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Difference between Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog

by StarAgile

March 26, 2020
Category Agile and Scrum


It is not an easy task to plan in a dynamic environment. When things change frequently, then we need to be equipped to meet the changes. Especially in a development cycle that involves many stages and making changes needs to be done carefully. It becomes difficult to include or remove priority in the middle of the development. 

However, thanks to the iterative method that introduced the PDCA cycle. Find the image below that describes the PDCA. Yes, this makes agile methodology special and made many organizations transform their development method. 

As seen above, due to constant planning, execution, review, and adjustment happening in every step, the process of adding or removing task becomes easy and cost-effective. 

Now, let us introduce the term backlog to all those who are new to the Scrum framework.

This is just one term and there are many like a sprint, stand up and retrospective, etc which are commonly used by the product owners (PO), scrum masters (SM) and the agile development team. The word backlog is critical in the project and one must understand it better to work with them for the successful delivery of the product. 

In a few words, let me explain the scrum framework for you to align on the common page before we talk about backlogs (sprint and product).

  • The PO communicates with the customer and understands the end product.
  • Then they prioritize the list of the work to be done and discuss with the team along with the scrum master to start the work in action. 
  • The team will meet and decide on the duration of the sprint and accept the task to be completed in the sprint within that stipulated time. 
  • They meet daily during the stand-up meeting to understand if they are on the track to complete the task as accepted. 
  • If there is any change required the PO and SM together talk to the team and move things forward. 

The process continues till the sprint and then after each sprint, a retrospective meeting is conducted to take the pending work to the next sprint and also to understand what went wrong to plan for an effective upcoming sprint. 

If you have understood the above process, then the term backlog can be easily explained to you. The English word Backlog is defined as the pending work or accumulation of work that needs to be completed. However, in agile terminology, the word backlog is accompanied by product and sprint. There are two terms namely product backlog and sprint backlog. Let us demonstrate to you in the table given below. 

Difference between Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog

Product Backlog
Sprint backlog
List of all the items that need to be completed for developing the end product
List of items to be completed in each sprint
Product owner collects the backlog from the customer and assigns to the team
The team collects the backlog from the PO and decides the time frame to complete during each sprint
Specific to the end goal
Specific to the sprint
Will vary based on the customer vision
Will vary based on the product vision as defined by the PO
The entire set of work in progress
The subset of the product backlog
Independent of the sprint backlog
Purely dependent on the product backlog
All product features listed and story points are assigned to every user story individually
For every sprint, the to-do list is the sprint backlog. The task is disintegrated from the user story to allow the team to estimate the time for completion in hours.

Planning poker tool is used to estimate time for each product backlog 


Product owner owns it 

Scrum team owns 
Until the completion of the entire project, the PO will maintain the backlogs 
Every new sprint will get new backlogs added by the team 

Product Backlog in agile implementation techniques 

Follow the suggestions given below to effectively implement product backlogs. PO is the key person and hence if you are a PO in your team, then read this twice to quickly grasp and prioritize your backlogs. 

  1. Understand – Understand the entire project and also break them down into steps to allow the team to visualize and complete the task in an orderly manner. Discuss with the customer about your understanding before communicating the same to the team. 
  2. Prioritize – Prioritise each item and list them in the order. Sit with the team and SM while prioritizing that will be making it more effective. Include the advantages of the story point, efforts involved in creating, the complexity and the customer need in mind while prioritizing the items. 
  3. Estimate – Estimate the stories based on the definition that is mutually agreed upon. Keep the stories at a high level and never elaborate on the details at the time of estimation. The team will do this task of breaking it down and the PO can leave it at a high level. Do not interfere too much with the team and give them free hands to take a call on their time estimation. 
  4. Keep it dynamic – Keep the backlog dynamic giving rooms for revisiting based on the suggestions given by the customer and the possibility agreed by the team. Keep the list open for the addition or deletion of backlogs at any time during the project. 

Effective ways in managing Sprint Backlog in agile 

Scrum team will see the list of the items in the product backlog and based on PO’s prioritization they will choose the task and complete it in the sprints. These sprint backlogs can be managed effectively by following the guidelines given below. 

  1. Discuss and Decide – Even though the sprint meeting is organized by the SM it does not mean that they own the decision making. Let the team discuss each backlog and choose them so that each cross-functional team member can work on their strength. 
  2. Accept and not assign – Once the team discusses and agrees mutually about choosing the backlogs and the time estimate to complete the task, allow them to accept work and let not one individual assign any item. 
  3. Update the backlog periodically – Update the document daily during standup meetings so that the PO can make the burndown chart and analyze to make sure that the sprint backlog will be completed during the agreed sprint.
  4. Accept additional task – Sprint backlog task does not mean only coding related task but all tasks required for delivery can be accepted during each sprint. 

Conclusion 

Having obtained an idea about the two chief scrum artifacts namely the product and the sprint backlog you will be eager to play around with them. Join CSPO training to know more details and become an effective product owner. You must drive your entire team by creating and managing backlogs. As we know that sprint backlog is the subset of the product backlog, the right way to understand and prioritize the product backlog is the key to the successful delivery of the entire project to the fullest satisfaction of the customer. 

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