The term backlog is used for teams who follow the Agile methodologies such as Scrum.
When work tasks are planned and created they need to live somewhere so they can be accessed later when it’s time to work on them. The place where they are stored to be worked on at a later date is called the product backlog. This can be an actual document that is regularly updated. However, many teams also use technology tools to keep track of project and product work such as Trello, Asana or Jira.
In the backlog, requirements are defined and split up into epics, user stories, tasks, and bugs. From the backlog, the product owner will prioritize and order the list of things to do that are needed for the product or project.
Everything that is placed into the backlog is considered to have added value and benefit. From the backlog, work can be scheduled.
To groom a backlog simply means to keep it clean and tidy. It needs to be looked after in order for it not spiral out of control. Other terms include ‘backlog management’ or ‘backlog refinement.’ An outdated backlog can have many adverse effects on the outcome of a product.
It’s important to groom your backlog for the following reasons:
The team keeps moving at a steady pace
Having updated and relevant information and tasks in the backlog set the team up to know what is coming and what they need to prepare for. There will be no lag in available work that needs to be done and prioritizing will help you to plan the next big features and goals for the product or project that need to be worked on.
It provides a clear overview of the short-term and long-term goals of the product or project
A well-groomed backlog will allow you to see a full view of the plans for the product or project, where it is heading and if the short-term and long-term goals still align with the business goals and company vision.
Sprint planning becomes easier
When the list of things to do in the backlog are properly thought-out and detailed with requirements and user stories, this can help the team with sprint planning and sprint goals. You will notice that it will be easier for the team to commit to the work that needs to be done once they know the details of what is required. It will also make estimating easier, which in turn will help them to determine what can fit into a single sprint.
Things stay relevant
The backlog needs to contain items that are appropriate and relevant to the product or project goals and objectives. When proper grooming is done, it will end up with user stories being removed, new ones being written, existing ones being updated, priorities changing, splitting up stories into smaller pieces and estimates being added or updated.
It helps minimize the risk of scope creep and going over budget and timeline
Though Agile projects are flexible, they still stand the risk of incurring scope creep, running over budget and not hitting deadlines. Many times, contributing factors to these problems are when a backlog is not kept up to date with the current needs of the product or project objectives. Scheduling time to clean the backlog can be a solo or group effort. It is usually recommended to revisit and refine the backlog every 1 or 2 weeks. In the end, you will make sure that you have only the necessary items relevant to achieve what is needed for the project or product goals.
In summary, refining your backlog is not difficult but it requires consistency and diligence. It helps you to maintain focus to reach your end goal or objective. As a result, it is recommended to adopt this habit for current and future projects in order to increase your chances of successful project completion.