Rants, rambles, news and notes from another geek

Progressive Rendering on Agile Projects

There was another discussion on the internal agile discussion list that I thought was worth talking about here.

The question was, “How much detail should work items in your product backlog have?”

Eric Gunnerson&nbsp_place_holder;replied:

It depends on where it is in the backlog.

Items that are just entered and/or are quite a ways out can be fairly general.

Items that are near that top have to have sufficient detail for the team to be able to generate sprint items from them.

To start, I think it’s more important to capture absolutely everything, and then work at doing the refinement as you need it.

And I followed up with this:

+1 from me on Eric’s description.

Basically when something is “way down the plan”, it need be nothing more than a reminder to the person who added it to the backlog. A title and perhaps a description. If they actually have some idea of acceptance criteria then put that too, but it certainly isn’t required. A “T-Shirt size” doesn’t hurt if your team uses such things.

As the item floats up the stack, you need to add more detail to it. Before it can get into a Release Plan (I’m more of an XP-er than a Scrummie), it needs more detail. It may need to get broken down. You will need to think about where it fits in your skeleton architecture. You want to have a sense of what the design might look like.

For it to get through the iteration plan, it needs more information. Better estimating. Clearer acceptance criteria. Etc.

I like to call this “Progressive Rendering”. Everything in agile is about progressively discovering more detail as the detail is needed. It is about doing a thing at the last responsible moment.

At least that’s how I like to think of it. :)


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