What is Product Backlog Refinement? | Advantages of Product Backlog Refinement

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What is Product Backlog Refinement?

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Organizations that have implemented Agile Methodology are one of the leading organizations in not only the Software, Manufacturing industry but also in several other domains such as Aerospace, Banking, and Finance, Construction, Government projects, etc. Scrum Framework is one of the frameworks that is widely used in many Agile organizations due to its simplicity and advantages it provides to the organization. Scrum has many principles and values which are integrated during product development and delivery that gives the product a superior quality. Few other advantages of Scrum include that the time to market is significantly reduced, early return of investment is seen, and customers are involved during the product development and the customer' satisfaction with the product is one of the priorities while creating the product. Hence, several industries have chosen to implement Agile in their organization through the Scrum Framework.

What is the Scrum Framework?

Scrum Framework is an iterative lightweight and powerful set of values, principles, and practices. It depends on cross-functional teams to deliver products and services in short cycles called Sprints which helps the team to enable fast feedback, continuous improvement, rapid adaptation to change, and accelerated delivery of the product. Sprints are defined as small pieces of products and services that are broken down from a large product that has to be completed by the Scrum Team in a short amount of time. A Scrum Team consists of a Scrum Master, the Developer, and a Product Owner. It is a self-organizing cross-functional team that chooses the best way to complete their work instead of following orders of an outside member. 

The Product Owner is the sole professional responsible for managing the Product Backlog. They revise the items on the Product Backlog every day such that it is easy for the Developer to pick items for their Sprints. The process of managing and prioritizing the Product Backlog is called Product Backlog Refinement and is one of the important tasks that have to be managed for the Scrum Team to efficiently function. Product Backlog Refinements are essential for the Scrum Team's creativity, productivity, and flexibility and also contributes to the success of product development and delivery of the team. Let us understand in-depth about what is Product Backlog Refinement in Scrum and the goals and its advantages.

What is Product Backlog Refinement?

Product Backlog Refinement (formerly known as Backlog Grooming) is the process in which the Product Owner, along with the Developer, reviews the items on the Product Backlog ensuring that all the items on it are appropriate and arranged in the highest to the lowest order of their priority. The Product Backlog Refinement is groomed by the Product Owner such that the items on top of the Product Backlog are ready for delivery. Product Backlog Refinement occurs regularly which may be an ongoing activity or can occur regularly.

The primary purpose of the Product Backlog Refinement session is to ensure that User Stories worth the next few Sprints are prepared for Sprint Planning. Regular sessions of Product Backlog Refinement also ensure that the right stories are prioritized and stories that may not yield the results as expected can be dropped. Product Managers and the Product Owners can explain the strategic purpose of any User Story that is prioritized in the Product Backlog items during Product Backlog Refinement sessions. These sessions are essential to improve alignment across the cross-functional team and also valuable for the development of correct and quality products.

Advantages of Product Backlog Refinement:

The primary advantage of Product Backlog Refinement is to keep the Product Backlog updated and improve the organization of items listed in it. A few of the important reasons to adopt the Product Backlog Refinement are:

  • Keeps the Product Backlog Clean

A Product Backlog can receive ideas and opinions from several different teams and departments depending on how vast the organization and company structure is. When a Product Backlog is not refined, it leads to misunderstandings and a messy Product Backlog which lacks cohesive qualities across Product Backlog items and increases an overwhelming number of outdated items. However, a refined Product Backlog is always manageable and makes it simpler and easier for the whole team to understand the Product Backlog items and efficiently contribute to product development.

  • Keeps the Product Backlog relevant

One of the purposes of Product Backlog Refinement is to keep the list relevant, well-documented, prioritized items that are according to the customer's and organization's needs. To build any Product Increment, it has to be listed in the Product Backlog. However, the Product Backlog may also contain many other items that were initially recorded when the initial product was being planned. Hence, merely listing the Product Increment does not ensure that the increment would be executed; a vigorous refinement has to take place to eliminate all the irrelevant items on the list keeping only relevant and highly prioritized items stay on the Product Backlog.

  • Product Teams are updated regularly about the product

When the Product Backlog items are not organized, communication between cross-functional teams becomes difficult and leads to miscommunication and ambiguity. This also leads to bad product decisions and sometimes the development of the wrong product that wastes most of the time of the Scrum Team and the customers. However, when the Product Backlog items are updated regularly, the communications between teams are effective and everyone is on the same page when the discussions are about new features, bugs, user insights, and many other product-related initiatives.

  • Enhances work velocity

Refining the Product Backlog items increases the work velocity and enhances the workflow of the company. Sprint Planning period by the Product Manager and Product Owners are significantly reduced due to updated Product Backlogs. Increased work velocity also increases the productivity of everyone who is involved in building the product. 

What are the goals or outcomes of a Product Backlog Session?

The goal of the Product Backlog Refinement session is to review any outstanding User Stories in the Product Backlog and prioritized correctly such that they are prepared for the Sprint Planning. Having regular Product Backlog sessions enables the team to be in-target and also ensures that the Product Backlog is not filled with irrelevant User Stories. Product Backlog Refinement meetings are strategic exercises that are concerned with the progress of the product roadmap as a whole.

Agile Developer's can fall out of sync sometimes when the objectives and outcomes change frequently just like any large-scale team project. Hence, by holding regular Product Backlog Refining sessions, teams can easily align their workloads and make sure that the project stays on track. One of the main goals of Product Backlog Refinement is also an opportunity for the team members of various teams to discuss and debate about specific User Stories, confirm responsibilities, and rearrange any changes whenever necessary.

A few of the important goals of Product Backlog Refinement sessions are:
  • Breaking down larger products and services such as User Stories into smaller tasks.
  • Eliminating any ambiguity regarding the product by a discussion of the User Stories with the Scrum Team.
  • Ensuring that the upcoming user's stories are meeting the "definition of ready" by adding any information and meeting the acceptance criteria. 
  • Sometimes the Project Manager or the Scrum Master can use this session to estimate stories and assign story points.
  • Removing User Stories that seem no longer relevant to the product.
  • Developing new User Stories based on newly discovered information such as feedback to the product.
  • Prioritizing the Product Backlog items after each Sprint Planning meeting and re-assessing the relative priority of stories.
  • Correcting estimates by understanding the newly discovered information.
Who attends the Product Backlog Refinement Sessions?

The Product Backlog Refinement in Scrum does not fall under the main Scrum Events as a formal meeting structure. This implies that these Product Backlog sessions can take various forms in different companies. The same also implies to the attendees for these sessions, as they also vary among the organizations. There is no hard-and-fast rule for who needs to attend the sessions. However, all the members of the meeting are the people who work directly or indirectly affect the project, the organization, and the strategic goal of the project. All the attendees are the facilitators of the meeting and not the commander, and hence, their word is not final. Every Stakeholder also has the responsibility to attend the Product Backlog Refining sessions. In Scrum Teams, usually, the Scrum Master facilitates the meeting, however, in other companies, a Project Manager fits perfectly for the job. 

Other members include:
  • The Product Manager or Product Owner
  • Developers and engineers who own the stories within the Product Backlog
  • QA team representatives.

But one important fact is that this session does not have a specific guest list. It all depends on who is available at any given moment during the refinement.


Product Backlog Refinement is one of the main tasks of the Product Owner that decides the workflow of the entire Scrum Team. A good Product Backlog always encourages the Developer to create the right products and decide the best Product Backlog items for their Sprint during the Sprint Planning. Great Product Backlog management ensures that the cross-functional teams are communicating effectively and maximum productivity is reached. Product Backlog Refinement also ensures that relevant items stay on the Product Backlog, and ambiguity and misunderstanding are eliminated among the members of the team. Product Backlog Refinement is an integral part of any product development and has to be religiously followed by organizations. A great Product Owner always knows how to refine the Product Backlog items and review the items regularly by discussing with some or all of the team members. Hence, a well-managed Product Backlog is a secret for the well-developed product that makes the Product Backlog Refinement a high priority in Scrum Meetings.

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Priyanka Datt

Has nearly 15 years of experience as a practitioner in the areas of Agile and Scrum. She delivers training and coaching programs for organisations and teams across the globe. She is helping budding Scrum Masters and Product Owners to learn and grow in their careers.