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Product Backlog Grooming Issues And What Should An Ideal Grooming Session Include?

By Author: mrugesh panchal

A properly groomed product backlog goes a long way in streamlining the scrum implementation process. When the product backlog items are properly classified and stated it becomes easy for the development team to churn out shippable user stories at the end of sprint iterations. It is very important that the user stories be arranged and classified on the basis of their business values, and the product owner should ensure that groomed backlog items are made available to the team during the sprint planning meeting, during which, some of the user stories having high business values are taken up in the sprint backlog, so the team members can segregate them into developable tasks.

Issues with scrum implementation when grooming is not carried out
When proper grooming is not done, it creates many issues with scrum implementation:
Special time has to be invested during the sprint planning meeting
Each ceremony in scrum is time boxed. Sprint planning meetings are scheduled to be completed in the time allotted for them – they should not extend the time limit. When groomed backlog items are not ready, special time has to be invested by the product owner to groom the items during the sprint planning. This is in contrast of the aims and objectives of sprint planning since only sprint related activities and discussions ought to be carried out during the meeting.

The development team loses its focus
The team loses its focus when grooming activity is carried out during sprint planning. In reality, the team cannot proceed without the sprint backlog, and the backlog cannot be created unless the items are groomed.

Less important user stories may be taken up for development
User stories having less “worth” or business value may be taken up for development in the haste while preparing the sprint backlog. This is in contradiction of what scrum advocates. User stories having greater values should be taken up first so meaningful and beneficial product increment can occur. It is important to deliver shippable stories having high business values at the end of the sprint so the stakeholders can plan their product release in a proper manner.

What does backlog grooming ideally include?
In practice, backlog grooming should typically include five steps or activities:
1. Analyzing customer and user feedback
2. Getting the stories ready as per backlog specifications
3. Breaking up large epics into smaller user stories
4. Integrating the acceptance criteria in user stories or product backlog items
5. Deciding how to plan and proceed with future sprints

Backlog grooming should ideally be carried out using the DEEP method:
• Detailed appropriately
• Emergent
• Estimated
• Prioritized

The product owner and the scrum master should ensure that the backlog is accessible and visible to all team members at all times. A concisely created product backlog can result into successful sprints and accepted user stories at the end of iteration.

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