How to do backlog refinement online?
Recently we did a backlog refinement session online in which the team built the backlog and worked on new epics. Since everyone needed a common starting point, the whole team attended the meeting (not just the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and architect as usual). To simplify the meeting, we organized it in three parts:
Phase 1: Setting a goal
Goal: Create a common starting point for the team and explain the goal of the session.
Time: usually 30 minutes, if you’re preparing the backlog for a longer time period, you might need an hour.
First, the Scrum Master presents the agenda. Product Owner then explains what goals should be reflected in the backlog. If the team is experienced, leave the epic creation to them, if not, the Product Owners need to have epics ready for the team before the backlog refinement.
Phase 2: Splitting requirements.
Goal: Splitting requirements into epics or features with acceptance criteria.
Time: at least one hour.
In the second phase the team splits into smaller groups, micro teams, dedicated to certain epics (breakout sessions). This way you can easily eliminate distractions created by bigger groups of people. Micro teams should be able to reach consensus much faster and keep their concentration easier.
Very often people get stuck in the second phase. There’s a lot of different topics to work through and that creates chaos in bigger groups of people.
It’s very important to remember the scope of your work and not waste your time going into unnecessary details. This way the meeting shouldn’t take longer than expected and if you need to work on something in more detail, you can schedule a call for later.
The product owner and Scrum Master should be available and ready to answer the team‘s questions at all times during this phase. The best way to do this is to create a channel in your chat application (Slack, Teams,…) where they can interact with micro teams and join their conference call if they need to. Product Owner should also accept the results of each micro team so he/she has a good overview before the final, closing phase.
Phase 3: Summarizing the results
Goal: Presenting results from the backlog refinement session.
Time: approximately 30 minutes
In the last part of the meeting, people join one conference call again and each micro team presents their ideas, talks about the requirements they worked on, and says what is needed to complete them. Don’t forget about one rule that will make your life easier on site too:
If a group already worked on something, don’t add new ideas while they’re presenting results of their work.
At most say what might create a problem, if you experienced something similar.
The goal is not to go into too much detail, it’s the opposite. You should summarize the results of the previous phase.