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Sprint Backlog vs Product Backlog: How to Manage Both Backlogs in Agile

pavelku profile image pavel-ku ・4 min read

A dynamic environment is not the best context for task planning. When things change frequently, we have to be ready to meet the changes.

It is especially evident in the development cycle. It contains many stages and you should be careful while making changes.

In the middle of the development, it can be difficult to include or remove priority. However, there is the iterative method that makes Agile methodology special. It has made many organizations transform their development method.

Right, the process of adding or removing tasks becomes easy and cost-effective thanks to constant planning, review, and adjustment happening in each step. The term backlog plays a key role here.

This word is critical in any project and we must understand it better to work for the successful delivery of the product.

A backlog can be defined as the pending work or accumulation of work that needs to be completed. In the Agile terminology, this word is accompanied by product and sprint.

In our previous article, we defined the basic differences between Sprint backlog and product backlog. Now it's time to delve deeper and try to understand the specifics of managing both backlogs in the Agile environment as well as determine which process Sprint backlog vs product backlog management seems easier and more maintainable.
Let's first remind some basics.

Sprint Backlog vs Product Backlog: How do they differ?

  • Product Backlog lists everything that must be done for a project to be completed. This exhaustive catalog clearly demonstrates what your team must accomplish during the Sprints in order to finish a product. In order to make your Product backlog effective, you should include details that breakdown each item into steps, making the task easier for developers to understand. Every single step should include time estimates to help teams determine how soon to start each project and how long they should take to complete.
  • Sprint Backlog is about determining which steps of the Product backlog will be completed during each sprint. This typically happens during a sprint planning meeting where the entire team works together. The sprint backlog includes the projects that are added to this “to-do” list. The number of items in this list varies depending on the project complexity so that teams have a chance to complete everything on time during their dedicated sprints. The Sprint backlog remains frozen during each Sprint as it can be changed only during a sprint planning meeting.

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Sprint Backlog vs Product Backlog: Which Characteristics Seem More Understandable?

Product backlog's characteristics

  • A product backlog is a very active document that contains all wishlists and user requirements.
  • A product owner guarantees that the product backlog “user stories” are defined in detail.
  • User stories in the product backlog should be enough to fit in one sprint. They should provide scenarios, conditions of satisfaction aka acceptance criteria.
  • It also contains bugs, issues, epics, and themes.

Sprint Backlog's characteristic

  • A sprint backlog is a subset of the product backlog. It is an output of a sprint planning meeting.
  • The sprint backlog is dynamic in nature. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to keep it aka sprint goal as static as possible during a sprint.
  • The team returns back to product backlog during every sprint planning session, with the aim to pick recently prioritized user stories for the sprint.
  • In Sprint backlog, the Scrum team divides it further into tasks and estimates it.
  • The sprint backlog is owned by the development team.

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Effective ways of managing Product backlog in Agile

The product owner is the key person, so if you are a PO in your team, quickly grasping and prioritizing the backlogs is your direct responsibility. The following steps will help you to succeed:

  • Understand. Understanding the project and breaking it down into steps will allow the team to visualize and complete all tasks in a proper way. Discuss your understanding with clients before communicating the same to the team.
  • Prioritize. Setting priories and listing them in order is another essential step. Gather your team to the prioritization process and include the advantages of the story point, efforts, complexity, and the client need in mind while prioritizing.
  • Estimate. A thorough estimation of the stories is important as well. Keep your stories at a high level and never dive into the details at the time of estimation.
  • Keep the backlog dynamic. Give a chance for revisiting backlog based on the suggestions given by clients and the possibility agreed by the team. Allow additions or deletions of backlogs at any time during the project.

Managing Sprint backlog in the Agile environment

Based on the PO’s prioritization, the Scrum team will see the list of the items in the product backlog. They will select the task and will complete it in the sprints.

You can easily manage these Sprint backlogs following the next stages:

  • Discuss. Sprint meetings are usually organized by Scrum Masters. However, it does not mean that they own the decision making. Your team should discuss each backlog and let every team member work on his/her strength.
  • Accept, not assign. After the collective discussion and agreement, let your team members accept work and prohibit one individual assign any item.
  • Update it. Backlog updates should be done regularly. Check the document daily during standup meetings too let the Product owner make the burndown chart and analyze it to make sure that the Sprint backlog is completed.


Having clarified the facts about the two core Scrum artifacts namely, Product backlog vs Sprint backlog, you will be eager to play around with them.

In order to become an effective Product owner, you must drive your team by creating and managing backlogs. As the sprint backlog is the subset of the product backlog, the right steps to the way of understanding the product backlog are the key to successful project delivery and customer satisfaction. Luckily, there are plenty of backlog management tools that can help teams to stay on track. However, we will not overload this post and will talk about them in one of our next publications.

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