Cheat Sheet for Backlog Refinement

Last Updated on Saturday, 2 November 2013 04:02 Written by Derek Huether Saturday, 2 November 2013 04:02

Meeting

What is it?

The purpose of backlog refinement (grooming) is to make improvements to the product backlog.  Though there is no official ceremony detailed in the Scrum Guide, the activity of refining the Backlog is.

Who does it?

Backlog Refinement is a collaborative effort involving:

  • (Optional) facilitator – (like a ScrumMaster) keeps the session moving toward its intended goal
  • (Optional) representative(s) from the Management Team – clarify the high level priorities
  • (Mandatory) representative(s) from the Product Owner Team – clarify the details of the product backlog items
  • (Mandatory) representatives from the Agile Delivery Team – define the work and effort necessary to fulfill the completion of agreed upon product backlog items.  It is recommended to have at least one developer and one tester when refining the backlog, to ensure alternate viewpoints of the system are present.

When is it?

Before development of a user story in the current sprint (iteration), generally sometime during the previous 1 or 2 sprints, the team sits down to discuss the upcoming work. Do not wait too late to add details, because the delay will slow the team down. Do not refine your stories too far in advance, because the details might get stale. Depending on the delivery rate of your teams, you should be meeting once or twice a week to review the backlog.

Before You Begin

We need to ensure:

  • The product backlog is top-ordered to reflect the greatest needs of Management Team and the Product Owner Team
  • Candidates for grooming include stories identified as not ready to complete within the next sprint or will require multiple days of research
  • Epics, features or other items on the Management Team roadmap are reviewed periodically

The Backlog

The product backlog can address anything deemed valuable by the Product Owner Team. For the purpose of sprint planning, when using Scrum as the delivery framework, product backlog items must be small enough to be completed and accepted during the sprint and can be verified that they were implemented to the satisfaction of the Product Owner team. 

Estimate

Backlog items must be completed in a single sprint or split into multiple user stories. While refining, give stories an initial estimate to see if they are small enough. If not, split them. The best way to split product backlog items is by value and not by process.

Acceptance Criteria

All stories require acceptance criteria. Without it, you can not define the boundaries of a user story and confirm when a story is done and working as intended. Ensure acceptance criteria is testable.   This is what your testers should be writing tests against.

Rewrite Written Stories

Ensure the user story format is consistent, INVEST criteria is being met, and is written from a business not technical perspective.  Know who the customer is. It may not be an end user. Rather, the story may be for something like a service, to be consumed by another team.

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Simple Cheat Sheet to Sprint Planning Meeting

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 March 2014 10:03 Written by Derek Huether Thursday, 9 August 2012 08:36

Scrum ImagesWhat is it?

The purpose of the Sprint Planning Meeting is for the entire team to agree to complete a set of ready top-ordered product backlog items. This agreement will define the sprint backlog and is based on the team’s velocity or capacity and the length of the sprint timebox.

Who does it?

Sprint planning is a collaborative effort involving:

  • ScrumMaster – to facilitate the meeting
  • Product Owner – to clarify the details of the product backlog items and their respective acceptance criteria
  • Entire Agile Team –to define the work and effort necessary to meet their commitment to complete product backlog items

Before You Begin

Ensure all items to be discussed meet the teams definition of “ready”, to include (for example):

  • relative story point value
  • dependencies removed
  • testable examples
  • clearly defined acceptance criteria

All items to be discussed reflect the greatest needs as identified by the Product Owner at the time of the meeting.  There needs to be a general understanding (and agreement) of the acceptance criteria for these top-ordered backlog items.

The Backlog

The product backlog can address just about anything, to include new functionality, bugs, and risks. For the purpose of sprint planning, product backlog items must be small enough to be completed (developed, tested, documented) during the sprint and can be verified that they were implemented to the satisfaction of the Product Owner. 

Right Sizing Backlog Items

Product backlog items determined to be too large to be completed in a sprint, based on historical data of the team, should not be considered as sprint backlog candidates during the sprint planning meeting and should be split into smaller pieces. Remember, each story must be able to stand on its own (a vertical slice).  It should not be incomplete or process based (a horizontal slice).

Plan Based on Capacity

Mature teams may use a combination of team availability and velocity to forecast what product backlog items can be finished during the sprint.  New teams may not know their velocity or it may not be stable enough to use as a basis for sprint planning.  In these cases, new teams may need to make forecasts based solely on the team’s capacity.

Determining Velocity

The velocity of a team is derived by summing the story point estimates of all completed and accepted work from the previous sprint.  By tracking team velocity over time, teams focus less on utilization and more on throughput.  Never use the velocity of another team to plan your sprint.

Determining Capacity

For teams without a stable velocity, the capacity of a team could be derived from three simple measures for each team member:

  • Number of ideal hours in the work day
  • Days in the sprint that the person will be available
  • Percentage of time the person will dedicate to this team

The Planning Steps

  1. The Product Owner describes the highest ordered product backlog item(s)
  2. The team determines and prioritizes what is necessary to complete that product backlog item(s)
  3. Team members volunteer to own the work
  4. Work owners estimate the ideal hours they need to finish their work
  5. Planning continues while the team does not exceed determined capacity
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