How to master backlog refinement meetings

Atlassian 作者:Atlassian
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For Agile software development teams, maintaining a consistent understanding of the scope and context of the product is critical. Products already released to market often have a large backlog of user stories yet to be developed. Agile teams draw from the product backlog when planning sprints, and the condition of the backlog plays a significant role in the overall success of the product.

In simple terms, backlog refinement is about keeping the product backlog up to date. Backlog refinement meetings, also known as “sessions,” are the events that allow a team to update and prepare the backlog for an upcoming sprint.

A product backlog can be large and difficult to manage. But for good Agile project management, it is essential to master backlog refinement meetings.

This article provides proven strategies for conducting backlog refinement meetings that keep your backlog current, clean, and organized. It explains why backlog refinement sessions are important, how to run efficient sessions, and helpful tips Agile teams have learned along the way.

The purpose of backlog refinement sessions

A backlog refinement meeting is when a project team meets to review, update, and clean its product backlog. It is crucial in any Agile methodology, as it clarifies the team’s workload for a future sprint. These meetings aim to maintain two sprints worth of items in the backlog so the team always has a fresh supply of work and can pivot to new tasks when requirements change.

In a backlog refinement meeting, like in sprint planning, product owners and development team members discuss each backlogged item, clarify its requirements, and assess its priority and complexity, resulting in a more clearly defined and actionable list of items to work on.

By regularly conducting backlog refinement sessions, the team can ensure the development process remains agile and responsive to changing needs and priorities. Such dynamic environments require collaboration and project tracking tools like Jira Software, which has a backlog feature, help managers make those changes for their teams at large.

How to run an efficient backlog refinement meeting

Agile project management begins with efficient backlog refinement meetings. The following steps will help you create a smooth and repeatable process that assembles the right people, sets expectations, prioritizes and evaluates items, and defines the next steps.

1. Review and prioritize backlogged items

Before the backlog refinement meeting can take place, the product owner needs to do an initial review of existing product backlog items (such as user stories, features, or tasks) and remove those that are no longer relevant. As a product evolves and feature requirements change, some items will no longer fit the project vision. The product owner should also implement feedback from previous sprint reviews and clear items the team decides to remove.

The product owner should then prioritize all items that remain in the backlog, knowing this prioritization may change as the team deliberates on each item at the meeting.

2. Create and share the meeting agenda

Like any meeting in a project management context, an agenda is essential to keep discussions on topic. Product owners can create the backlog refinement meeting agenda and collaborate with relevant team members, allowing them to give early feedback and time estimates on the items and prepare for the upcoming topics.

The agenda’s main purpose is to keep the team focused on the selected backlog items and successfully complete the refinement activities within the time set for the meeting. Atlassian’s meeting agenda template makes setting agendas, capturing notes, and sharing action items easy for Agile teams by providing a premade format for your meeting minutes.

3. Ensure necessary participants are present

Because backlog refinement meetings can involve complex discussions and sometimes run for a full hour, it is vital to invite only the needed participants.

Who should be in the backlog refinement meeting? A typical session requires the attendance of the following team members:

  • The product owner
  • Development team members (Scrum team)
  • The project sponsor
  • The meeting facilitator (Scrum Master)
  • A product manager (optional)

4. Determine the right time to meet

The best time to meet depends on the length of the sprints and the complexity of the project. If a team holds weekly sprints, the project manager should have a backlog refinement session weekly. If sprints are two weeks, the project manager should plan a session every other week. If the sprints are longer than two weeks, bi-weekly sessions are still best to help the team prepare for changing priorities or unforeseen issues.

Whatever the team decides, aim for hour-long meetings to tackle the entire backlog and ensure the product manager schedules them on the calendar and the meeting facilitator rigorously timeboxes them to avoid wasted time.

5. Evaluate the user story

For an Agile team to successfully evaluate the complexity of an item, they must have a shared understanding of the user story. User stories are informal explanations of what the feature does from the customer’s perspective.

The backlog refinement meeting is the time to examine existing user stories and evaluate whether they are still relevant to the project. This is also the time to add new user stories based on newly gathered insights or to split larger user stories into smaller ones. This continuous improvement of the user stories is an important part of the Agile process as it allows the team to identify opportunities to improve the product incrementally.

Identify next steps and follow up

During a backlog refinement meeting, the team will identify items to include in the sprint and remove the rest. In some instances, a session can reveal multiple backlog items with the same priority, but the team might not have enough time to complete all of them. Agile planning poker cards are a helpful tool for deciding which items to move forward with and which to save for the next sprint.

When the meeting ends, follow up by sending the meeting minutes to all participants and ensuring they understand the priority of the items discussed. Breaking down the development into action items using a tool like Jira Software helps keep the critical backlog components in focus. This prioritized backlog then becomes the focus of the next sprint planning session.

Benefits of productive backlog refinement sessions

When done correctly, product backlog refinement meetings contribute to overall efficiency and team productivity, and ensure project completion. The following sections outline some of the advantages of backlog refinement sessions.

Optimized backlog

These sessions declutter and optimize the process. They keep the product backlog focused and clean and ensure it is not clogged with irrelevant items.

达成共识

Because these meetings require the team to discuss each item in detail, the team and stakeholders develop a shared understanding of what the work requires and which items should be prioritized.

Effective sprint planning

Meeting participants can ask questions and offer feedback, resulting in streamlined sprint planning meetings. In addition, the shared understanding of the project makes sprint planning easier and quicker.

改进协作

Team members come from various backgrounds and have differing views on priorities and how long items will take to complete. The refinement meeting allows members to share their views, helping them get on the same page about priorities and deadlines.

Empowered team

Team members who participate in refinement meetings take ownership of the sprint and, by extension, the project and the work required to complete it. The result is an empowered team that holds itself accountable for the outcome of each sprint.

Tips for successful backlog refinement meetings

There is an abundance of tips and strategies for conducting backlog refinement meetings. However, the following best practices have proven useful to Agile teams globally.

Keep your backlog DEEP

Roman Pichler and Mike Cohn first used the acronym DEEP to outline a way to structure a backlog to maximize its usefulness. The following are the four elements of a DEEP backlog:

  • Detailed appropriately: Make items useful by adding details.
  • Emergent: Add, change, or remove backlog items based on new insights into the project or with changing project requirements.
  • Estimated: Give each item a time estimate.
  • 确定优先级:通过将价值最高的项目放在列表的顶部,对冲刺中的项目进行优先级排序。

对每个项目使用就绪定义

就绪定义 (DoR) 是一组商定的标准,用于指示待办事项是否已准备就绪,可供团队处理。DoR 可确保团队了解工作需要做的准备,并能够估计完成工作所需的时间。

将项目划分成可管理的块

根据经验来看,拆分工作要确保每个待办事项的完成时间永远不要超过半个冲刺。对于为期一周的冲刺,需要四天才能完成的项目可能会影响时间表,应该分成两个更小的项目,每个项目持续两天。

拆分优化会议

前几次待办事项列表优化会议可能需要几个小时。要保持团队专注并优化与赞助商、产品经理和其他利益相关者的会议时间,一种方法是将会议分成两次或更多次会议,最好每次会议持续一小时。这样做可使参与者有时间查看待办事项,并了解这些待办事项如何适合整个项目。

使用 Jira Software 简化待办事项列表优化会议

产品待办事项优化会议是必不可少的,此类会议会提供经过妥善维护并确定好优先顺序的产品待办事项。但是,这些会议可能既耗时又令人困扰,特别是当您没有使用正确的工具来创建待办事项列表、记录决策并与团队共享时。

Jira Software 的待办事项列表功能使您可以轻松地与团队成员合作,进行待办事项列表的优化工作。您可以为每个项目添加评论和详细信息,为团队成员分配任务,并根据价值或风险列出项目并确定其优先级。Jira Software 可以轻松简化待办事项列表优化会议,并改善整体项目管理流程。了解它如何提高团队的效率。

待办事项列表优化会议:常见问题

待办事项列表优化会议应多久举行一次?

待办事项列表优化会议的频率将取决于团队的冲刺周期。对于持续一周的冲刺,平均频率为每周一次。对于持续两周或更长时间的冲刺,可以每两周召开一次会议来帮助您维护待办事项列表。

待办事项列表优化会议应持续多长时间?

待办事项列表优化会议没有固定的时长,因为它取决于项目的复杂程度和产品待办事项的大小。但是,最好为前几次会议分配两个小时。项目启动后,优化会议通常会限制在一小时,而随着冲刺的推进,这些会议的持续时间通常会缩短。

如何为待办事项列表优化会议做准备?

产品负责人主要负责准备待办事项列表优化会议。他们应根据价值确定项目的优先顺序,为优先级最高的项目添加必要的详细信息,并准备会议议程。团队成员应阅读议程并就所列项目提出问题和反馈。

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