user story and no one remembers what it’s for, it probably wasn’t that valuable. It’s not a miss that we didn’t detail it enough; it’s a good thing that the Product Owner spent their efforts on more valuable items. Maintaining the product backlog is the primary responsibility of the product owner or product manager. Part of that process involves refining details and estimates and prioritizing items.

The backlog might consist of product bugs, new features, technical debt, UI changes, etc. Backlog grooming meetings prepare for long-term future projects. In contrast, a sprint planning meeting focuses on only one short-term work item. In a backlog meeting , user stories, features, bugs and technical work that span multiple sprints are assessed, prioritized, adjusted and added or removed. However, sprint planning focuses on setting a goal for and planning required activities to complete one sprint. Before your backlog grooming meeting, review your quarterly goals so you know which stories should be prioritized in light of them.

Then, during your meetings, discuss each decision or idea against what the customer wants or needs. Doing so sets a strong foundation for successful sprints and product launches. Therefore, agile teams must prioritize (rank-order, to be more precise) which stories to focus on and which lowest rank-order stories could be pushed out of scope when close to the end of a sprint. Linear rank ordering (i.e., 1, 2, 3, 4 ….n) avoids inflation of priority, keeps everyone honest, and forces decisions on what is really important.

Items that will not be developed for a while should be described with less detail. Typically, the items near the top of the backlog are smaller and more fine-grained, but become progressively larger and less specific further down in the product backlog. 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.

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