9 February 2018

Backlog Refinement

By far one of the biggest restrictions student game development teams face is time availability. Just having team members who are passionate isn’t enough. Students find themselves clutched within multiple points of responsibility, and by their senior year tend to be busy almost every day all day. I’ve talked about this at length in a previous blog post, so within this one I wanted to focus on how this affects Backlog Refinement.

A Product Backlog is the entire list of features, ideas, etc that might go into a project. A Product Refinement Meeting is for the team to pick apart the product backlog. They break down large user stories and assign Story Points to them. This allows the team to break the project down into more manageable chunks while being able to more accurately track velocity. The problem for student teams is that this process can take a long time.

In order to accurately gauge how many story points a story takes requires experience interacting with other disciplines. However, students are just beginning to understand the boundaries of their own study, let alone the others. This results in the process of coming to a decided upon number not only longer but less accurate. For this reason we need to expand when we refine the backlog.

Rather than crushing the entire refinement into one day, the team will start experimenting with refining the backlog over two days. Currently we have a Wednesday meeting that is more of just a check-in with people. Not much value is generated from the allotted time, so we’ll add breaking apart some of the backlog during this time. This change should also help us properly plan future sprints in a more timely manner. Once we have broken down enough user stories we may be able to remove this from the Wednesday meeting. We’ll discuss this change at our weekly retrospective, but won’t make any changes until after the 2nd week to account for the “new thing” scare.

Thank you for reading!

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