Agile Business Analysis Technique: Backlog Refinement
Backlog Refinement is used to ensure there is enough detail and clarity for items in the backlog so that the delivery team can complete an iteration.
But let’s first understand what the term “backlog” refers to and what the term “refinement” in this case means.
The Backlog is: An ordered list of features, requirements, or items needed to achieve the outcomes for the solution.
Refinement refers to the activities to keep the backlog relevant and timely for the team.
Backlog Refinement is a continuous technique used to prepare product backlog items for an agile team to deliver. This is frequently done in preparation for a Planning Workshop. Backlog Refinement incorporates ongoing feedback and learning to revise and refine requirements of needs on an ongoing basis. Refining the backlog based on stakeholder feedback is a critical differentiator for agile initiatives. Backlog Refinement assists the delivery team in delivering a high value, high quality solution within an iteration.
Business analysis practitioners collaborate with team members, stakeholders, and customers to clarify the need and identify additional detail. This can include reviewing priorities with stakeholders and moving or removing items as necessary.
Refinement activities vary based on what is needed to prepare the item for the delivery team. Activities may include Story Elaboration, Story Decomposition, prioritization, and sequencing. Backlog Refinement clarifies which items are high priority for the team to deliver and re-prioritizes or removes unnecessary items.
Refinement for an item is complete when there is sufficient information for the team to execute.
The outcome of refinement is a common understanding among the team of what is required to deliver the product backlog item (PBI). It also gives the team a chance to look ahead at what is expected next for the solution.
A Backlog Item is An item on the backlog which represents one or more requirements. Items higher on the backlog are appropriately sized and include enough detail for the team to complete in the next iteration. Items lower on the backlog can be larger and less defined.
The purpose of the Refinement meeting is for the team to review items that are at the top of the backlog. The outcome of this meeting is confirmation that the top items are ready for the next iteration and identify any further clarity needed. There is no standard format for this meeting, but it is most often led by the product owner or customer representative.
The output of the refinement meeting is backlog items ready for the next iteration.
What is the “Definition of Ready”?
This is a set of criteria the team agrees must be satisfied to consider an item “ready” for the next iteration. Initially, teams can set the criteria as a critical mass of team members agree the item is ready for the team. As the team reflects and looks to continuously improve, the team may identify additional criteria for their initiative.
In summary, the technique referred to here as: Backlog Refinement is the activity that the Agile team performs to refine the detail of the items on the backlog and getting it ready to continue the next iteration of delivery execution.
Notice: As with all the bite-size videos we have created around the topic of Agile Analysis, the content covered here is quoted from the Agile Extension v2 to the BABOK Guide v3. In some parts we have summarised content and some parts we have added some new examples. For a comprehensive coverage of this topic, please refer to the Agile Extension v2 Chapter 7, Section 7.1.