Refine backlog

Refine backlog2018-05-30T16:43:02+00:00

Refine Backlog Workflow

Context

Summary

Provide a summary of this practice.

Backlog refinement is the practice of validating and streamlining the stories in your backlog.

Purpose

What is the overall goal or intention of this practice?

‘Refining’ (also called ‘grooming’, ‘story time’ or ‘backlog refactoring’) the backlog permits teams to:

  • Confirm that backlog stories are still current and relevant – and eliminate or revise those that aren’t.
  • Refine priorities and estimates to current stories.
  • Refine any backlog stories that are likely to appear in the next 2-3 iterations.
  • Share knowledge and familiarise the team with impending work.
  • Add priorities and estimates to newly added stories.
  • Identify any dependencies, obstacles or special conditions the team should be considering in advance.
  • Identify epics in need of splitting.
  • Facilitate later planning sessions.
  • Manage ‘scope creep’.

SLA

What are the schedule, cost, quality, frequency, performance or other expectations for completing this practice?

  • The backlog should be refined at least once per iteration.
  • A backlog refinement session is likely to take about 1 hour for each iteration you plan to review.
  • About 5-10% of each iteration is likely to be spent in backlog refinement.

Exit conditions

What must have happened or been delivered for this practice to be considered complete?

Backlog refinement is complete when:

  • Enough stories have been reviewed to populate at least the next 2-3 iterations.
  • The team has confidence in their estimate and their understanding of these stories’ business value.
  • Stories have been assigned to an iteration.

However, all such details are provisional.

Entry conditions

What pre-conditions must be met before this practice is used?

N/a.

Outline process

This view shows a simplified version of this process. For full details, explanation and advice, click on the ‘Detailed process’ tab. For background such as entry and exit conditions, click on the ‘Context’ tab.

#StepInstructions
1Organise meeting.
  1. Organise the meeting, inviting the team and Product Owner.
2Update the backlog.
  1. Update the backlog for the next 3-4 iterations by:
    1. Identifying new and changed epics, themes and stories.
    2. Removing redundant and obsolete stories.
    3. Estimating story effort.
3Challenge the backlog.
  1. Review each story for potential issues:
    1. How current are their specific (business) goals?
    2. Are they still of clear business value?
4Update remaining stories.
  1. Optimising and (wherever possible) removing and simplifying scope of the remaining stories:
    1. estimates.
    2. priorities.
    3. acceptance criteria.
    4. special needs of complex, risky & novel stories.
5Split epics.
  1. Where stories are agreed to be too large, complex or risky to implement in a single pass, divide these ‘epics’ into manageable stories.
6Reprioritise stories.
  1. Re-prioritise the backlog.
7Agree actions.
  1. Assign actions arising from the agreed updates to the backlog – risks, technical debt issues, etc.
  2. Identify and log any outstanding issues to be addressed in future iterations.

Detailed process

#StepByOutputInstructionsNotes
1Organise meeting.Iteration Lead.Scheduled meeting.
  1. Organise the meeting, inviting the team and Product Owner.
  • If other stakeholders are required to clarify future backlog items, they may also be invited.
2Update the backlog.Iteration Lead.

Team.

Product Owner.

Updated backlog.
  1. Update the backlog for the next 3-4 iterations by:
    1. Identifying new and changed epics, themes and stories.
    2. Removing redundant and obsolete stories.
    3. Estimating story effort.
3Challenge the backlog.Iteration Lead.

Team.

Product Owner.

Updated backlog.
  1. Review each story for potential issues:
    1. How current are their specific (business) goals?
    2. Are thy still of clear business value?
  • Stories should be re-compared with the standards against which they were originally evaluated (INVEST, etc.).
4Update remaining stories.Iteration Lead.

Team.

Product Owner.

Updated backlog.
  1. Optimising and (wherever possible) removing and simplifying scope of the remaining stories:
    1. estimates.
    2. priorities.
    3. acceptance criteria.
    4. special needs of critical, complex, risky & novel stories.
  2. Identify potential new or changes to stakeholder attitude or involvement.
5Split epics.Iteration Lead.

Team.

Product Owner.

Updated backlog.
  1. Where stories are agreed to be too large, complex or risky to implement in a single pass, divide these ‘epics’ into manageable stories.
6Reprioritise stories.Product Owner.

Team.

Iteration Lead.

Prioritised backlog.
  1. Re-prioritise the backlog.
7Agree actions.Iteration Lead.

Team.

Product Owner.

Agreed actions.
  1. Assign actions arising from the agreed updates to the backlog – risks, technical debt issues, etc.
  2. Identify and log any outstanding issues to be addressed in future iterations.
  3. Identify any changes to stakeholder interests or responsibilities.

Issues & risks

What are the key concerns in making a success of this practice?

  1. Overall responsibility for the quality of the backlog lies firmly with the Product Owner. The role of leads and teams is solely to support them in fulfilling this responsibility.
  2. The ease with which you complete Iteration Planning is directly proportional to the effort you put into Backlog Refinement.
  3. Although any team member may usefully contribute to the refinement session, it is not generally necessary for the whole team to attend all such events.
  4. To avoid exhausting the refinement team, divide long sessions into no more than 2 hours.
  5. Avoid scheduling backlog refinement either very early in the iteration (when it will serve little purpose) or very late (when it may distract from completing delivery).
  6. This practice definition assumes that the backlog is refined by the Product Owner and team. It is also valuable for the Product Owner to conduct similar sessions with stakeholders and story owners, using a similar practice.

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