Backlog refinement is a core planning activity in Scrum and is an on-going activity throughout the project to constantly improve the process and ultimately output a better product. Most projects will have a product backlog (that which is wanted but not a priority during a sprint). Product backlogs are constant and ever changing as new ideas flow in, existing product needs are refined, new discoveries are made, and priorities and business need change throughout the project timeframe.
So how do you successfully refine project backlog? Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Everyone wants everything in their project. If you follow a few items, such as customer and business value, along with improving the quality of the project, you’ll be well on your way.
- Examine stories frequently. The great thing about Agile development is that it can change based on your priorities. Never again must development teams wait until the very end to see if what they’ve developed is right. The trick is to scrutinize stories to ensure they are getting you the best result.
- Schedule refinement meetings frequently. This keeps the entire team engaged on what should be occurring and what could occur (see #1).
- Refining is planning. If you refine what you are doing, chances are, you’ll get to your successful end goal quicker.
- Never cancel refinement. Ever. Seriously. The team has to be able to refine their priorities (see #1) to ensure that the best product / project is produced. One expert suggests that if you find your spring planning meetings lasting longer and longer, you’ve probably been under-refining. However, if you are doing enough refining, your sprint planning meetings should be effective, focused and short.
We take backlog refinement one step further and work with you to take care of the product by removing unwanted features and defects and other items that are no longer necessary. This ensures that that only valuable features are prioritized and move forward.
Link to video 2 here. Courtesy of agilemethodology.org, this series takes you through the lifecycle of a Sprint, from planning through to retrospective. Let us know what you think about backlog refinement in the comments below.