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What is a Product Backlog and What is a Sprint Backlog? | Video

What is a Product Backlog and What is a Sprint Backlog? | Video

My dictionary tells me that a backlog is an accumulation of uncompleted work or matters needing to be dealt with. In this video, I want to answer the questions What is a Product Backlog, and What is a Sprint Backlog?

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A Backlog

A Backlog is a list (usually structured by priority) of all of the user requirements. These are articulated in story format – see our video on What are Epics , User Stories, and Story Points?

Product Backlog

The team maintains a Product Backlog of user requirements for the product under development. They extend it as new requirements emerge. Sometimes product owner will arrange the user stories in the backlog into a sequence of delivery increments, to form a product roadmap. The backlog needs to be maintained in a way that is fully accessible to all team members. It is a ’single source of truth’ about the product requirements.

Typically backlogs consist of features the team needs to create. But it can also include:

  • Bugs to fix
  • Changes to make
  • Technical research to carry out
  • Supporting assets or infrastructure to build

Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog in Scrum…

At the start of each sprint, a Scrum team draws down the next set of requirements to work on during the forthcoming Sprint. This subset of the Product Backlog is the Sprint Backlog. 

The Sprint backlog also includes a statement of the Sprint Goal, which the Scrum team articulates during sprint planning.

The Sprint Backlog articulates the work that the Developers plan to accomplish during the Sprint, to achieve the Sprint Goal. It is updated throughout the Sprint as the team learns more, and they monitor progress in the Daily Scrum.

Note that not all items on the Product Backlog will necessarily be drawn-down and delivered. Some may have a marginal benefit and the project will end before they reach implementation.

Backlog In Kanban…

The team draws down requirements to work on continuously. Importantly, the total workload drawn from the backlog must never exceed the team’s ‘Work in Progress’ or WIP limit – which is determined by the team’s capacity.

Maintaining a Product Backlog

This roadmap remains under review, as new requirements emerge and as priorities shift.

The Product Owners should review the backlog to ensure any feedback from the team is taken account of, and prioritization remains consistent with users’ needs. This regular review of the backlog is often called ‘backlog grooming’ or ‘backlog refinement’.

As the backlog gets larger, Product Owners increasingly group the backlog into near, medium, and long-term items. Nearer-term items need greater levels of detail, with complete user stories and estimates for the nearest-term items. The team may establish a ‘definition of ready’ to indicate what information they consider necessary, to start working on a product backlog item. Longer-term product backlog items may be fairly rough in their definition, and have little detail.

Backlogs In Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) has a series of backlogs of different scale, rather than a simple product backlog. Each type of backlog contains a different amount of detail:

  • The portfolio backlog contains the different initiatives an organization is considering (often referred to as epics).
  • The solution backlog contains high-level backlog items (referred to as capabilities and enablers) that represent aspects of a solution
  • The program backlog contains backlog items (referred to as features) that represent aspects of a solution.
  • The team backlog contains backlog items (user stories and others) that a team works on.

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About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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