5 Things To Consider When Developing a Sprint Backlog
In Agile Scrum Framework, the Sprint Backlog is an essential tool that organizes the Product Backlog items selected for that Sprint. It's your team’s plan for delivering the product Increment and realizing the Sprint Goal.
Before we dive into the details, a quick look at some important definitions. An increment is a body of inspectable, "done" work that supports empiricism at the end of the Sprint. The Increment is the sum of all the Product Backlog items completed during a Sprint and the value of the increments of all previous Sprints. It is a step toward a vision or goal.
The Sprint Goal is "an objective set for the Sprint that can be met through the implementation of Product Backlog." This goal should be specific and measurable. By selecting the work for the Sprint Backlog, the team is committing to achieving the Sprint Goal through their plan.
During the sprint planning meeting, the team selects a set number of Product Backlog Items and identifies the tasks necessary to complete each user story.
The ideal Sprint Backlog is a highly visible, real-time snapshot of the work that the team plans to accomplish during that Sprint. When you are developing your Sprint Backlog, follow these best practices to ensure your backlog is driving your team towards your Sprint Goal.
1 | The team creates the initial Sprint Backlog in sprint planning that is accessible to all team members
The first foundational pillar of the Agile Scrum framework is transparency. This applies not only to team members but tools as well. All work within Scrum should be visible to those responsible for the outcome. To uphold this value, it's best that the whole team is involved in developing the Sprint backlog and have access to the backlog throughout the Sprint as a guide for prioritizing and organizing development work.
2 | The Sprint Backlog is reviewed and updated every day by the team members
Ideally reviewed during the Daily Scrum, the Sprint Backlog should reflect current task progress on Stories. The team should also update tasks that need to be reprioritized to manage dependencies and impediments, or in rare cases add unforeseen but required tasks.
Updating the Sprint Backlog daily ensures it reflects the current progress of the team, helps identify necessary adjustments, and prioritizes crucial issues. Without this frequent check, it's challenging for the Scrum team to adapt their work to meet the Sprint goal.
3 | If a story has subtask, all tasks need to be assigned to team and story should be assigned to whomever leads that story
Sometimes subtasks are the best way to organize work around a specific story, however they can quickly become a distraction from the Sprint Goal if not managed properly. All subtasks should be assigned to the team members while the Story hosting those subtasks should be assigned to the Story lead. Establishing this structure provides clear accountability for every task and verifies the overall Story stays on track towards the Sprint Goal.
4 | The team should strive to never add or remove stories from the Sprint Backlog once the sprint has begun
The Product Owner and the Scrum team should not add or remove stories from the Sprint Backlog once the Sprint has begun. This is like an architect adding or erasing portions of a blueprint after the construction team has started building the house. If this occurs regularly, the team would need, and the house would never get built.
Some instances require that the Scrum team add or remove an item from the Sprint Backlog. However, it should be a last resort. Otherwise, your team will always have to readjust their work to fit the new blueprint. In a two week Sprint, constant changes will waste valuable time and prevent the team from reaching the Sprint Goal.
5 | Immediately escalate any impediments that do not have a clear path to resolution
Impediments cause slowdowns and can keep you from reaching your Sprint Goal. Fortunately, the Agile Scrum framework is flexible and designed to address such issues that will inevitably arise. When problems arise, and there is a clear path to resolution, teams can adjust during their everyday work.
However, when impediments arise that don't have a clear path to resolution, Scrum teams must escalate these issues. If these issues are pushed aside "to deal with later," they will continue to compound and worsen. Proactively addressing issues upfront allows teams to determine a path to resolution or make an adjustment before the issue becomes too big and hurts the project outcomes.
Developing a defined, organized, and accessible Sprint Backlog is the first step towards getting your product to market fast. These five best practices will help ensure your backlog is supporting and guiding your team towards the Sprint Goal.
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