How Backlog Refinement adds value to your work ?

There are 5 ceremonies which usually scrum teams have in sprint cadence. Namely Sprint Planning, Daily Stand up, Sprint Review, Retrospective and Backlog Refinement. All these ceremonies have some purpose and outcome.

Backlog Refinement may happen more than once in the sprint duration. It depends on the team and PO that how frequently they want to meet and refine backlog. Here I would like to share some thoughts and experiences about backlog refinement.

|| What is Backlog Refinement ?

Backlog refinement is an event where team and PO discusses stories at length, add required details, decide acceptance criteria and refine the stories, make stories ready to be taken in the upcoming sprints. Here team decides the story points also for each of the refined stories.

Purpose of this event is to keep backlog ready for upcoming sprints, make team understand the work coming to them; refine the stories till they are not ready for implementations. Team can plan to take the refined stories in immediate next sprint or may be in later sprints also, based on the priority decided by the Product Owner. Here team participate in the whole process and contribute to make this event successful.

|| Who all participate in Backlog Refinement?

Its usually Product Owner, Scrum Master and team members participate in the Backlog Refinement. Team can invite some SMEs to help them on clarifying some doubts. But it’s more of Team’s and POs meeting to discuss upcoming backlog items.

|| When it can happen?

It’s completely up to the team and Product Owner that how frequently they want to meet to refine the backlog. Usually if the team is new, it is advised that at least twice in a sprint time team should meet for backlog refinement. Once team is kind of settled, they can meet once in a sprint, but it should be at least once in a sprint time to make sure they are revisiting the backlog and aware of upcoming sprint’s prioritized stories.

|| Some misconceptions about Backlog Refinement

  1. Sometimes it happens that Scrum Master and Product Owner meet separately and decide on what needs to be taken in next sprint, and team is informed later on their decision, this is not backlog refinement.
  2. Sometimes team is there in meeting but leads, Scrum master and Product owner discuss and decide on backlog items, nobody ask team’s opinion and team does not participate, this meeting cannot be called backlog refinement as there is no participation from team.

Backlog Refinement adds value for team in terms understanding the stories or work which they would be taking in upcoming sprints; it gives an opportunity for team members to clarify doubts, ask questions, get complete understanding of the requirement and once all the required details are in place, then call the story ready. This makes team’s life easy during actual sprint time as they would have all the required details with them, though there may be some other challenges during sprint, which can block the stories but team would be better informed to handle those challenges.

Hope this article would help you. Thanks.

Originally published at on November 9, 2021.



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