Backlog grooming — goals, benefits, and best practices

Man learns about backlog grooming on his laptop.

Without an effective backlog grooming session, teams risk a backlog that’s susceptible to disorganization, resulting in decreased collaboration and project delays.

Learning how to run grooming sessions effectively can make for more productive sessions and help keep your team aligned.

This article will explain:

What is backlog grooming?

Backlog grooming is a session in which backlog items are communicated, analyzed, and prioritized by project managers and other project owners. Commonly referred to as backlog refinement — but also called backlog management, story time, or pre-planning — backlog grooming aims to keep the backlog up to date and confirm that items are ready for impending sprints.

Backlog refinement meetings serve as opportunities to dive into progress on the products that are in the works with a cross-functional team. When done effectively and on the right cadence, these sessions can help prevent the backlog from growing into an overwhelming amount of content.

The goal of backlog grooming

The main goals of backlog grooming are to examine outstanding user stories in the backlog, confirm they are properly prioritized, and ensure that they’re ready for sprint preparations. At the end of the session, you should have an organized and prioritized list of user stories.

Many agile practitioners say that a “DEEP” product backlog is the key outcome of a backlog refinement session. The DEEP acronym highlights some important traits associated with the product backlog:

The goal of backlog grooming. Detailed appropriately, emergent, estimated, and prioritized.

Benefits of backlog grooming

There are many benefits to your teams of using a backlog grooming process. From less stress to more productivity, your team will be well-rewarded for keeping the backlog in great shape.

Here are several specific ways your team can benefit from backlog grooming:

Backlog grooming can produce real benefits — but to take advantage of them, someone needs to manage it all. Delegate tasks properly, and your team will be in great shape.

Who owns the backlog grooming process

The product owner or product manager should own the backlog grooming process — but they may not solely be responsible for hosting backlog grooming sessions, depending on the hierarchical structure of your organization. The Scrum Master, a project manager, or a different team member could also lead these sessions.

An even more important component of the process is ensuring your designated team members have the skills necessary to manage backlog grooming. How the designated person conducts the sessions will determine the future productivity and success of projects. You can experiment with different roles before determining who’s the best fit to lead the refinement session.

Some of the core responsibilities of the backlog grooming process owner include:

Teams need to run more effective backlog grooming sessions and create a backlog that’s refined and easy to follow so they can experience better collaboration and minimal project delays.

Who should attend backlog grooming sessions

These events are meant to be collaborative, so the entire cross-functional team should be represented at refinement sessions.

But at a minimum, the following people need to be involved in backlog grooming sessions:

How long backlog grooming sessions should be

While sessions will vary based on team priorities, the optimal length for backlog grooming is 45 minutes to an hour. However, there’s no universal timeframe.

Some teams set time limits on each user story to help the meeting move efficiently. The best thing to do is prevent side conversations and ensure your team stays on task.

Backlog grooming best practices

While individual business needs will vary, there are some best practices you can abide by to make good use of the team’s time and efforts.

Everyone who attends a session should do some form of preparation ahead of time — failure to do so can lead to inefficient backlog grooming. Stakeholders should review the overall project strategy and study key metrics. During the session, it can be helpful to share any preliminary results or promising measurements.

It’s important to split your development backlog from your product backlog and your insights backlog while ensuring that each item is named properly. Don’t add all of the inputs into a single backlog list without any categorization.

Some backlog items could include:

The right collaboration solution for backlog refinement

Teams need to run more effective backlog grooming sessions and create a backlog that’s refined and easy to follow to encourage better collaboration and minimal project delays.

When you’re ready to get started, explore the benefits of cross-team collaboration made easy with empowering digital collaboration software.

Adobe Workfront helps teams create high-quality work together with speed and efficiency — from highly visual collaboration tools to automation that streamlines review workflows. This project management solution seamlessly integrates your collaborative tools into a centralized location so everyone has equal, real-time visibility into the status of a project.

Take a product tour or watch the overview video to learn more about Workfront.