Friday, October 20, 2017

The Product Backlog Refinement Meeting in Scrum | Supreme Agile

Like a flower growing wild when unattended for too long, the product backlog becomes complicated and non-manageable when it's neglected by the product owner and the team. To overcome this problem and keep the product backlog in a healthy shape, the product backlog needs to be treated with care and attention during each day of the project.

The process that we will use to achieve this goal is called "Refinement", in this process the product owner and the scrum team review the backlog stories and validate that those stories are relevant, Contains the relevant information, prioritized and that the top stories are ready for delivery.

Is it an official scrum meeting?

Although the Refinement meeting has a lot of benefits that will contribute to the process it is not an official scrum meeting (In my personal opinion it MUST be added to it). As more and more teams are using scrum, we can see that more and more of them are discovered this meeting as valuable for both the overall process and the scrum team.  

Grooming or Refinement?

In the last few years we can see more and more companies that use the word "Refinement" instead of "Grooming", the main reason for this syntax changes are most probably related to the negative connection of the word "Grooming", so just know that this process is the same but in some environments, it may also be called "Backlog Refinement".

The Refinement processes

During a product backlog Refinement meeting, both the team and the product owner review the TOP backlog user stories, during this review, each team member has the chance to ask any question that will help him to gain more information about the story and as a result to reduce the same question (Technical and Theoretical) that will most probably be asked during the planning meeting.

Once the questions are asked earlier, the product owner can provide answers immediately, but in some cases the answers are not provided during the meeting, the main issue here and probably the main key of success, is that the PO will address those questions in a way that will help the team to gain confidence in those stories prior they will perform their commitments.  

How Much Time does Refinement Require?

To answer this question, we need to use two main parameters, the first one is the maturity of the product, if the team is familiar with the product the amount of uncertainty and risks are reduced accordingly, the second parameter is the maturity of the product backlog, at the start of the project you will most likely need to invest more time in Refinement sessions that will be reduced once as long as you proceed with the project.

The time basic assumption is that you should assign 5-10% of the team hours for backlog Refinement that should take 2-8H per sprint (The time will be changes based on the two factors described above).

The Refinement Activities
The Refinement process includes different activities that the team will have to follow to make the process right:
  • Splitting large user stories which the team cannot accomplish during a single iteration.
  • Estimate stories and update old estimations based on new information.
  • Splitting user stories that are just too complex for the team to handle.
  • Remove user stories that are not relevant to the project.
  • Add new technical user stories based on the team needs.  
  • Add new user stories based on customer requirements.
  • Remove irrelevant dependencies between stories.
  • Update stories that are not relevant anymore.
  • Stories are reviewed and updated with DOD's, Acceptance criteria and information that will help the team finish the stories.
  • The product backlog is prioritized, the top priority stories will be shown at the top of the list.

How can you Maximize the value?

It’s not a rocket science, the same rules and guidelines that are relevant to any other meeting are also relevant here:
  • Make sure that the backlog stories are updated based on the participants' comments.
  • Let everyone to ask their questions and make sure you provide the answers.
  • Come with a predefined GOAL, the product owner should start the session with a short description about what he wants to accomplish and set the meeting goals.
  • All participants should be motivated to participate and contribute.
  • The meeting should be held without any external interruptions.
  • The meeting should be kept under an agreed timeframe.
  • Only the relevant stakeholders should attend.
  • At the end of the meeting the product owner should validate that the team is familiar with the goals of the next sprint.
  • Invest in the TOP user stories, do not waste time in user stories that may become irrelevant in future sprints.

What are the expected benefits?

  • The product backlog is kept prioritized and ready for the next planning meeting.
  • The Refinement process will help to increase the clarity of the user stories.
  • The Refinement process is fun and will elaborate the team collaboration.
  • The Refinement process will increase the dialogue among the team members and between the team and all other stakeholders.  
  • The Refinement process will help to ensure that the user stories are updated with the relevant details, DOD's and time estimated.
  • The Refinement process will help to reduce the time consumed during the sprint "Planning" meeting because the team is already familiar with the user stories that they will need to commit throughout the sprint.
  • The product owner and the than engage in face-to-face conversation rather than communication via backlog.
  • The Refinement process will help to create a collaborative ownership among the team members.

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