Backlog refinement is the process of adding new user stories to the backlog, re-sequencing existing stories as needed, creating estimates of effort for previously un-estimated stories, and decomposing large stories into smaller stories or tasks.
Backlog refinement is both an ongoing process as well as more specifically the event or ceremony that occurs regularly within a team’s iteration cycle to accomplish the above.
Scrum trainer and consultant Roman Pilcher explains the significance of backlog refinement to the agile development process: “Grooming the product backlog collaboratively creates a dialogue within the scrum team and between the team and the stakeholders. It removes the divide between “the business” and “the techies.” It eliminates wasteful handoffs, and avoids miscommunication and misalignment. Requirements are no longer handed off to the team; the team members co-author them. This increases the clarity of the requirements, leverages the scrum team’s collective knowledge and creativity, and creates buy-in and joint ownership.”
Scrum Alliance founder Ken Schwaber recommends that teams allocate 5% of their time to revisiting and tending to the backlog.
Background Of The Term
This was originally called “backlog grooming” but was changed in 2013 due to the current negative connotation of “grooming”.
The ceremony is also known as “backlog maintenance” and “story time“.
Backlog Refinement – Agile Alliance glossary
Daddy, Where Do Product Backlog Items Come From? – Agile Learning Labs – blog post
What NOT to do during Product Backlog Refinement? – Serious Scrum – blog post