Product Backlog vs. Sprint Backlog: What are the Differences?

Annalena Simonis, Thursday 06 May 2021 | Reading time: 4 min.

Do you know the difference between the product backlog and the sprint backlog? In this post, we'll clarify the differences once and for all, so you'll never confuse the two Scrum terms again.

In recent years, “agile” has become an increasingly important topic in the corporate world. Driven by the need for better performance, efficiency and results, companies are using various agile management methods. Scrum is probably one of the best-known methods. For many teams, this agile management method has become an indispensable tool for effective collaboration. To gain the maximum benefit from a complex concept like Scrum, it is important that all team members are on the same knowledge level. If everyone isn’t equally familiar with the agile framework and individual terms, the agile method becomes ineffective. In this blog post, we want to clear up any misunderstandings around Scrum. One of the most common sources for confusion, which probably still leads to a lot of misunderstandings in agile teams on a daily basis, is the distinction between Product backlog and sprint backlog. So in this post, we will explain clearly and simply where the differences lie. Here's what you can expect in this article:

 

What is a backlog?

What is a product backlog?

What is a sprint backlog?

Summary

 

What is a backlog?

Let's start with a little repetition and the basic question: what is a backlog? The exact definition is: "A backlog is a collection of unfinished work or matters that need to be taken care of". In (agile) project management, the backlog thus represents a list of project-related tasks that need to be finished in order to complete the project. In Scrum, a distinction is made between the following two types of backlogs.

 

What is a product backlog?

The name product backlog comes from the fact that it collects all the requirements for the finished product. It is a list consisting of all the steps necessary to complete the entire project and develop the defined target product. In Scrum, the individual tasks are also referred to as product backlog items. Important: The product backlog is not to be confused with the usual statement of work, as it is a dynamic and customizable list. The product owner is responsible for the product backlog. They are in charge of the quality and maintaining of the list. He prioritizes the tasks according to different criteria. In doing so, they estimate the effort required for the individual steps and prioritize by how much they benefit the customer. The higher the product backlog item is prioritized, the higher it is on the list and the more detailed its individual characteristics are described.

 

What is a sprint backlog?

Recap: a fundamental element of the agile Scrum method are regular and repeatable workflows, the so-called sprints. In this process, pre-selected tasks or project requirements are worked on within a set period of time. The "to-do list" that collects all tasks of a sprint is called sprint backlog. This list therefore only contains items that can be completed during the agile sprint. The goal of each sprint should be to develop a functional intermediate product (increment). During the sprint planning it is decided which prioritized tasks from the product backlog should be implemented in the upcoming sprint. After the requirements for the next sprint have been defined, they are divided into tasks that can be completed within one day. These are also called sprint backlog tasks.

 

Summary

The difference between the product backlog and the sprint backlog is that the product backlog collects all tasks of the project that have to be finished to achieve the target product. The sprint backlog includes individual tasks from the product backlog. These tasks have to be finished during a sprint. Here is a quick comparison of the main differences between the sprint and product backlog:

Product backlog vs. Sprint backlog
Contains all project tasks   Contains individual tasks from the product backlog 
Subdivided into product backlog items   Subdivided into sprint backlog tasks 
Works toward a defined product goal    Works toward a functional intermediate product 
Managed by the product owner   Managed by the sprint team 

 


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