Jira Backlog Grooming Is Just Like Gardening

Jira Backlog Grooming Is Just Like Gardening (+ 5 Best Practices)

When you hear “Jira Backlog,” shivers of terror probably run down your spine. It is no man’s land, a barren desert. It is where tickets and support requests go to die. But it doesn’t have to be!

Think of your backlog as your garden, ripe with ideas and work for picking, sometimes overrun with weeds, always requiring care.

With the correct practices and organization, Jira backlog grooming can be fruitful and insightful; it can also make for easier sprint planning in the future. We’ll cover the best practices to help make you successful, and show you how to prioritize your Jira backlog with Visor.

5 Best Practices for Jira Backlog Grooming

1. Plan ahead for the “next harvest” and make a v2.

It’s easy to let scope creep, well, creep in. To avoid having great ideas go to waste, make a v2 Epic or Project for any Stories or Tasks that do not fit into the current scope. That way, all your ideas for another iteration of the project live in one place and can be linked to the MVP or v1 of the project for future reference.

Placing ideas into a “v2” category allows items to live in your backlog in a clear, organized way and helps set priority between new projects and future iterations of current projects.

2. Find a prioritization method that makes sense for your organization.

Whether sorting by priority or story points, only you know what works best for your organization. 

If you are working on a larger project, it might make sense to have items that complete it at the top of your backlog. Similarly, suppose you have some team members who have extra time on their hands. In that case, it might make sense to have some iterative or improvement tickets closer to the top for visibility so idle team members can pick up lucrative projects or quick wins. 

Whatever your current project ecosystem is, implement items such as tags, labels, or estimated due dates to help set priority and give team members a clear picture of the work to come. 

3. Set a percentage of sprints toward bug squashing! 🐛

It’s easy to get shiny new toy syndrome with cool feature requests and new designs, but don’t forget to “eat what’s in the fridge.” Forgotten bugs, tech debt fixes, and “someday, not now” improvements that could benefit your current users are often rediscovered with thoughtful Jira backlog grooming best practices. 

Whether you use story points, t-shirt sizing, or some other metric of measuring your work in sprints, dedicate some percentage of work to fixing broken things, improving things that might be slow or outdated, and setting your future projects and architecture up for success. You’ll thank yourself later. 

4. When in doubt, spec it out. 

Recency bias is a massive factor for many teams while triaging issues during Jira backlog grooming. That’s why providing as much detail as possible in the initial ticket creation is vital so that if and when a ticket ends up in the backlog, there’s some context to it.

The worst thing in the world is finding a ticket with a promising issue summary and no further detail. What project was it for? How did it fit into the current project scope? What was the intended behavior? Even something as quick as a few bullet points or notes in the description can be a timesaver later on. It’s worth the upfront investment, trust me. 

5. Keep business needs in mind.

Everyone knows that projects and businesses often require agility and pivoting. For example, perhaps retention was your company’s original priority, but now you’re focused on expansion. That’s okay! You don’t have to abandon ship or start over fully. 

Just make sure you keep the business needs and expectations of executives in mind when grooming your backlog. Consider alternative statuses like “Held Back” or “Pivoted” for items that might return to priority once circumstances change. 

How to Prioritize Your Jira Backlog With Visor

An essential step in Jira backlog grooming is setting priorities.

However, it can be hard to set priorities in Jira when stakeholders and plans aren’t solidified. That’s where third-party applications, like Visor, can help. Below is how you can quickly set priority to many items in your Jira backlog using Visor, an official Atlassian Marketplace Partner.

We also provided some tips on using custom fields to visualize and plan your future sprints. 

Step 1: Import your Jira data into Visor.

When importing, select the Sprint field as a field to import. This will be crucial for the process.

Step 1 for Prioritizing Jira backlog in Visor

Step 2: Isolate Blank Sprint Fields with Filtering.

Once you import your data, you will see that the Sprint column has some cells populated with Sprint names and others are blank. The rows with blank cells are the records currently in your backlog. To isolate these records, click the arrow to the right of the column name. Select “Filter Field,” and then, from the Filter menu, select “(No value).” 

Step 2 of prioritizing Jira backlog in Visor

Step 3: Drag and drop the isolated issues to set priority in Visor.

Now that you’ve isolated issues in your backlog, you can drag and drop to set priority in Visor. 

From here, aside from dragging and dropping, you can also assign sprints, change assignees, and add notes or estimated due dates with Visor custom fields. Custom fields allow you to make notes or changes that won’t be pushed to Jira when you sync and are perfect for planning, ideating, or visualizing rough timelines. 

step 3 set priortiy in visor

3 Things to Keep in Mind During Jira Backlog Grooming

1. The backlog isn’t always where things go to die.

Much like a garden, your backlog can get overtaken by “weeds” of dead or irrelevant tickets if it is not properly maintained. To ensure that every issue is still relevant, you should make cleaning and organizing your backlog as regular and scheduled as possible. 

Try setting a meeting on your calendar for “Backlog Cleanup” once a month or once a quarter to ensure that you keep things clean, organized, and relevant. A regular meeting will keep your Jira instance workable and help with future sprint planning because there will be less searching for issues or on-the-spot cleanup. 

2. Don’t get sentimental; trash vague and empty tickets.

Much like how you wouldn’t keep a dead plant on the windowsill, you don’t want to take up precious space with tickets that aren’t clear. You’ll waste less time during refinements trying to figure out what Steve meant by “Better button on homepage” in 2019. 

You may have created the ticket during a flash of inspiration from an employee no longer working with you, or it was part of an irrelevant project. Whatever the case, there’s no reason to raise these ideas from the dead, and if they’re really that important, they’ll come back to you. Better to keep things clean, concise, and well-thought-out. That way, every ticket that comes up has value. 

3. Make backlog cleanup a part of project completion.

Congrats! You’ve finished your project. But as with every harvest, there’s always some cleanup afterward. So, pick up those withered stems and clean up those backlog tickets once your team finishes a project.

Categorize extra or duplicate tickets you may have created for a project into “Done” statuses or move good ideas that didn’t make it into the MVP into your v2 or “future state” Epics. This way, your backlog is primed and ready for your next project–no ghosts of projects past.

Conclusion: Enjoy the Fruits of the Groom!

Tools like Visor can make your backlog less scary to tackle. Quickly set priorities in Visor and push out changes to your Jira instance with Visor’s two-way syncing. Once you find workflows and tools that work for you, maintaining your backlog will be less overwhelming.

Perfect the best practices of backlog grooming to make your backlog ready for harvest. Remember to stay organized, “weed whack,” and set clear and thoughtful priorities.

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