What Is A Sprint Backlog? (With Definition And Tips)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 22 September 2022

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Scrum is an agile development methodology used for effective project management. This framework can help teams deliver quality work quickly and efficiently. Learning about the sprint backlog can help you understand how teams use Scrum artefacts to outline a project's activities. In this article, we discuss what this backlog is, find out how it works, learn about its components and review tips for prioritising this backlog and running a successful sprint.

What Is A Sprint Backlog?

A sprint backlog is a list of tasks the product development team completes at the end of each sprint. It helps the team prepare an outline to achieve project goals and break it down into smaller sub-tasks they can complete within a set period. The advantages of this backlog include:

  • Providing clarity on the overall aspects of a project

  • Organising a project into a series of tasks and sub-tasks that are easier to understand and implement

  • Providing an estimate of how much time a task requires, helping the Scrum team set better project timelines in future sprints

  • Maintaining a high-level overview of how many tasks are on the to-do list, the ones that are in progress and the number of tasks that are complete

  • Adding transparency and accountability to the process

Related: What Is A Sprint In Agile? (Definition, Benefits And Example)

How Does It Work?

The Scrum team and stakeholders use Scrum artefacts, which include project backlog, sprint backlog, increments and product increments, to detail a project plan, list the actions performed and track the progress of the project throughout its life cycle. After gathering the requirements and documenting all the functionalities desired in a product, the development team itemises the project's vision into deliverable components.

A project backlog contains a list of components such as new features, added functionalities, bug fixes, changes in infrastructure and other project-related changes that the development team requires implementing before releasing the product to a client. A sprint backlog is a subset of a project backlog containing a set of tasks the development team requires completing during a sprint. They further subdivide tasks into sub-tasks and work on them during sprints. The team discusses the tasks during sprint meetings, after which items from the product backlog move to the sprint backlog for completion.

Related: Agile Vs Scrum: What Is The Difference? (With FAQs)


The components of this backlog include:

User story

A user story is an informal description of the application software written from the end user's perspective. The primary purpose of a user story is to detail how the software can add value to the customer. It also outlines the major functionalities offered to the customer over the project timeframe. It answers three questions:

  • Who: The focus is on the user persona or the type of customer who would use the product.

  • What: The focus is on what the user wants to accomplish using the end product.

  • Why: The focus is on why the user requires certain functionalities or features.

Related: What Is A Scaled Agile Framework? (Principles And Benefits)


Developers subdivide user stories into tasks. Each user story can have multiple tasks. Doing so helps break the user stories into smaller and manageable units. It allows developers to work on small deliverable units without feeling overwhelmed. It also helps product owners and Scrum masters track the progress of these tasks. Here are some examples:

  • Create a button to initiate a payment.

  • Prompt the user to select the mode of payment, such as bank transfer, QR code or mobile number.

  • If users select the bank transfer option, display a page that accepts user input, such as the name of the recipient, bank account number, IFSC number and description.

  • If users select the QR code option, open the camera and prompt the user to place the camera near the QR card.

  • If users select the pay through mobile number option, display a page that accepts the recipient's phone number.

Related: 9 Project Management Types For A Project Manager


Developers may subdivide tasks into sub-tasks. Doing this is helpful when the tasks are complex and include multiple functionalities. It helps identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies that developers can focus on so that it does not affect the development later. Here are some related subtasks:

  • Ensure that the bank details entered by the user are valid.

  • Authenticate the user to make a payment using a PIN or a password.

  • Verify that the payment made by the user is successful.

  • Redirect the user to the main page after payment is successful.

Related: What Is SDLC? Definition, Stages And Examples


Bugs are errors or flaws due to which an application may not work as intended or throw unexpected results. Though the team performs adequate testing at each stage, there is a possibility that users may encounter errors when using the application. It is necessary for the Scrum team to allocate a certain amount of time in each sprint to fix unforeseen bugs. Consider some examples:

  • The application lags when the user is making a payment.

  • A bank server issue debits money from an account twice.

  • The camera does not open when users click the QR code payment option.

Related: What Is White Box Testing? (With Types And Advantages)

Maintenance issues

Maintenance tasks are necessary to modify or upgrade software applications. Adding new features, fixing bugs and applying software patches during maintenance improve the system's performance. Depending on the severity of the issue, the Scrum team can plan the maintenance in the following ways:

  • If an issue is critical, the team can focus on resolving the issue by moving the deliverables to future sprints.

  • If a specific issue occurs frequently, it is a good practice to allot some time in each sprint to focus on fixing them.

  • Developers can rotate between development and maintenance activities to avoid a single developer being responsible for fixing issues.

  • Focusing on good development practices during each sprint can help reduce the number of bugs in the application.

  • The team can use automated tools to perform testing at each stage of development to reduce the time allocated to fixing issues at a later stage.

Related: What Is The Role Of A Software Development Engineer In Test?


Spikes are a type of task introduced in the Agile framework to allow the development team to spend more time on exploration, investigation and research. This is useful when the user stories are complex and the risk probability is high. Spikes are not commonly a part of a sprint backlog but the product owner can initiate it to allow time for further research, design and prototyping.

Related: 16 Types of Scrum Master Certifications And Their Benefits

Who Is Responsible For It?

The entire Scrum team, which comprises the product owner, Scrum master and a team of developers, share ownership of this backlog. Their roles include:

  • The product owner oversees the completion of user stories and handles the project's outcome.

  • Developers create tasks and sub-tasks necessary to complete a user story.

  • The Scrum master keeps the development team organised and ensures the timely completion of tasks based on their priority.

It is essential for the team to update and maintain the backlog so that it is easier to track a project's progress. The Scrum team uses Scrum boards to detail user stories, tasks, sub-tasks and maintenance activities.

Related: 37 Common Agile Interview Questions With Example Answers

Tips For Prioritising This Backlog

Here are some tips for prioritising this backlog and running a successful sprint:

  • Complete smaller tasks first. Complex user stories may cause items to remain in development and testing queues. It can result in incomplete sprint goals and slow the progress of a project, causing low morale and a lack of motivation in the team.

  • Prioritise tasks. It is essential to prioritise items in the queue to optimise the development process. Backlog refinement is an effective strategy that provides more clarity on the actions in the queue.

  • Identify bottlenecks early in the project. Prioritise fixing recurring and critical issues before continuing the development activities. This ensures that the team does not spend more time at a later stage debugging and troubleshooting issues.

  • Be flexible in planning. When deciding the timelines, it is necessary to account for paid leaves, personal emergencies and sick days.

  • Anticipate bugs. A good strategy is to allocate 80% of the time to development activities and 20% to testing activities. This strategy ensures the team has sufficient time to detect bugs and make fixes.

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