A sprint backlog is a list of work items your team plans to complete during a project sprint. These items are usually pulled from the product backlog during the sprint planning session. A clear sprint backlog prevents scope creep by clarifying exactly what your team will be doing—and not doing—during each sprint. From creating one source of information to defining work items, a sprint backlog has many positive effects on team productivity. Find out how to implement one of your own.
When you’re working on a complex project, it’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed about the quantity of work. When that happens, everything from quality to team productivity suffers.
If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, you may be wondering if working in sprints is right for you. Sprints are short iterations that break multiple projects into manageable tasks.
While working in sprints can help your team stay organized and efficient, it can be intimidating to get started. After all, how do you know what to work on when?
That’s where the sprint backlog comes in. A sprint backlog is a way to clarify which work items your team will complete during a sprint. This ensures team members are on the same page with one source of truth. In this article, we’ll go over what a sprint backlog is and share an example to make creating your own log simple and effective.
A sprint backlog is a list of work items your team plans to complete during a project sprint. These items are usually pulled from the product backlog during the sprint planning session. A clear sprint backlog prevents scope creep by clarifying exactly what your team will be doing—and not doing—during each sprint.Create a sprint backlog template
You and your team will create a sprint backlog during your sprint planning meeting. The exact frequency will vary based on how long your sprints are, but you’ll likely be doing this every two weeks or once a month. If you're running the Scrum agile method, the Scrum master—with the help of the Scrum team—chooses product backlog items to tackle that week. If you're running a different form of Agile, this could be done by a product owner or product manager.
As the Scrum master or product owner, it’s your responsibility to create the sprint backlog and distribute it to all project stakeholders. With the help of the product owner, you will choose backlog items based on priority. Then, document each task’s needs in the form of user stories. These are software features written from the perspective of the end user within a workflow.
A product backlog and sprint backlog differ quite significantly, though both begin at the product level.
A product backlog tracks what the product team works on. Depending on the size of your organization, you may have one central product backlog or multiple product backlogs for different teams. The product owner will refine the product backlog periodically to make sure the most important initiatives are at the top and each initiative has all of the information needed to execute against it.
A sprint backlog is a subset of the product backlog and lists the work items to complete in one specific sprint. The purpose of the sprint backlog is to identify items from the product backlog that the team will work on during the sprint. This occurs during the sprint planning process. These items move from the product backlog into the sprint backlog and shouldn’t change once the sprint begins.Create a sprint backlog template
The purpose of a sprint backlog is to define work items to tackle within the sprint. This keeps information in one shared space in order to streamline communication and create one central source of sprint information.
Items that are not in the backlog are not in scope. This creates a clear path, ensuring team members can focus on the task ahead to avoid scope creep.
Create a sprint backlog during the planning phase of a new project sprint. While you can update individual tasks with details and additional progress during the sprint, the backlog itself shouldn't alter during execution.
The log is then stored in a shared space for stakeholders and Scrum masters to review during a retrospective meeting to evaluate what went well and what didn’t.
A sprint backlog is the source of all sprint information, making it a crucial component of any successful sprint strategy. It can be helpful to think of a sprint backlog as a roadmap to log all Scrum artifacts.
A sprint backlog should include important components like user stories and task descriptions.
Your backlog should document specific components like the name of your current sprint, the descriptions and user stories for each initiative, each task’s priority, relevant real time changes, and scheduling details for sprint planning meetings or daily standups—just to name a few. To get you started on a backlog of your own, ensure you include these details:
User story: A user story is a software feature written from the perspective of the end user. It’s an important piece to include in order to understand the effect each feature has on the end user.
Task name: While obvious enough, keep your backlog organized by starting each task with a clear, action-oriented name. Ensure each task title starts with a verb—for example, “Design new mobile component for web app” is more descriptive than “New mobile component.” This will help stakeholders quickly understand the backlog and deliverables that each team member is working on.
Task description: Along with an actionable name, include a brief description of each task. This creates clarity around tasks so stakeholders are aware of upcoming steps.
Task prioritization: Since there are a number of tasks in a given project, it’s important to prioritize your most important objectives. This ensures you meet deadlines and your sprint stays on track.
Sprint burndown chart: A burndown chart is a graph that represents the work left to do versus the time it takes to complete it. During a sprint, your team will use these charts to estimate how long each iteration will take.
Daily time allocation: In order to track your time estimates against the actual time on your burndown chart, you need to track daily time allocations. Analyze how long each task takes in minutes or hours. At the end of the week, total up your weekly time allocations for each task to complete your burndown chart.
While each sprint backlog will differ slightly, these are all important details to include when starting your own backlog.
Now that you know what’s included in a sprint backlog, how exactly do you create one? Since Scrum masters use a new backlog for each sprint, it’s important to have a baseline to work off of.
The key to creating a backlog is to make a blank template that you can use for each of your sprints. In your template, you should include columns for each of the functionalities listed above.
Here is an example of a sprint planning and backlog project to give you an idea of how to create a template of your own:
While there are different tools you can use to create a sprint backlog, using a digital product like a workflow management tool can be helpful. A software tool can keep information stored in one shared place and make it easy to communicate with team members.
When working on complex projects with multiple stakeholders, coordinating work can be like solving a puzzle. Each piece has to work together seamlessly. That’s why working in sprints can enhance efficiency, encourage collaboration, and make meeting your goals easier.
From planning to organizing and managing agile projects, sprint backlogs help to collaborate project components as a team. Use kanban boards to simplify projects and communicate effectively with agile management software.Manage Agile teams with Asana