Definition of backlog grooming:
Backlog grooming is a meeting of the Scrum team in which the product backlog items are discussed and the next sprint planning is prepared.
How to carry out backlog grooming
The Scrum guide provides guidelines. How can these be implemented in practice?
“Product Backlog refinement is the act of adding detail, estimates, and order to items in the Product Backlog. […] During Product Backlog refinement, items are reviewed and revised. The Scrum Team decides how and when refinement is done.”
In backlog grooming or refinement, the Scrum team considers individual items, for example, user stories that it wants to implement in the next sprint, and specifies the contents. For example, the team discusses the acceptance criteria or which components the user should have access to and what happens if the user makes invalid entries. The Scrum team refines large requirements like epics into small user stories so as to be able to implement them in a sprint. That way user stories will not only be revised in backlog grooming, new ones will also emerge. Many will be completely removed from the product backlog if the workload and benefit no longer match.
To determine the workload of the product backlog items in backlog grooming or refinement, the team allocates story points or calculated person-days if they are planning both agilely and classically. And for the estimation of the priorities, they use techniques like the MoSCoW principle or the Kano model. How often does the team carry out these activities and who participates in them?
“This is an ongoing process in which the Product Owner and the Development Team collaborate on the details of Product Backlog items.”
Backlog grooming is carried out regularly. Many organizations set the meeting three days before the end of a sprint. This way, the product owner has enough time to pursue the problems identified there before the next sprint. Others prefer having the meeting after half the sprint, or once a week. Those involved in the backlog grooming or refinement are the product owner, who leads the meeting, and the development team. If it is required for the situation, then the stakeholders can also be invited. How much time can be made use of?
“The Scrum Team decides how and when refinement is done. Refinement usually consumes no more than 10% of the capacity of the Development Team.”
The Scrum guide is orientated toward the capacity of the development team and requires at most 10 % of their time for a backlog grooming. That is why it is – unlike with sprint planning – not always necessary that all project participants are present. If the developers have to concentrate on the implementation of their user stories, then they don’t need another meeting to be interrupting their work. Normally, one hour is set for the duration and a time span can be defined for the discussion of individual product backlog items, for example, ten minutes, if you still haven’t found a solution after that, you can start with the discussion of the next item. Of course, the total duration of the backlog grooming or refinement also depends on how often you manage to stay under 10% capacity in a sprint.
Advantages of backlog grooming, summarized
Take care of your product backlog
Agile or hybrid projects with backlogs need transparency for all participants. You have to create requirements, user stories, bugs, technical stories or spike stories, manage them in the product backlog and plan releases as well as sprints. In large projects the overview can be lost quickly if you have to manage more than a hundred such items. And many project participants can be indecisive about the priorities or the workloads. Use software with which you can create your backlogs, set priorities and estimate workloads. If you perform backlog grooming, let the entries be visualized simply, for everyone, and clarify questions or uncertainties. Even changes can be directly maintained in a few clicks. That way the work of the product owner is simplified as well as the work of the development team. And the stakeholders will be glad about this.