Backlog grooming and sprint planning are important for the scrum team. The purpose of sprint planning is for everyone to agree on a goal for the next sprint and the set of backlog items to achieve it. Backlog grooming sessions are a critical part of agile software development with Scrum. As part of our development process, Zibtek is always grooming to ensure priorities are set and the backlog is in the best possible shape for sprint planning.

Backlog Grooming and Sprint Planning

What is backlog grooming, and how do you “groom” it?

So to start explaining about backlog grooming and sprint planning we'll start with the backlog. A backlog is the process and session where items of backlog are discussed. A backlog is simply the list of everything required to build a complete product. It includes features, user requirements, and potential bugs. In agile software development, there are typically two types of backlogs: product and sprint. The sprint backlog contains the highest priority items from the product backlog.

Before a story is ready for sprint planning, it needs to be “groomed.” With the product owner, the development team decides the sprint’s goals, duration, and story points. The development team then chooses what should be prioritized in the sprint backlog.

The primary purpose of a sprint backlog is to help a development team stay focused on only the most crucial items that need working on.

Backlog Grooming
Backlog Grooming

The backlog grooming process

In the course of the development process, a sprint backlog grows ever bigger. Backlog grooming keeps it organized. Before a sprint planning meeting, product owners should review the backlog to ensure:

  • The set priorities are correct.
  • The prioritized items have all the correct information.
  • The feedback from previous meetings has been incorporated.

While in theory backlogs should only contain prioritized items, in many cases they end up a dumping ground for all ideas, feature, and bug requests. The backlog can quickly become overcrowded and out of control. To keep it relevant, grooming refines the backlog by cutting out unimportant stories and tasks and maintaining only priority ones. So be conscious about not cluttering up your backlog with too much information when you're considering backlog grooming vs sprint planning.

Key backlog grooming activities include:

  • Eliminating unwanted user stories that don’t fit the current product direction.
  • Reprioritizing stories to move lower priority items to the bottom of the backlog.
  • Breaking down large work items into smaller ones.
  • Updating estimates.
  • Adding new work items.

The benefits of frequent backlog grooming quickly become apparent as development teams can readily access all the information they need to put together a sprint action plan.

Backlog Grooming vs Sprint Planning

Backlog Grooming vs Sprint Planning

How grooming meetings fit into the sprint planning process

Trimmed and well-maintained backlogs help development teams be more productive during sprint planning meetings. In fact, we hold grooming sessions two to three times a weeking for a typical project because of the impact they’ve had on our sprint planning meetings. Development teams that master the art of backlog grooming reap the full benefits of clear requirements, testable units of work, and correct story sizes.

As a leading software development company, Zibtek understands the value backlog grooming brings to sprint planning. For us, backlog grooming is not a one-off activity but one that’s regularly revisited and scheduled as an ongoing part of the Scrum development process. Our software project process is designed to make sprint meetings more productive through the use of aggressive backlog grooming. If you’d like to know more about how our process helps you get the most out of your software, we invite you to check out our Software Development Comparison Guide or reach out to us today with any questions you might have.