Backlog Refinement Prepares the Team

The third Scrum Event is the Product Backlog Refinement meeting. “Refinement” meetings are time-boxed (usually 1 or 2 hours) and are meant to further prepare and curate upcoming backlog items for the next sprint. From the official Scrum Guide:

<codeblocktest></codeblocktest>

Product Backlog refinement is the act of adding detail, estimates, and order to items in the Product Backlog. This is an ongoing process in which the Product Owner and the Development Team collaborate on the details of Product Backlog items. During Product Backlog refinement, items are reviewed and revised. The Scrum Team decides how and when refinement is done. Refinement usually consumes no more than 10% of the capacity of the Development Team. However, Product Backlog items can be updated at any time by the Product Owner or at the Product Owner’s discretion.

<codeblocktest></codeblocktest>

I reached out to our team to get their perspectives on what value backlog refinement provides to the team.

What value does Product Backlog Refinement provide to the team?

Duane Raiche

<codeblocktest></codeblocktest>

The backlog refinement meeting is all about preparation. Sometimes it gives you the chance to review upcoming work that you want to do, and make sure that you actually have a good understanding of what’s required (and gives you time to get any dependencies out of the way.) At other times, it can drive decisions on if work further down the road is still worth doing, after learning more about the effort required. But perhaps most importantly, sprint refinement broadens the team’s vision. As you refine further down the backlog you see more of the big picture; you get to start planning your architecture more during your current work, and maybe you see areas where if you develop a feature in a specific way it will speed up a future feature that you’ve learned about from refinement.

<codeblocktest></codeblocktest>

Jeff Bubolz

<codeblocktest></codeblocktest>

Product backlog refinement is like getting things ready for yourself and your family the night before work and school. Most of us know how it feels to wake up in the morning and not have enough time to get everything ready. Unforeseen things happen, we run out of things for lunch, the kid’s homework is not done, clothes are not washed or ironed, we run out of coffee. It’s painful, rushed and just not a good way to start your day. Product Backlog refinement is like taking care of those items the night before, and a way to ensure that you start the next sprint off on the right foot. Refinement will help you identify dependencies, clarify requirements, decompose PBIs, and gain subject matter expertise. Refinement will allow you to think about what and why behind the work and help everyone on your team see the big picture and think of creative ways to deliver business value sooner to the organization.

<codeblocktest></codeblocktest>

Tyler Evert

<codeblocktest></codeblocktest>

Backlog Refinement meetings help the team glean clarity and purpose from the backlog. Clarity over the work makes sprint planning short and painless, while preventing nasty surprises and giving them technical vision to anticipate and generally keep in mind. The purpose that comes out in the backlog refinement is just as key. Purpose is one of the three great motivators for knowledge work (see Drive). Knowing how and why their work is valuable to someone boosts team engagement and personal satisfaction.

<codeblocktest></codeblocktest>

Erin Koth

<codeblocktest></codeblocktest>

Backlog Refinement gives the team a look forward into the work that is coming up. It allows them to understand the vision of the product they are working on and to gain understanding of the problems they will be trying to solve in the next few sprints. The biggest value I’ve seen is in the conversations generated in Backlog Refinement, gaining a better understanding of the requirements, the work that is going to be done, the problems the team needs to solve and the value they are going to deliver. That understanding and forward looking vision gives the team the ability to adapt their solutions to be forward thinking and allow them to make some implementation decisions with a longer view. “If we do implement the zugzug in the flizzerp manner, it will be super easy to implement the guzguz in the future.”

<codeblocktest></codeblocktest>

Tom Deitz

<codeblocktest></codeblocktest>

From my perspective refinement meetings provide a lot of benefits but one that I am particularly interested in is the idea of a “mini” design session with the entire team. Many times on our project teams we do collaborative design sessions for features that are in sprint. We revisit our personas and highlight the goals the goals a particular feature solves for the user. We gain a clear understanding of where we are all headed from a structural and aesthetic point of view. If we can get a head start on some of these conversations or even begin to sketch out some wireframes together in refinement we can move even more quickly once we get a feature in sprint to validate assumptions, discover nuances we might have missed or even pivot to better help our users achieve their goals. Another benefit I have noticed by going to the whiteboard or sketching a UI on paper during refinement is the entire team begins to think more deeply about what it is going to take to get that particular functionality completed so there are less “gotchas” once development begins.

<codeblocktest></codeblocktest>

Are there other valuable takeaways that you have experienced from Backlog Refinement meetings?

Get your project started today

Get in Touch