Agile Software Development

4 Steps to Good Product Backlog Refinement

When distributed teams meet via teleconferencing, and one team is under-caffeinated while the other is hungry for lunch, sloppy sprint goals can result from the ensuing rushed discussion. Samantha Webb writes for Scrum Alliance that improving the product backlog refinement process could indirectly solve this problem.

Telling the Story Right

Since scrum practitioners are generally encouraged to spend 10 percent of their time on the activity of product backlog refinement anyway, they might as well do it to the best of their ability. Ultimately though, responsibility for this lies with the product owner, who works with the team to develop the best process. Webb recommends this four-step process that works well for her team:

  1. Write user stories and define subtasks.
  2. Define acceptance criteria for the story.
  3. Estimate the tasks.
  4. Check against the definition of ready.

The product owner outlines the user journey and corresponding features, and the team then collaborates in deciding how to create actionable tasks out of the user stories. Next, the team examines acceptance criteria, both the functional and nonfunctional aspects, and it is ensured that the team and the product owner are on the same page regarding expected outcomes of user stories.

About the third step, Webb explains:

We use story points to estimate through planning poker — physical cards used during colocated sessions and virtual cards during distributed sessions. We currently do our estimation during the sprint planning meetings, but now that we are an established team and understand our velocity, we are making the move to estimating high-priority items during product backlog refinement sessions when we have the opportunity to do so. We will only estimate in sessions at which the entire dev team is able to attend.

Lastly, the story is compared with the “Definition of Ready” formal document, which should be a preexisting agreement between the development team and the product owner over what allows a story to enter the sprint backlog. By accomplishing these steps, the hope is that you will streamline your sprint planning meetings and make your team more energized and eager to begin as a result.

You can read the original article here: https://www.scrumalliance.org/community/articles/2015/october/good-product-backlog-refinement

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