Engineering refinement is the most important step to ensure an issue is ready to move into development and that the issue will match everyone's expectations when the work is delivered.
The goal of the refinement process is to
The refinement process can break down the issue into technical subtasks by following the sub-issue convention but we should avoid redefining the scope of an implementation issue as this should have already been done during the Planning Breakdown with UX and PM. If there is no other option, then the Planning Breakdown should probably be revisited and EM, PM, and UX should be notified.
Engineering refinement should be an ongoing activity for all engineers. Our aim is to have enough issues to fill two iterations ready to be scheduled. Unless specified differently for your team, every engineer should try to refine enough issues each week to result in a total weight of at least 6, and should do this following the weekly team meetings.
~frontendlabel is applied. Otherwise, remove any backend/frontend label, assign any relevant labels and you are done.
~workflow::schedulinglabel if there is no more refinement needed from another team (e.g. when both Frontend and Backend need to refine an issue).
When you are done refining, anyone should be able to read the issue description and should know what the issue is solving, how it is solving the problem, and the technical plan for implementing the issue.
In order for someone to understand the issue and its implementation, they should not have to read through all the comments. The important bits should be captured in the description, as the single source of truth.
An issue should fail refinement if it can not be worked on without additional information or decisions to be made. To fail an issue:
Weights are used as a rough order of magnitude to help signal to the rest of the team how much work is involved. Weights should be considered an output of the refinement process rather than its purpose.
The weighting system roughly aligns the scales used by other teams within GitLab. However, we use comparative sizing rather than assigning time estimates to possible values. A curated set of reference issues have been provided below, which will be updated periodically to keep examples as current as possible.
It is perfectly acceptable if items take longer than the initial weight. We do not want to inflate weights, as velocity is more important than predictability and weight inflation over-emphasizes predictability.
|1||Trival task||Update Bandit analyzer to v1.6.2|
|2||Small task||Security Dashboard should show dismissal details on issues|
|3||Medium task||Dependency Scanning Fails: "engine 'node' is incompatible with this module", Dependency List contains duplicates (npm project), Support setup.py in Dependency Scanning, Make vulnerability-details receive a vulnerability as a prop|
|5||Large task||Engineering Discovery: reconsider Gemnasium client/server architecture|
|8||Extra-large task||SAST for Apex, Add License information to the Dependency List - add license info backend, WAF statistics reporting|
|13||Extra-extra-large task||Add support for REST API scans to DAST|
|Bigger||Epic in disguise|
A list of the steps and the parts of the code that will need to get updated to implement this feature. The implementation plan should also call out any responsibilities for other team members or teams. An example: https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab/issues/5656#execution
The goal of the implementation plan is to spur critical analysis of the issue and have the engineer think through what parts of the application will get touched. The implementation plan will also permit other engineers to review the issue and call out any areas of the application that might have dependencies or been overlooked.
The implementation plan might be limited to a single step but it should not be skipped, even when the implementation is simple. This improves consistency across issues, and communicates that issues have been properly refined.
Q: Should discovery issues be refined?
A: Yes. Discovery issues should be refined but some of the steps above may not be relevant. Use good judgement to apply the process above. The purpose of refining a discovery issue is to make sure the scope of the discovery is clear, what the output will be and that the prerequisites for the discovery are known and completed. Discovery issues can have a habit of dragging out or not creating actionable steps, the refinement process should lock down what needs to be answered in the discovery process.
Q: If an issue has both frontend and backend work how should I weight it?
A: Issues that require both frontend and backend work can be broken into sub-issues as outlined in this document.