The Product Backlog is arguably the most important piece of a Sprint, because it’s the one list everyone on the Team works from. That being said, how complete and accurate is your Product Backlog? Does your Product Owner refine it often? Is it a living document, or something written on a whiteboard during a feeble attempt to be Agile, then forgotten about?
Reminder—What is a Product Backlog?
ou can think of the Product Backlog as an iceberg, a dynamic entity. New ideas are constantly coming in and old ideas are falling off the bottom, melting away. The Product Owner maintains the Product Backlog; taking in new ideas, refining existing ideas, and always keeping it in priority order, based on everyone’s feedback.What
What is Product Backlog Refinement
The core focus of the Sprint is to deliver Potentially Shippable Product Increments. These increments are made up of one or more Product Backlog Items. One of the keys to success in Scrum is being able to take a Product Backlog Item into a Sprint and get it to a “Done” state. Unfortunately, many Product Backlog Items are large and therefore contain a lot of hidden scope. When the Team commits to completing a large Product Backlog Item, they typically don’t have time to get it done and fail their Sprint.
Product Backlog Refinement is a time for the Team to meet with the Product Owner to familiarize themself with the Product Backlog Items about to be implemented. Once the Team is familiar with the Product Backlog Item, they can decompose it into smaller Product Backlog Items if deemed necessary. This way, the Team is familiar with highest Priority Product Backlog Items before committing to implementing them in Sprint Planning.
Why Product Backlog Refinement is important
If you have a Product Backlog that’s messy, unclear, and unordered, it makes for a chaotic and inefficient Sprint. Team Members may feel overwhelmed by a long, disorganized list, Stakeholders won’t understand what’s going on within each Sprint, and there’s strong potential for items to be misunderstood, leading to wasted effort and redoing of tasks.
Also, if your Backlog isn’t ordered correctly, the Team may work on things that aren’t as important as other items further down on the list.
That’s why it’s crucial for the Product Owner to continually work with the Team to refine and clarify items within the Product Backlog.
If your Product Backlog hasn’t been refined yet, take this as your sign to schedule a meeting with the entire Scrum Team and get things organized for 2022!