What is Agile backlog refinement? And What to do with it?
Product backlog items are all the tasks we hope to complete before we deliver the product to our customer. Every now and then, we run into some ideas that were sourced a long time ago: they are still things we might want to do in the future but we just haven’t done them up till now.
How to apply backlog refinement correctly for items which have been there for a long time?
One idea that might really help in backlog refinement is to apply an expiration date to all your product backlog items. You can choose, let’s say, 12 months in the future, or even 18 months, for each item. And then, treat it like you would any expiration date that’s on any item in your fridge, for example.
When you open up your fridge and see that carton of milk with an expiration date that is a month off in the future, you grab and pour it without any concern because you know it’s nowhere near the expiration date. As you get closer to the expiration date, well, we’re not that confident now. We might have to sniff it, open it up, and look inside just to make sure it’s okay before we pour it and we drink it. And then if it’s a month past it, well, you go right past it for a newer can of milk.
So, this is how we should treat the items in our product backlog. If an expiration date is in the distant future, don’t worry about it. Prioritize the item and manage it like you would any other item in your product backlog. But as you approach that expiration date, then, it’s time to really give it a sniff test. Let’s review it. Let’s evaluate and discuss it to figure out if it still needs to be there. And if a month goes by or some amount of time goes past the expiration date, well, maybe you should just throw it out – get rid of it just like you would that spoiled can of milk!
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