For product development teams using the Agile project management methodology, Agile backlog grooming is a critical process that should be performed regularly for maximum impact. Just as the Agile framework itself calls for constant iteration, product backlog management enables development teams to consistently and continuously evaluate their backlogs and update them to reflect ever-evolving customer needs. 

Below, we’re taking a deep dive into Agile terms and backlog grooming best practices, including how to successfully run backlog refinement sessions and conduct sprint grooming so your team can deliver products that hit the mark.

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What is backlog grooming? 

Agile backlog grooming, also commonly referred to as backlog refinement, is the process by which product owners review their team’s backlog to ensure that it is up-to-date with the latest items and user stories. Additionally, Agile backlog grooming is used to refine user stories and prioritize them for the next development sprint. 

A product backlog grooming session can include the following activities: 

  • Eliminating user stories that are no longer relevant or needed
  • Developing and adding new user stories based on changing customer needs
  • Reprioritizing user stories for the next sprint
  • Providing estimates for stories 
  • Reevaluating story estimates based on new or updated information
  • Splitting user stories that are too large or complicated for one sprint into smaller, more manageable ones

story points and backlog

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What are the benefits of backlog grooming?

Every team can benefit from better organization, and efficient backlog grooming achieves just that. Some of its benefits include:

  • Effective sprint planning: Backlog grooming allows teams to be better prepared for sprint planning, which means faster, more efficient meetings, and more time spent on development. 
  • Better collaboration: Backlog grooming keeps all team members and stakeholders up to date, and allows everyone to learn from each other on different areas of the project. This encourages a collaborative environment and better communication.
  • Increased results: By breaking larger user stories down into more manageable chunks, teams can deliver new software updates to the customer more often. 

Who runs backlog refinement sessions? 

Typically, backlog refinement sessions are facilitated by either the product owner or the product manager. But this isn’t always the case. Depending on the hierarchical structure of your organization, a product backlog grooming session may be conducted by a project manager, Scrum master, or another team member. 

What’s more important than who runs the backlog refinement session is how the designated person conducts the session. Ultimately, the product backlog grooming leader needs to ensure that the sessions are routinely scheduled and that the right people are invited; that the session is focused, productive, and kept on-topic; and that follow-up communication is sent out to the team after the session concludes.

Who needs to attend a product backlog grooming session?

While the entire cross-functional team does not need to be present for a product backlog grooming session, the entire team does need to be represented in order to have the most effective session possible. A well-rounded grooming session should include

  • The backlog grooming session leader (product owner, product manager, project manager, Scrum master, or other team members)
  • The product owner or another product team representative
  • The delivery team or a delivery team representative
  • Quality assurance team representatives

Keep in mind that while you do want full cross-functional team representation, “too many cooks spoil the broth,” as the old saying goes. In other words, too many ideas and opinions can weigh down the session, so be careful to only invite those who are critical to the task at hand. 

A look into sprint grooming

Sprint grooming, more commonly referred to as sprint planning, takes the same premise as backlog grooming and applies it to the next immediate sprint. During a sprint grooming or sprint planning session, the product team reviews the backlog items and decides on the number of prioritized items to be developed during the next sprint, based on team capacity. 

Product backlog grooming and sprint grooming go hand-in-hand because the input for sprint grooming is the product backlog. That means that in order for the sprint grooming session to be as effective as possible, the product backlog items need to be well-refined ahead of time based on high-priority goals.

sprint grooming

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Combine these backlog grooming best practices with Wrike

Regardless of whether you’re running a Scrum, Kanban, or Scrumban framework within the Agile project management methodology, Wrike can help you stay up-to-date on product backlog grooming so you make the most of every sprint or iteration. With Wrike, you can quickly and easily set up workflows that include a dedicated backlog folder. From there, all incoming tasks and requests will be funneled into the backlog, which you can easily prioritize and edit as needed during your backlog refinement sessions. 

You can get a first-hand look at how Wrike makes backlog refinement a snap by starting a free two-week trial today. Get started with Wrike's pre-built and customizable product backlog template.