Grooming Product & Sprint Backlogs

Scrum teams increments depend on the product and sprint backlogs. At times, teams get overburdened or will not be able to deliver intended increments or the stakeholders may not be happy with the released features. Teams also fight with product owners in getting technical debt items into the sprint backlogs.

Here are a few recommendations on how the backlogs have to be groomed.

1. Slice your User Stories vertically

It is advisable that the stories are sliced such that each story should deliver some business value. Each of the user story should have components of business logic, User Interface, database etc. But at times situations may demand to have user stories of only one component.

It is recommended to have user stories with all the components such that business value can be recognized when user stories are shipped.

2. Follow market trends and listen to stakeholders

Based on the market trends, competition and stakeholders changing priorities, product backlog has to be altered accordingly. The product owners should have the mechanism of listening to stakeholders and should evolve their product backlogs accordingly.

3. Fix time for grooming product backlogs with the teams

Allot a time slot in every week where product owners groom their product backlogs with the development teams. This will ensure that the product backlog is available for sprint planning and will offload the burden on product owner as team members have clear details on the product backlog items during planning.

4. Segregate sprint backlog according to type of stories

Each time development team wants to pull technical debt items into sprint backlog, product owner may not accept it. Also defect fixes may be coming during the course of a sprint. If teams have to take on technical debt or defect fixes in the sprint, the team may be getting over loaded.

It’s better that team segregates their sprint backlog according to type of stories such as 60% of new features, 15% of technical debt items, 15% of defect fixes, and 10% of innovation. This will give leeway to teams in pulling technical debt items into sprint backlogs. Product owner will also understand how the teams are occupied with various works.

5. Leave capacity in the sprint backlog

Plan for a maximum of 70-80 percent of the sprint capacity and leave the rest unplanned. If more work is realized from the sprint backlog items later in the sprint, the unplanned capacity can accommodate the work.

If there are situations where product owners have to intervene during the sprints and if these situations cannot be arrested, the unplanned capacity can take up the additional stories.

These tips will help in delivering the right shippable increments and addressing the needs of product owners & development teams.

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