Backlog Refinement Definition, Benefits and Best Practices

Backlog refinement is an important ceremony in agile software development methodologies like Scrum that helps product owners and development teams continuously improve and prioritize the product backlog. Refining the product backlog ensures the product backlog items are ready for the upcoming sprints and helps the team effectively collaborate and deliver business value. 

What is Backlog Refinement

Backlog Refinement, some time is call Backlog Grooming, is a Scrum practice used in Agile software development. It is typically conducted by the Scrum team, including the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and development team members.

Product Backlog Refinement?

The product backlog refinement is a recurring event where the product owner and the development team review the product backlog to ensure it is ready for sprint planning.

In the refinement meeting, they discuss the highest priority items, estimate any new items added, re-estimate existing ones if needed, break down large items into smaller ones, refine acceptance criteria and remove any irrelevant items.

The goal is to provide sufficient clarity and detail around the top backlog items so the development team can efficiently select items for the upcoming sprint during sprint planning.

Backlog Refinement Definition, Benefits and Best Practices

Backlog Grooming vs Backlog Refinement

While the terms backlog grooming and backlog refinement are sometimes used interchangeably, there are some differences:

Backlog grooming generally refers to the maintenance activities like removing obsolete items, splitting/revising user stories, correcting estimates etc.

Backlog refinement includes grooming activities but has a broader scope. It focuses on ensuring the items are prepared and ready for sprint planning through discussions between the product owner and team.

The Scrum guide prefers the term refinement over grooming as it better conveys the objective of making the backlog clear and ready for the next sprint.

Backlog Refinement vs Sprint Planning

While related, backlog refinement and sprint planning meetings have different purposes:

Backlog refinement is an ongoing process to prepare, estimate and clarify upcoming backlog items. It happens multiple times before sprint planning.

Sprint planning occurs once per sprint where the team collectively decides the sprint backlog  to work on in the upcoming sprint. Concrete sprint goals are defined.

Refinement ensures the team has a good understanding of the backlog items before sprint planning. It enables more efficient decision making during sprint planning.

Importance of Backlog Refinement

Backlog refinement is a crucial practice that ensures the product backlog remains a reliable and effective tool for guiding the development process. It helps the team stay focused on delivering value, adapting to change, and ultimately achieving the project's goals.

What is purpose of Backlog Refinement?

The purpose of Backlog Refinement is to:

  1. Review and Prioritize: The team reviews and prioritizes items in the product backlog. This involves assessing user stories, tasks, bugs, and any other work items that are part of the backlog.

  2. Estimate Effort: The team estimates the effort required to complete each backlog item. This is often done using techniques like story points or relative sizing to provide a rough idea of the complexity and time required.

  3. Break Down Tasks: Larger user stories or features may be broken down into smaller, more manageable tasks. This helps in better understanding and planning for implementation.

  4. Remove Ambiguity: Any ambiguity or lack of clarity in backlog items is addressed during this process. This ensures that all team members have a shared understanding of what needs to be done.

  5. Adjust Priorities: The team may re-prioritize backlog items based on new information, changes in business priorities, or feedback from stakeholders.

  6. Prepare for Sprint Planning: Refined backlog items are more suitable for selection during Sprint Planning. They are better understood, well-prioritized, and appropriately sized.

What is purpose of Backlog Refinement?

Why Product Backlog Refinement is Importance?

Here are some key benefits of continuously refining the product backlog:

  • Helps estimate the effort for backlog items more accurately based on team discussions
  • Removes ambiguity by adding more details like acceptance criteria and mockups
  • Breaks down large user stories into smaller, shippable increments
  • Ensures smoother sprint planning as the team has clear inputs on backlog priorities and effort
  • Allows any risks or dependencies for upcoming items to be identified early
  • Provides a shared understanding of the upcoming work across the team
  • Keeps the backlog updated by removing any irrelevant, obsolete or duplicate items

Key Benefit of a Backlog Refinement Session

One of the most important benefits of backlog refinement is that it improves transparency and clarity within the team. By collaborating to refine the backlog items, the product owner and team get a shared understanding of the upcoming work.

This enables more accurate effort estimation, effective planning and higher productivity. Having greater transparency into the backlog priorities and upcoming items results in a team that can organize and deliver work more efficiently in a sprint.

Backlog refinement meeting

The backlog refinement meeting is facilitated by the product owner and typically follows this general agenda:

  • Review new items: The product owner walks through any new user stories or backlog items added since the last refinement meeting. The team asks clarifying questions and provides initial effort estimates.
  • Re-estimate existing items: The team revisits items estimated in previous meetings to see if the estimates need to be updated based on new information.
  • Break down large stories: Larger, complex backlog items are broken down into smaller, shippable chunks for better estimation and planning.
  • Clarify acceptance criteria: Detailed acceptance criteria are defined for the top backlog items to remove ambiguity.
  • Grooming: Remove any duplicated, obsolete or low priority items from the backlog.
  • Prioritization: The product owner communicates any changes in priority for the top backlog items. The team can provide input.
  • Discuss risks and dependencies: The team calls out any potential risks or dependencies they foresee in the upcoming items.
  • Q&A: Open discussion for any other questions on the backlog items or sprint goals.

Review User story when Backlog refinement meeting

Review User story when Backlog refinement meeting

How to Enhance Backlog Refinement with Viindoo Project

Using Viindoo Project an agile project management can help teams get far more value out of backlog refinement. Here are some ways this project management software enables better refinement:

  • Maintain a central, up-to-date backlog visible to the entire team
  • Add backlog items easily and link relevant artifacts like mockups and documents
  • Save time estimating by reusing historical data
  • Attach acceptance criteria, dependencies and tasks to backlog items
  • Prioritize items visually by dragging and dropping them in the backlog view
  • Collaborate better with Viindoo Discuss and feedback directly on each item

Backlog Refinement with Viindoo Software

Backlog Refinement with Viindoo Software


Backlog refinement is usually done once or twice per sprint for a couple of hours each. The frequency and length depends on the team size and sprint duration.

Who should attend refinement meetings?

The product owner and development team members actively involved in analyzing and discussing the backlog should attend. Scrum masters can attend to guide the process.

Yes, the product owner can introduce new user stories and backlog items during refinement meetings. The team provides initial estimates on new items.

No, refinement is focused on the top priority items that will be worked on in upcoming sprints. Lower priority backlog items can be refined later.


Regular backlog refinement provides multiple benefits for agile teams like improved transparency, accurate estimation and efficient sprint planning. Using the refinement meetings to collaboratively groom the backlog ensures the team is constantly aligned and has clarity on the upcoming work items. Teams should view refinement as an investment that pays off through increased focus and productivity during sprints.

Hope this article of Viindoo provides some helpful information about backlog refinement.

Backlog Refinement Definition, Benefits and Best Practices
Viindoo Technology Joint Stock Company, Athan Hoang October 4, 2023