product backlog vs sprint backlog infographic

Product Backlog vs Sprint Backlog

Product Backlog vs Sprint Backlog – Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog are two of the three artifacts in the Scrum Framework. Both of them are described in the Scrum Guide. These artifacts represent the requirements for both end users and the development team. 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.

In this article we will focus on,

  • Product Backlog vs Sprint Backlog
  • Key Differences between them
  • Ingredients of the two artifacts
  • Owner and the prioritization of items in the two artifacts

Product Backlog

In the simplest definition the Product Backlog is purely a list of all things needed to be done 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 evolves as the product and the environment in which it will be used evolves. Therefore, it is never complete. In other words, it is dynamic and constantly changes as the product evolves.

Sprint Backlog

The sprint backlog is a subset of the product backlog. It contains only the stories, that can be accomplished 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. It can be changed, but only 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 spill overs.

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 fulfil the sprint goal.
2 Product Owner owns Development team owns
3 Contains requirements, defects, tasks. Subset of product backlog items defined as priority by product owner.
4 Everyone contributes to the product backlog Only 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 done at user story level Estimation done at activity or task level.
9 Daily Stand up meeting does not discuss about product backlog items Daily Stand up meeting discusses about 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 fulfil 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 is a list of tasks identified by the Scrum team to be completed during the sprint. During the sprint planning meeting, the team selects some items 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 friend. 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

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 needs attention should be brought to product owner for prioritization.  On the other hand Sprint backlog is owned by 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.


The sprint backlog and product backlog play pivotal role in the development of product development. They both serve different needs but should be aligned with the overall vision of the product. Understanding the difference between them is very important for managing a successful Scrum project.

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

Author’s Bio

Ramkumar Arumugam is an experienced Program Manager with 15+ years of success in leading all phases of diverse technology IT Projects in retail, e-commerce, insurance and pharma market research industries. He is currently working as Senior Program Manager in Cognizant and holds multiple certifications including PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM, CSPO, CSP and ICP-ACC.He is a regular contributor to

See Also

Sprint Retrospectives

Sprint Planning Meeting

Scrum Ceremonies

Further Reading


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