At the beginning of our adventure with Scrum we had one serious problem in our team – it wasn’t entirely specified what exactly should have been done and what were the client’s expectations. I will always remember our first planning meeting at which we simply couldn’t achieve any consensus whatsoever.
The root cause in the first place was a lack of designated person, someone who could be a Product Owner from client’s side; but that wasn’t all. There wasn’t such thing as grooming, or as it is now called – refining. Instead, there were many questions popping out during the planning meeting, which sometimes caused it to go on forever. It was too late to discuss those questions and it caused problems in our sprints. Later on, we’ve managed to understand the problem and started having regular, informal meetings to discuss the requirements. Everything was starting to look better and process was improved.
However, I could see the true value and benefits of backlog refining only a bit later, in a different project. Backlog Refining is an integral part of every sprint and is held on every Friday, before beginning new sprint on Monday. The backlog itself is more or less ready (we are still struggling with DOR compliance) and the tasks are prioritized. Before every meeting, the team spends some time on preparations; it goes through the user stories, checks the requirements or bring up questions and doubts. In a meeting itself, the person who more or less holds Product Owner role is also present. He is responsible for clarifying and detailing requirements to the team. During the meeting we ask PO questions, provide him with our view on problems, we discuss our ideas and potential solutions analyzing information given by PO. This way something new happens, the common understanding or vision is created for solving particular problems. This is very important, as it allows the whole team to bond on their common understanding and facilitates further work. What is more, often at this point we do estimates for user stories. When all doubts are cleared up it is safe to say that the team commits to implement the solutions according to the conditions and information gathered during the meeting to satisfy PO’s requirements. This is the main value of backlog refining when the team shares common knowledge and vision for resolving each task. The tasks are simply ready to work on. Thanks to this in the planning meeting we mostly focus on agreeing on priorities and estimate only what’s still left. What is most important, if required, team knows what and how to estimate, and it goes smoothly. We have time to elaborate on what and how will we implement and the meeting takes less time, increasing overall performance.
It is quite possible that for most of you the process looks more or less the same, but still maybe some of you have similar problems to the ones we used to have. This is why I’d like to recommend you to check how backlog refining can help in your everyday work.