Product Backlog vs Sprint Backlog

product backlog vs sprint backlog infographic

Agile project management principles are applicable to various projects across all industries. However, if they are not absorbed in the right way, problems could occur among team members. Therefore, it is essential to understand the essential terms of Agile. In this article, we will discuss the Product Backlog vs Sprint Backlog topic to clarify the key differences between them. Although both of them are described in the Scrum Guide and represent the requirements for both end-users and the development team, they refer to different concepts. The Product Owner owns the Product Backlog and the Sprint Backlog is owned by the development team. There are major differences between them and sometimes these differences are not understood clearly.

Ok, let’s start with the following topics;

  • Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog Definition
  • Key Differences Between Product and Sprint Backlog
  • Ingredients of the Two Artifacts
  • Owner and the Prioritization of Items in the Two Artifacts

What is a Backlog?

The term “Backlog” is widely used in various disciplines from finance to project management to refer to a buildup of work that should be completed. It includes a list of tasks to be completed in order to support a larger strategic plan. Product managers often focus on information such as user stories, changes to existing functionality, and bug fixes that exist on backlogs. Therefore, backlogs are tools that keep the team updated regarding the product’s development.

What is Product Backlog?

A Product Backlog includes a list of tasks required to be completed to achieve the product vision. It replaces the traditional requirements specification artifacts like SRS defined by the IEEE which is more technical in nature. The requirements are mentioned in the form of user stories. The owner of the Product Backlog is the Product Owner or Product Manager. Nevertheless, it is the product owner’s responsibility to own the backlog.

It should be kept updated depending on the changes in the product and the environment. Therefore, it is live and never complete. In other words, it is dynamic and constantly changes as the product evolves.

What is Sprint Backlog?

A sprint backlog, on the other hand, can be defined as a subset of the product backlog. It involves only the stories, that need to be achieved during the subsequent sprint. The idea is to commit the team only to those tasks and activities that can be completed during the sprint. Unlike the product backlog, the sprint backlog never changes during the sprint duration. However, a sprint backlog can only be changed during the sprint planning meeting. Once agreed upon, the tasks and activities to complete the backlog items are frozen for the length of the sprint. If there are items left unfinished by the end of the sprint, they will be added back to the product backlog as spillovers.

what is the difference between produc backlog vs sprint backlog

What are the Differences Between Product and Sprint Backlog?

Now let’s understand the core differences between these two artifacts.

S. No Product Backlog Sprint Backlog
1 Anything that needed to accomplish the project vision Anything that is needed to fulfill the sprint goal.
2 Product Owner owns Development team owns
3 Contains requirements, defects, tasks. A subset of product backlog items defined as a priority by the product owner.
4 Everyone contributes to the product backlog Only the development team contributes to the sprint backlog
5 Product backlog refinement meeting is to refine the product backlog Sprint Planning meeting is to refine the sprint backlog items
6 Product backlog evolves and changes will be done by the PO through the product lifecycle No changes are allowed to the sprint backlog items once the sprint has started
7 Release burndown metric is used Sprint burndown metric is used
8 Estimation is done at a user story level Estimation is done at the activity or task level.
9 Daily Stand up meeting does not discuss product backlog items Daily Stand up meeting discusses the sprint backlog in accordance with sprint goal.

Ingredients of Product and Sprint Backlog

As discussed earlier the backlog functions as a list of all items needed to fulfill the product vision. If you do not include an item(s) on the backlog, it will most likely not get done.

The ingredients of a product backlog are below (but not limited to):

  • New functionalities or features
  • Infrastructure development
  • Changes to existing functionalities or enhancements
  • Defect fixes
  • Fixing technical debts

The sprint backlog includes is a list of tasks to be completed by the Scrum team during the sprint. In the sprint planning meeting, the team chooses some tasks from the product backlog, usually in the form of user stories, and identifies the tasks necessary to complete each user story.

A typical Sprint backlog will look like below,

As a user, I can read profiles of other members so that I can find some friends. Code the… 8 4 8 0
Design the… 8 12 10 4
Meet with San about… 8 12 12 8
Design the UI 10 6 0 0
Automate test… 4 4 1 0
Code the other… 8 8 8 8

Owner and the Prioritization of Items in the Two Artifacts

The product backlog is owned by the product owner and he/she prioritizes the list of user stories or requirements to be done based on his domain knowledge or market needs. Any feature, items, defects that need attention should be brought to the product owner for prioritization.  On the other hand, Sprint backlog is owned by the development team, and how the items will be delivered solely rests on the expertise of the development team only. PO and other stakeholders can provide inputs but ultimately it is the development team that owns the sprint backlog and delivers.

Bottom Line: Product Backlog vs Sprint Backlog

The sprint backlog and product backlog play a pivotal role in the development of product development. They both serve different needs but should be aligned with the overall vision of the product. If the team members are not familiar with the difference between Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog, things can become harder.

Understanding the major difference between Product and Sprint Backlog is key to manage a Scrum Project efficiently.

Note that there are many software tools build-up for agile project management. You can use the right tool to organize, prioritize and manage all those activities.

What do you think about these two artifacts of the scrum framework? Does the product owner interfere in the product backlog items? How does the development team include items in the product backlog? Share your thoughts with the community through the comments section below.

See Also

Sprint Retrospectives

Sprint Planning Meeting

Scrum Ceremonies

Further Reading

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3 thoughts on “Product Backlog vs Sprint Backlog”

  1. This is an excellent post I have seen thanks to sharing it. It is really what I wanted to see hope in future you will continue for sharing such an excellent post. I would like to add a little comment

  2. They seem different from each other. People should know well which one to choose for their projects and they should know the differences between them.


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