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All About Product Backlog vs Sprint Backlog in Agile Development

January 12, 2024
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All About Product Backlog vs Sprint Backlog in Agile Development
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In the process of developing a product, teams often use the term “backlog” which is rooted deep into agile methodologies. Product development teams use backlogs to organize and prioritize tasks, explore new ideas, and ensure delivery.

In the process of developing a product, teams often use the term “backlog” which is rooted deep into agile methodologies. Product development teams use backlogs to organize and prioritize tasks, explore new ideas, and ensure delivery.

Within the scrum agile framework, both the types of backlogs, help project managers and product owners keep track of things and meet strategic milestones.

Product backlog represents the bigger picture visualizing the roadmap of all the features and initiatives planned and prioritized for a long term development plan. Whereas, sprint backlog represents the tasks and initiatives prioritized for the short term and each backlog is chosen from product backlog items.

Let’s get into a detailed discussion on product backlog vs sprint backlog in agile project management methodology.  

Defining Backlog and Its Consequences

In the agile development ecosystem, backlog is like the beating heart of every project. Imagine a roadmap of all the goals you need to complete before reaching the destination.

Working with a backlog teams can achieve higher productivity, better efficiency, and improve customer experience. By prioritizing and breaking down work into smaller manageable chunks, it's easier to streamline the workflow and avoid context switching. The teams work with laser focus leading to rapid increasing productivity.

As the team members are on the same page working together through a backlog, there is clear communication and goals alignment, improving workplace efficiency. Effective orchestration of backlogs allows teams to build products addressing customer’s needs and pain points. Where product planning takes care of the aggregate production process, sprint planning ensures rapid delivery of features and improvements.

Three types of Backlogs Implemented by Companies Includes;

  1. Product: This represents a prioritized list of work for the development team organized according to the product development roadmap.
  1. Sprint: It's a list of all the work items the team has planned to complete during the project.
  1. Release: Its a list of all the features and functions the development team plans to implement in the future.

For today’s discussion, our focus will be on understanding the differences between product and sprint backlog.

Understanding Product Backlog

You can relate product backlog to the comprehensive scheme of product development. It's a dynamic list of all the features, user stories, bug resolutions, enhancements, and other miscellaneous tasks related to product development.

An integral part of the scrum team, a product backlog signifies the collective vision and direction of the product. The list of items from the backlog is not permanent, instead is a dynamic list which lives and breathes with the product’s success.

New items are added to the list and previous ones are removed in backlog refinement as the product evolves.

Purpose of Product Backlog

  • Break Down Project: It allows product teams to break down projects into smaller deliverables and initiatives, arranged according to their importance.
  • Work Overview: Product development team gets an overview of to-do tasks and dependencies. As a result, teams can efficiently manage interdependencies within the team and ensure timely completion.
  • Ensure Team Agility: Working through a product backlog allows product owners, developers, and stakeholders to enter into discussions leading to synchronized choices and decisions.

Product backlog planning and its contents are prioritized according to a number of factors. This includes product value, complexity, and their dependencies. While value and complexity are self explanatory, dependencies means when one function is dependent on another. This dependency also facilitates changes in the order of development.

In addition to prioritization as one of the reasons for implementing product backlog, it is also important to from the user feedback perspective. Changes in the backlog are necessary according to the user perspective. Hence, its essential to have a transparent communication standard built-in the backlog refinement.

Understanding Sprint Backlog

Sprints are integral to scrum planning, wherein each sprint has a timeline of 1 to 4 weeks. This includes list of items, works, and tasks to be completed in each sprint.

So it's a tactical list of things that emerge from the product backlog and are expanded into a number of items according to the requirements. Every planned sprint has an end goal, which is often a single item on the product backlog.

Consecutive completion of the sprint backlogs leads to completing all the tasks on the product backlog. At the end, you will have a functional version of the product.

Purpose of Sprint Backlog

  • Action Plan: It provides a specific action plan translating high-level product backlog items into achievable tasks. Product owners, managers, and development teams work to achieve every task to reach the end goal.
  • Workload Management: Conducting a sprint planning meeting to gain a realistic understanding of the workload to prevent being over runned by tasks and prevents burnout.
  • Continuous Learning and Improvement: Every delivered sprint according to the product roadmap presents an opportunity to get feedback. This feedback is valuable for future iterations and helps refine the product and increase product value.

Backlog planning helps prevent scope creep and ensures timeline and budget management. Defining each sprint in detail enables the team to avoid changes in extracurricular tasks ensuring time-bound product delivery.

Differences Between Product and Sprint Backlog

Sprint and product backlogs are created and implemented for a few common reasons including project delivery and customer satisfaction. However, the way these both systems are implemented, the nature of items, and creating a backlog are different.

Similarly, there are several other differences between them, which we will discuss in the next section. To understand the differences, let’s take a backlog example of a team building an application, InstaRecipe. We will see how InstaRecipe’s development and marketing progresses while knowing the difference between product backlog and a sprint backlog.


The purpose of a product backlog is to determine the features and functions to be included in product development. Through the backlog, product teams use selective analysis to prioritize the sequence of these items.

It guides the overall vision of InstaRecipe, creating backlog items like product goals, features, and functions to make the app a good cooking companion.

Sprint backlog, on the other hand, is about determining a specific part of the product backlog and listing items to complete in a single sprint. In this current sprint, the items are again listed according to priority, while keeping an eye on the end goal.

Here the purpose will be to create listings of specific functionalities within a sprint of each development segment. It will have a sprint goal, which can be different for each segment. There can be sprints for specific features like voice-activated search, recipe sharing, etc.


Product backlog has a strategic scope, which means the scrum team has to focus on the bigger picture. Working on the application, it will include long-term goals like product monetization strategies, marketing plans, personalized recommendations, etc.

But the sprint development backlog has a tactical approach, which includes day-to-day plans. This includes working on user preferences, user onboarding, demographics for personalized recommendations feature development.


Administration of product backlog is done by the product owner. The PO is someone responsible for maximizing the team’s value in developing and delivering the product. They are someone who will also ensure InstaRecipe’s backlog goals alignment with customer’s needs.

The scrum master or the development team administers the sprint backlog. When working on InstaRecipe, the scrum master will break down tasks and estimate workloads for every sprint item lined up in the process.


Product backlog is the creation of a product owner and they can take the help of the scrum team, stakeholders, and end users. For InstaRecipe, this means taking user’s ideas and preferences to decide the features and functionality.

Creating the sprint backlog list is the developer’s responsibility. Product owners may participate in the creation of this list, but it's not necessary. After the backlog items are added to the list the developer will be updated about InstaRecipe's progress until the point of making the new list and an idea about the next sprint.  

Duration of Work

There is no fixed timeline for a product backlog. So if we are creating the backlog for InstaRecipe, it will be an ongoing process due to its dynamic nature.

However, with a sprint backlog, its duration depends how long it will take to complete the sprint. Generally, each sprint planned for applications and other projects lasts for one to four weeks.

Priority Level

In product backlog, prioritization of backlog is based on customer and business value. The items on the agile product backlog are given high, medium, and low priority according to their long-term impact on achieving the goals and user value.

A similar structure is followed while setting sprint backlog list priority, according to their contribution to the achievement of the goals and dependencies. Tasks with a higher value and more dependencies are completed first.

Taking our InstaRecipe example forward, say that you set an item in the product backlog - “Enable users to share recipes with friends and followers”. In response to this task, the sprint backlog will be populated with two tasks;

  1. Develop a share button
  2. Create a recipe image generator or uploader

Out of these two items, the first one will be preferred for the reason that it has a direct impact on the primary objective, which is enabling social media sharing.

Estimation of Work

Work estimation in product backlog is calculated in terms of points or time. The points are allocated based on the difficulty of the task. Whereas, time-based estimation includes weeks or months.

To calculate the same in the sprint backlog, the product owner and scrum master uses story points, time, or timeboxing. Story points or timeboxing is done according to past sprints velocity and current capacity. With a specific story point number, the same for upcoming sprints is set.

Backlog Refinement

Product backlog refinement is an ongoing process as new items are added according to the feedback of the previous ones. With InstaRecipe, to refine the product backlog the product owners and development team can gauge user’s preferences from their recipe companion application.

They can then reassess the sprints to match the user requirements, including re-prioritizing or removing less valuable features.

With a sprint backlog, the refinement process has a crossover effect. Changes are effectuated in the current development cycle for the upcoming release or sprints.

How to Measure

Product backlog progress is measured for its overall progress and value delivery. It is measured in terms of enhancement in user experience while tracking the evolution of the same over time.

Progress of a sprint backlog is calculated within its time frame. The scrum team and developers check whether the tasks in the list are completed on time.

Both the types of backlogs help pivot the project in the right direction and help deliver the best value to the end users. It takes a team to create, implement, and refine the backlogs allowing them to live and breathe with the project’s development.

Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog Management

In the agile development methodology, both these backlogs represent the guiding systems teams follow to stay on track. Managing them well leads to effective product management and avoiding pitfalls.

Managing a Product Backlog

  • Learn to Prioritize: Use tested frameworks like MoSCoW or Kano model to prioritize features. While using these frameworks, check for the users needs, business value, and feasibility.
  • Refinement Sessions: Refining a backlog includes reviewing, updating, and estimating the backlog items to make changes as per the results. Refining sessions are needed to improve product development.
  • Product Development Transparency: All items in the product backlog must be readily accessible to all the stakeholders. This will also foster better communication when changes are made to the backlog lists.

Managing a Sprint Backlog

  • Planning Poker (Sprint Time Calculation): Planning poker is a technique commonly used to estimate the time required to complete the sprint items. It leads to estimating a realistic workload assessment and helps prevent overload.
  • Task Breakdown: Breakdown every task to clarify the deliverables of each task. Attach clear estimates and acceptance criteria for each to avoid confusion. As a result, it will be easier to progress the tasks on a daily basis.
  • Daily Instructions: Deliver instructions everyday through meetings to share progress, identify roadblocks, and adapt the backlog as and when required.

Product backlogs have an evolving nature as adjustments and changes are made when priorities shift. Once the features and functionalities are ready to develop, they are sent to the release backlog, which is a subset of the product backlog.

In the release backlog, the features and functionalities are further decomposed into user stories. These stories build up the sprint backlog and every product team makes the effort to understand these sprint items while understanding their responsibilities.

Maintaining Harmony Between Product and Sprint Backlog?

Maintaining harmony between product and a sprint backlog requires some work, but it's the secret to agile development success. Here are a few steps to manage your backlog ensure cohesion.

  • Create A Roadmap

Chart the work course through multi-disciplinary team collaboration to build a clear roadmap. This will become your shared vision for long-term priorities and help achieve the objectives.

  • Continuous Alignment

Regular refinement sessions and backlog grooming ensures continuous alignment. Continuous alignment ensures synchronization of work and goals according to user preferences and market trends.

  • Progress Tracking

Using data-driven metrics like burn-down charts and velocity to track the work progress is important to ensure that backlogs work together. It is also important for efficient workload distribution and delivery.

  • Sprint Feedback Loop

Close the feedback loop by understanding user stories and integrating their preferences. You can use Qwary’s product feedback feature to extract customer’s reviews and refine sprints to ensure product market fit.

  • Use Visual Boards

Use visual boards to personify all the work into a single readable and manageable Kanban board or related online tools. This will ensure work transparency and accessibility across all domains and departments while aligning the requirements until the end of the sprint.

  • Open Communication

Implement open communication across all teams and departments. Agile teams are known for working together, discussing priorities, and share open feedback to prevent disharmony and miscommunication.

With Qwary, you can effectively manage the backlog through our signature product feedback and user review feature. Create targeted surveys to know your customer’s pulse to prioritize backlog items and add features that resonate with your target audience.


Out of sprint backlog vs product backlog, we cannot declare any one a winner. Both of them are the driving force behind the development, deployment, and management of every product. Whether you are building an application, website, or a physical product, aligning the features and functionalities with the customer’s preferences is essential to participate in the market.

While the purpose of both the backlogs is to deliver the best product to the customers through scrum development methodology, their implementation and configuration is different. Unlike the product backlog, the sprint backlog assesses short-term goals and the former considers long-term goals.

A pragmatic approach for developing these backlogs is understanding your users, which is where Qwary comes in. With our solution, you can communicate with your end-users while understanding their needs and requirements. Use Qwary with sprint and product backlog to create the best version of your product.