Backlog grooming, or backlog refinement is the work that is done to analyse and improve and estimate user stories, epics and technical tasks yet to be done by the team.  When a software team has a list of work to do, this is known as the backlog.  Backlog grooming is the work done by the team, ususally led by the business analyst or product owner to clarify each requirement that is about to be assigned to a sprint.

Who performs Backlog Grooming

At first pass this needs to be performed by the product owner or business analyst, thereafter the whole team needs to ensure that they share a common understanding so that the backlog item can be worked on, with certainty of doing the right thing.

Why do we Groom the Backlog

The backlog can be a very long list of “things to do” it can be a mix of

  • Functional user stories
  • Non functional requirements
  • Technical tasks
  • Ideas
  • Epics

We cannot work on or expect team members to work on items from the backlog that have not been scrutinised, clarified, prioritised and sized.  To do so would be wasteful.  So we need to ensure that the wording and understanding of each backlog item is clarified, corrected, documented, prioritised and peer reviewed before it enters a sprint for work.  Remember that refinement of a user story is itself a backlog item.

Ideal timing of Backlog Grooming

There are different schools of thought on this.  Many Agile pundits will say “as late as possible to avoid waste”.  Others say, as early as possible to determine whether or not the story is worthy of prioritisation.  Without the help of automation, grooming each backlog item is rather tedious work and often involves several team members.  It can be rather tedious work, and most developers will push back on it, until it is a self-evident high priority.

Thanks to automated analysis, we can now groom user stories faster and earlier, so that we can establish a more complete picture of the undertaking.  In short automated backlog grooming has arrived and it helps a lot.

Backlog Grooming Automation

Automated backlog grooming is available from ScopeMaster.  ScopeMaster will groom your backlog for you:

  • Reads and interprets each backlog item
  • Determines if contains clear functionality
  • Identifies users
  • Tests for good and bad language of requirements
  • Cross-references all user stories
  • Assesses Clarity
  • Assesses Completeness
  • Assesses Duplication
  • Assesses User-centricity
  • Assesses technical jargon
  • Assesses conciseness
  • Assesses for buried functionality
  • Assigns quality scores
  • and more.

And it does all this in seconds.  The bigger the backlog, the more work that ScopeMaster performs for you.

For more on Backlog Grooming check out this article