Grooming and Estimation

Now that you have created a product backlog we need to take the next step and groom and estimate the items in it.  This is what happens in a Backlog Grooming meeting.  We bring together the scrum team and Scrum Master will lead this meeting with lots of questions for the Product Owner.  We begin to clarify requirements and user stories,  we try to ask questions that tease out requirement and enhance the user stories so a developer can estimate.  Another important item to add to the user stories are acceptance criteria.  These first help the developer know what needs to be added as well as the tester know what to look for.  I find adding these really gets everyone thinking on the same page for what is being asked for.

If we have enough information we can estimate development time or size of the request.  When we first started doing estimates on the HealthCallings.com website we used hour estimates.  We had Agile consultants Kent McDonald and Arin Sime come in and they recommended against that.  They said how this can be used by outside parties to gauge how much work it takes.  They thought it was better to just use the Fibonacci sequence or T-Shirt sizes.  We started with the Fibonacci sequence and it worked pretty well for us.

Occasionally we come to a request that is really large in a Backlog Grooming meeting.  We call these large items Epics.  These need to be broken down into separate items that can be added to upcoming sprints.  It is best to schedule a separate meeting to discuss these large items.  There might be a need for additional research to determine all the pieces involved.  This additional scope can be worked on in a meeting called a Three Amigos meeting.  We can discuss that more later.

The Backlog Grooming meeting precedes the Sprint Planning meeting.  We will talk about that next.  A sprint planning meeting is getting us ready for our first sprint.

Additional Resources for Grooming and Estimation:

http://www.scrumalliance.org/community/articles/2011/march/how-to-hold-an-effective-backlog-grooming-session

http://scrummethodology.com/scrum-backlog-grooming/

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