February 12, 2015

Backlog Grooming or Backlog Refinement using ReQtest

At the heart of any ambitious project is a well-crafted, continuously refined list of things we’d love to have in our final product and actions we have to do to make them happen.

In Agile we call these lists backlogs, and they come in two flavours: product backlog (a ‘to-have’ list) and sprint backlog (a ‘to-do’ list). There are several important differences between the two types of backlogs, one of which is the frequency with which the backlog is reviewed by the delivery team.

Two types of backlogs

Sprint backlogs are typically reviewed daily, whilst product backlogs are put under the microscope each week or at predetermined points during a particular sprint. The process of changing elements in your backlog is known by various terms: backlog refinement or user story detailing.

Backlog refinement or product backlog grooming can be a tricky thing to do since its success depends on the timing of when you do it and the resources you have available to ensure that all team members can participate in this collaborative and creative process.

In the rest of the article, I’ll focus on the latter point and demonstrate how backlog refinement can be made easier using ReQtest.

Managing and refining your backlog

The most important feature of any list is that the items on it are well sorted and accessible to people who need them

In ReQtest you can use the requirements management module to keep your backlog organised and make sure that all pertinent information is included and updated. If you want to refine your backlogs more effectively, then ensure that you have a sound backlog structure to start off with.

Learn how to create a first-class requirements template with ReQtest.

You can customise automated templates on ReQtest by changing the number and content of the drop-down fields: adding information like time and cost estimates, as well as priority, to each item on the backlog. Adding detail to user stories is just as easy and you can cut down on the time it takes you to write or elaborate on them by using default text to guide you through the process.

If you want to move items from the product backlog to the sprint backlog you can do so in just a couple of clicks. Any changes you effect to the backlogs will be shared with the team members, so they follow the latest version anytime and anywhere, ensuring that work on the project carries on without a hitch.

Moreover, you can instantly analyse the information on your backlog by having ReQtest pull the data from the various items on your list and presenting it into a tabular or diagrammatic form, giving the opportunity to glean a comprehensive picture at the state of your backlog and pinpoint any areas that need to be refined.

Collaborate visually

Collaboration and creativity are hallmarks of Agile and these qualities should be reflected in the way you handle your backlogs. ReQtest allows you to effortlessly involve all the members in your team and maintain optimal communication channels thanks to its Agile Board.

This powerful feature translates completed actions and upcoming tasks into a visual and easy-to-understand way, using a virtual cork board on which team members can pin ‘stickies’ detailing the next item on the backlog to be tackled and keep their colleagues updated with the progress of their work.

Team members can share critical information or leave comments on the Agile Board, allowing them to hold a conversation which can help shape and further refine the backlog.

In summary

With ReQtest, backlog refinement or product backlog grooming becomes much easier and can be accomplished more effectively in an agile environment.

Using administrative software like ReQtest doesn’t diminish the importance of knowing the basic guidelines about backlogs, namely:

  • Timing major refinements during the middle of the sprint;
  • Balance the ideas in your list with the resources your organisation has available to fulfil them;
  • Adding less and less detail to the items that are found at the bottom of the list;
  • Elaborating on the most imminent requirements or actions.

Backlog refinement takes practice to master, however the most experienced Product Owners, Scrum Masters and Project Managers appreciate the usefulness of this process when it is carried out properly. With tools like ReQtest you can gain more benefit from backlog grooming with less effort, giving you the chance to move on quicker to the actions that will bring about the results you’re aiming for.

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