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A Getting Started Guide to Product Backlog vs Sprint Backlog

As a part of Agile project management, terms like product backlog vs sprint backlog are very common to hear. However, as a project manager sometimes it becomes hard to wrap your head around so many complex terminologies and concepts.

Well, if you have clicked on this article then one good thing is that you are eager to learn! A sign of a good project manager INDEED.

To be honest, there is no big science behind product backlog vs sprint backlog. It is more of a way of carrying on a project.

So, if you are wondering, what is a product or sprint backlog? How to manage or create them? Or the differences between product backlog vs sprint backlog?

Here is a beginner’s guide for you to understand product backlog and sprint backlog in the simplest way possible.

Are you ready? Let’s Begin!

What is a backlog?

Before we get into the complexities of understanding what is a product or sprint backlog, let’s just first understand what is a backlog. A backlog can be defined as the collection of unfinished work or tasks that need to be taken care of.

Whereas in agile project management backlog is a list of all the project-related tasks that should be finished for the completion of the project.

That was easy, right? Now let’s get into what is product backlog vs sprint backlog.

What is a Product backlog?

A product backlog is a list of requirements that are needed to complete the project including any changes that are to be made till the execution of the project. According to the official Scrum Guide:

“The product backlog is an ordered list of everything that is known to be needed in the product. It is the single source of requirements for any changes to be made to the product.”

Thus, a product backlog is basically a list of requirements that the development team is working on. The product owner is responsible for the product backlog, requirements as well as order. In addition, a product backlog contains user stories, bugs, technical tasks, and knowledge acquisition.

Hold on! In case you don’t know what are user stories? let’s walk through that quickly first.

User Stories

These are precise and simple descriptions of the desired functionality as per the perspective of the user. User stories look something like this:

As a <user profession or class>, I want to < action (perform or do something)>, so that <I get some value or benefit>

Thus, user stories can be considered “ready” for the scrum team if they meet the following criteria:

INVEST

  • The user story should be Independent with no coherent dependency on any other user story.
  • User stories are Negotiable and can be changed and rewritten.
  • It is Valuable to the end-user.
  • They should be
  • User stories should be Testable to provide the necessary information for making test development possible.

Getting a bit confused? Let’s jump onto what a sprint backlog is and get rid of that confusion!

What is a Sprint backlog?

A sprint backlog is a subset of the product backlog. It is basically a plan that the whole team comes up with to build the product increment. The sprints are selected on a high to low priority basis.

Once the sprints are selected, a sprint meeting is held to discuss how they are going to work on it. Sprint backlog also keeps on changing as per the client’s requirements, thus it is not supposed to be a perfect plan but a rough one instead.

Well, that didn’t sound too complex! Right?

Product backlog vs Sprint backlog

Now that you have understood what product backlog and sprint backlog is, let’s point out some of the major differences between the two.

How to create a Product Backlog?

As soon as you receive stakeholders’ requirements, the next step is to draw a roadmap of those requirements. Once the roadmap is created, a backlog item list of the product is created. After that, the product backlog list is given a level of task prioritization.

The product owner is responsible to prioritize each task as well as the changes that occur in the due course. Later on, sprints are designed according to the priority of each item.

  • High-priority items: These items attach great value to the project and should be given top priority.
  • Mid-priority items: These items can be pushed back for a while but not for long.
  • Low-priority items: No dependency and can be ignored until the first items are finished.

How to create a Sprint backlog?

The first stage in creating a sprint backlog is selecting the items to be worked on from the product backlog. These items are then added to the sprint backlog. Each item is broken down into sprint tasks for increasing agility.

The development team then decides how to go on about it. You can use task boards like Kanban or Gantt charts for effective visualization of the progress of each sprint.

How to Manage Product Backlogs and Sprint Backlogs?

As easy as to create backlog sounds, wondering how can you effectively manage it? Unfortunately, spreadsheets are not an option for that.

Luckily, project management tools are the answer indeed.

Nowadays, there are various project management tools for you to effectively manage your backlogs.

However, you should pick nTask for scrum boards to display your sprint backlogs. Moreover, it will also help to communicate and manage your backlog effectively. Detailed and effective visualization of your sprints is essential for managing your backlog accurately.

Some of the top features in nTask are as follows:

What are the characteristics of a Product Backlog?

Let’s understand some of the major characteristics of a product backlog:

  • The main document where all user requirements are gathered.
  • It is based entirely on the customer’s vision.
  • Product backlog is a part of the roadmap needed to build the final product.
  • Product owner ensures “user stories” are defined in detail.
  • Each user story should be an accurate fit for the sprint.
  • The acceptance criteria for each user story should be well defined.
  • Product backlog is independent of the sprint backlog.
  • It is periodically refined by the product owner.
  • Product backlog should be DEEP I-e Detailed, estimated, emergent and prioritized.
  • A product backlog is groomed regularly.
  • It is reviewed regularly to ensure the feedback from each sprint is incorporated.

What are the characteristics of a Sprint backlog?

The characteristics of a sprint backlog are as follows:

  • The sprint backlog is dynamic and dependent on the product backlog.
  • User stories are selected for sprint backlog based on their priority.
  • It is a subset of a product backlog.
  • The sprint backlog is decided after a sprint planning meeting.
  • The development team is responsible for the implementation of the sprint backlog.
  • The team can decide which stories to work on first. It doesn’t have to be in one specific order.
  • Sprint backlog can be used for work allocation as well as for getting progress updates.
  • It has a sprint goal (explaining why, sprint backlog items (what’s being delivered) and a delivery plan (how to deliver)

Conclusion

To conclude, product backlog and sprint backlog are essential in agile project management. Therefore, if you are an agile project manager, getting acquainted with these two terms is necessary.

However, to manage your sprints effectively, don’t forget to choose the right tool for that. A good tool is a prerequisite for your project to be a success.

Well! The guide to Product backlog vs sprint backlog didn’t sound that hard. Right?

Originally published at https://www.ntaskmanager.com on December 10, 2021.

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