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Product Backlog Prioritization Techniques That Work

The whole project team has a part to play in this practice, as everyone has different expertise to bring to the table. The Project Lead and the Delivery Team should be actively involved in refinement. The Definition of Ready represents all the things that a product backlog item must meet in order to be “Ready” to take into the Sprint. The DoR can serve as a checklist for the team to guide their Product Backlog Refinement process.

Besides, ‘refining’ is a much better description of the aim you are trying to achieve with this practice. You’re not just grooming and trimming things out of the backlog; you’re also taking items within the backlog and developing the context around them so that they are easier to action in future Sprints. For this reason, you also shouldn’t consider Backlog Refinement vs. Sprint planning as an either/or activity. Consistent, embedded use of Backlog Refinement techniques will make planning for Sprints easier.

By whitelisting SlideShare on your ad-blocker, you are supporting our community of content creators. A large backlog, in no particular order, won’t get shorter or more organized by itself, but now you have a set of tools to help you get it on track. Custom formulas work well for prioritizing backlogs in situations with a lot of data and a lot of complexity. Have a limited amount of time – Perhaps you’re in a weird seasonal break, or have a bit of extra capacity, like your free 15 minutes to sort the to-do list. When you’re faced with a large, unordered backlog, it’s hard to say if item #5 is in the right spot.

Technique 4: Cost of Delay

The developers assign a size to each of their Product Backlog items in relation to the reference entry. If they do not understand an item, the question mark is assigned. A shared understanding of the work is established if the Scrum Team and stakeholders jointly discover insights. Hypothesis Canvas and UX Fishbowl are tools to facilitate this discovery. Refers to these items as reminders of conversations that need to happen in the future. Refinement is simply the ongoing activity of having these conversations and thus an essential product management activity.

In order for the refinement process to be considered a success, the team needs to agree that the item has been refined to the extent that it is now actionable. As a result, there would be little point in going through the process without consulting the team. Get them involved, so that they can verify that items are being refined to the correct extent. Johan Karlsson is an Agile coach and Senior Consultant who builds bridges between customers and product teams.

It is the job of the team to estimate the size of the item considering it as the backlog process. If the estimation is done properly then it can serve as a good test for whether or not the team is aligned. If explained more clearly, then we mean to say that each person on the team should be given the chance to provide input to the estimation.

The Product Owner is not involving the entire Scrum Team in the refinement process and instead is relying on just the “lead engineer” . The following are some of the tools that are used in the backlog refinement. If you think you shouldn’t do it near the end of a Sprint, you’re probably cutting refinement too close.

The focus is on what is needed and why, rather than on how to solve the business need. Even with these concerns, Weighted Shortest Job First is one of the simplest holistic techniques for prioritization – it looks at both value and effort, rather than privileging one or the other. Weighted Shortest Job First works great for teams wanting to optimize their time and be really efficient with their work. With this prioritization technique, you’ll maximize value for the amount of effort you put in. I knew the factors that mattered for our team were reaching the most users, and making the most of our limited resources as a small team. So, I settled on the RICE framework for backlog prioritization, pulled everything into a spreadsheet, and got to work.

Backlog refinement techniques

The process of grouping the remaining cards into the new list is repeated until the last card in the pile. A 20/20 vision of the order of the Product Backlog is created, which shows what is important to stakeholders. When all money is spent, the bought items in the list reflect the collectively important items to the stakeholders. Scrum Teams involve possible users of Product Backlog items to determine what items are important. Therefore Scrum Teams refine only items that move further up the Product Backlog.

backlog refinement techniques

No story points are allocated at all, only whether the story is larger or smaller than the one next to it. As a registered visitor, I can see a list of all upcoming “Events” that match my last search so I can decide if I want to attend any. As a registered visitor, I can see a list of all upcoming “Events” so I can decide if I want to attend any.

Agile 101

Reverse — These make users unhappy when they’re there, happy when they’re not. For example, you might implement high-security features requiring an extra step to login. However, if customers do not value enhanced security, they will become dissatisfied with the extra step.

  • If nothing on the list suits your needs, you can always create your own formula, based on a mix of what you see above.
  • Scrum Teams involve possible users of Product Backlog items to determine what items are important.
  • A good rule of thumb to follow for sizing is that no user story should be larger than half the duration of the sprint.
  • Scrum Teams break down Product Backlog items so that the implementation of each item is immediately usable.
  • So take the advice given here as a tool to be used when it makes sense.

The facilitator could be the Scrum Master or the Product Owner, however, I recommend that the Development Team members facilitate their backlog refinement discussions. It helps them to own the process of gathering the details and it makes them more a partner, rather than a downstream customer of the requestor. I took the photo below at a conference at https://globalcloudteam.com/ Florida Blue a few years ago. The items on their definition of ready are typical of what I would use with a new team. You need to learn something – For data infrastructure and analytics features, shipping later means you’ll need more time to gather data before you actually learn something. If you need to learn quickly, that cost of delay might matter.

Preferably will bring back a result before the next meeting so the item can be brought a step closer to being ready. It’s also called story time, pre-planning, and backlog management. This agile refirement technique will help reconnect the leaders, business representatives, and subject matter experts with people who are much closer to the existing product’s challenge at hand. Working with requirements is crucial for Agile software development, Product Backlog Refinement is often used by teams to ensure that all parties understand what is expected of them. The team does the same thing for the sprint backlog, with the additional step of taking any story which is a 13 or higher and breaking it down into smaller stories with the help of the attending PO. The resulting graph provides insights that enable the Scrum Team to eliminate dependencies.

If they’re unaware of the value of some user stories or have a bias against them for whatever reason, those issues will likely get missed, even if they’re important. For teams that have a lot of experience and autonomy, prioritizing on values is both straight-forward and effective. Team members will have a built-in intuition about what matters, and when pointed at the backlog, they’ll be able to clear it fairly quickly. This technique can work well as a starting point for deep strategy work, particularly when you can’t or don’t want to bring a lot of quantitative data to the party.

#6: Cost of Delay

It is better if the Product Owner or requestor or even a business analyst or team member takes some time to document what the request is all about. I teach participants to leverage the ELMO technique during backlog refinement. ELMO is an acronym for “Enough Let’s Move On” and it helps remind people to avoid boiling the ocean or rehashing the same thing over and over. Some teams even find it helpful to bring an Elmo doll to their meetings. Backlog refinement is the process of discussing, breaking down, gathering details, and estimating backlog item.

backlog refinement techniques

But you can probably figure out if #5 should be higher or lower than item #6. Prioritizing by team values means deciding what to work on based on the intuition and ideals of the team. Once a regular cadence of Refinement backlog refinement techniques Meetings is underway, this will be less of a challenge, as everything will be pretty well managed. But this is another reason why establishing good, regular practices around Backlog Refinement is so important.

Tips for Improving Product Backlog Refinement

As it moves up the product backlog, we might consider addressing who benefits from the feature, what they need, and why they need it and write it as a user story. As the user story moves further up the product backlog, we might consider adding acceptance criteria to further clarify the user story. As we discover more, we size it and consider splitting it into multiple user stories if it is too large or too complex. The Scrum Guide defines product backlog refinement as the act of breaking down and further defining product backlog items into smaller more precise items. This is an ongoing activity to add details, such as a description, order, and size.

One Dimension to Rule Them All: When You Need to Narrow Your Focus

To create new stories if required as part of the discovery. Some teams like to do it early in a Sprint, when the insights from inspection and retrospection are still fresh. The Product Owner isn’t part of the Development Team and can invest as much time as necessary and can enlist the help of other members of the Scrum Team. You can reflect new insights easily by adding, changing, and removing items. His approach led him to create our transformative ICAgile Certified Enterprise Agile Coaching training courses, which run worldwide and online. The cards begin to form a long line in relative size order.

Backlog Refinement (Backlog Grooming): How to Embed Best Practices

To reach that goal, there are specific user stories that must be completed – often ones that depend on one another in a, well, waterfall pattern. If your team is in a position where there are goals with deadlines, you might choose to put critical path items at the top of your queue. This massive list included everything from follow-up tasks for previous releases to broad ideas about product direction; from clearly-defined and discrete user stories, to verbatim feedback from customers. The MoSCoW category often is the priority and, since it’s owned by the product owner, has product-driven perspective. The Kano model categorization, on the other hand, based more on input from product management, sales, competition analysis, etcetera, has a market-driven perspective.

That means you might find you’re delaying high-value items for a long time, because they never rise to being the smallest effort. Have a lot of bugs – If your backlog is full of low-effort bugs to fix, you can deliver a lot of user value by just cleaning it up quickly. You’ve probably done this sort of prioritization in your personal life. If you’ve ever had a free 15 minutes, and picked the smallest tasks to finish – you’ve used the smallest effort first prioritization technique. Typically, a product manager will do this prioritization by themselves, because it requires meticulous review and can be kind of tedious. If the backlog isn’t too long , this is a great place to start.

If sizing isn’t already complete, it should be done at this point. The team can adjust the length and frequency of the meeting, or even cancel them altogether, depending on what’s necessary at the moment. The best way to determine how often your team needs Product Backlog Refinements and how long the meetings should last is by gaining experience and making mistakes. Once all the cards are on the table and everyone is happy that the stories are in relative size order, then we go onto the second part of the game. As a registered visitor, I want my time zone to be detected, so that upcoming events are in my time zone. Create a graph using all items as nodes and with the dependencies arrows as edges.

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