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Reasons For Carrying Out The Product Backlog Grooming Activity

By Expert Author: mrugesh panchal

What is product backlog grooming?
The main objective of the backlog grooming session is to improve the product backlog and rearrange the user stories or the product backlog items in accordance to the new priorities determined by the stakeholders or the team members. Grooming sessions can also be held to verify the product backlog items whether they have the information necessary to develop the user stories in a more efficient manner. The scrum guide does not try to define what a backlog grooming session actually is because the “grooming” activity may vary from project to project. It is difficult to standardize the process so that it can suit all types of projects. The grooming session are generally held to:
• Write or rewrite the product backlog items or user stories if they are not properly stated or described
• Reschedule or reprioritize the product backlog items based upon the recent updates provided by the stakeholders
• Segregate epics or large user stories into smaller and more manageable ones
• Re-estimate the story points linked with the user stories
• Update or add new acceptance criteria to the user stories
• Analyze the product backlog for planning purposes
Different reasons why the product backlog is refined
The product backlog can be rescheduled or refined for a number of reasons depending upon the changes occurring in the market conditions or new features demanded by the end users. At times, it becomes necessary to weed out less important tasks and replace them with effective ones. The product owner may decide to reprioritize the backlog if he or she feels some of the user stories need to be developed on a priority basis. Usually, the product backlog grooming activity or product refinement is carried out because of three main reasons:

1. Refinement carried out by the stakeholders
As the market conditions keep on changing over time and new competitive products are launched, it becomes necessary for the stakeholders to do away with some of the functionalities in the product which have become obsolete and are no longer needed. It is meaningless to spend time and efforts over features which are not likely to score for the product in the market, and which no longer have a selling value. The investors and stakeholders remain in touch with the ongoing market trends, what the end users require, and how the selling value of the product can be increased by introducing new set of features and functionalities while the product is being developed. The stakeholders may decide to “overhaul” the project by removing some of the features and functionalities, and replace them with new ones, which have added market and selling values.

2. Informal product backlog grooming
One of the important objectives of carrying out the product grooming activity is that the team members too attend the grooming sessions, and it offers an opportunity for the product owner to explain the user stories to the development team. The product owner takes the opportunity to describe and explain the new set of product backlog items to the team members and answer questions regarding the business values of the user stories. It is a great way of understanding what the product eventually focuses to do when it is launched in the market and how it is supposed to behave when fully developed. Generally, the grooming sessions are succeeded by the sprint planning meetings, and the team is able to prepare in advance for the planning meetings in a more meaningful manner. Since the team members become more familiar with the exact functionality associated with the user stories, it becomes easy for them to segregate the user stories into development tasks during the second half of the sprint planning meeting.

3. Periodic refinement carried out by the team members
It is important to carry out “routine maintenance work” and keep the product backlog “in shape” so it becomes easy to plan the sprints. As the sprints progress and development is carried out during the sprinting sessions, some of the tasks are completed and new functionality is developed. At time, the functionality developed can be shared with other resources to be developed, and it is important to identify such resources so duplicate or repetitive development activity can be avoided and time can be saved. The grooming session help to weed out the repetitive tasks and get the backlog back into “shape”. It also provides an opportunity to the team members to ask for clarifications and demand explanations for the stories they find it difficult to understand to the product owner.

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