What Is a Sprint Backlog? Benefits & How to Create One

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A sprint backlog keeps a team focused during their Scrum sprints, which refers to the period of time allotted to complete work. It’s a task list a team works from during the sprint that helps prevent scope creep. That’s because they allow you to prioritize which tasks to pursue. High-priority tasks are selected for the scrum sprint during sprint planning. Tasks come from the product backlog which is prioritized during backlog grooming.

Typically, the project manager and their team decide on these tasks during a sprint planning meeting. 

This article dives into the purpose of sprint backlogs and how to create them effectively using software and tools such as Jira.

Backlog screenshot

Understanding the purpose of sprint backlogs

A sprint backlog outlines the specific tasks and activities in a sprint for a project team. It draws the items from the product backlog, which is why backlog refinement is crucial. Without a properly maintained backlog, you risk working on items that aren’t relevant to your customers or the product roadmap. 

"Customer obsession is critical, and teams must bring a customer focus to backlog grooming,” says Warren Marusiak, a senior technical evangelist at Atlassian. “What value can we provide to the customer in the next sprint? What value can we provide over the next five sprints? How does this ladder up to our long term goals?"

The team uses the product backlog and their current workload to determine which tasks are feasible to complete within the sprint’s timeframe. Once a task is deemed feasible, it moves to the sprint backlog. If it’s too large, it’s broken into smaller tasks and executed across multiple sprints. Working in smaller, timed sprints helps teams remain agile. 

Think of the sprint backlog as the team’s plan of action for that particular sprint. It keeps the team on track and focused on achieving their goals. During daily sprint reviews, project managers assess whether their teams are on target and celebrate wins along the way.

Sprint backlog vs. product backlog: Differences explained

Although the terms “sprint backlog” and “product backlog” sound similar, they are quite different. Let’s look at what a sprint backlog may include and how it differs from a product backlog.

Product backlog

Sprint backlog

A product backlog is the list of items to include in a given product, such as new features, customer requests, bug fixes, and other improvements.

A sprint backlog comprises specific items on the product backlog, making it a subset. Your team chooses which product backlog items to work on in a sprint and puts them on the sprint backlog.

Business needs and objectives determine the priority of items in the product backlog.

Team capacity and sprint goals determine the priority of items in a sprint backlog.

The product owner owns the product backlog.

The development team owns and maintains the sprint backlog.

The product backlog forms part of a product’s long-term strategic plan and evolves with the product.

The sprint backlog is a short-term plan to accomplish a series of tasks within a sprint. The team cannot alter it during a sprint.

The product backlog’s scope is the entire product.

The sprint backlog’s scope is the subset of product backlog items included in the sprint.

A sprint backlog is created from a product backlog, so the sprint backlog cannot exist without a product backlog. During each sprint planning meeting, the project manager and their team discuss the priorities of the backlog items with the product manager. The team then determines the plan of action to deliver the items included in the sprint backlog.

Benefits of using a sprint backlog

Sprint backlogs are a powerful tool for project managers, especially those practicing an Agile methodology such as Scrum. If you’re a Scrum master, you’ll find sprint backlogs useful to structure and manage your team’s workload.

Let’s break down the benefits of sprint backlogs: 

  • Increases estimate accuracy: As a plan of action, the sprint backlog allows for more accurate timelines and estimates for your deliverables. This avoids unreasonable deadlines that strain your team. 
  • Boosts productivity: Teams experience less stress when they set achievable goals because these goals help them focus, increasing their productivity.
  • Improves forecasts for future sprints: Teams can analyze their ability to complete tasks within a sprint, helping them accurately predict the workload they can handle in future sprints. 
  • Increases accountability: Teams participate in the sprint planning process. They agree on the tasks in the sprint backlog based on their capacity, giving them ownership of the work.

Key components of a sprint backlog

Now let’s look at the specific components of a sprint backlog.

User story

User stories explain how a feature will benefit the end user. It is a simple story, without overly technical jargon, that explains how the user will use the feature. This provides a reason for why an item is on the backlog. 

User stories provide the development team with a key understanding of the impact of the product on the user, providing context for what the team is building and why. A key component of any Agile methodology is people, and user stories advocate for those using the product or service.

Tasks and subtasks

Tasks are created from the user stories, and each task may comprise numerous subtasks. The tasks are the activities required to fulfill the user story. For example, a new feature may require the user to perform several steps. The functionality required for each step could be turned into tasks (with subtasks added for more complex steps).

Each task and subtask includes a name, description, priority, assignee, list of deliverables, and deadline. For instance, if your team is building out a comment feature for a social app, your task list might look like this: 


Create a comment feature


Allow users to comment on posts




Lanisha, DesignerRoland, Developer


Comment box

Due date

Aug. 24

Technical blockers

Technical blockers are hazards the team might encounter while developing the product, such as technical debt or a bug. Technical debt is the necessary maintenance and bugs the development team deals with to keep the product running. 

These might come up during development or testing, slowing your team down. You may have to add a task or subtask to remove this roadblock. 

In Scrum, they’re also known as impediments.


Team capacity is a major component of sprint planning, affecting which tasks the team includes in the sprint backlog. Once a task is on the backlog, it needs an owner who can execute the work of the sprint backlog to complete the task.

The sprint backlog provides accountability and responsibility to ensure the team finishes each task.

Burndown chart

A burndown chart visually represents the work completed and the work remaining. This is useful because it’s an easy-to-see progress chart. Project teams can use this chart to see if they’re hitting their targets and plot their completion time estimates. 

A burndown chart helps decide whether your team’s current workload is too heavy or too light. It can also highlight any discrepancies between time estimates and actual completion time. You can easily create a burndown chart in Jira.

Estimated and actual time

A burndown chart helps visualize the allocated time of a task versus its completion time. Project managers track this daily during a sprint. 

Each day, you can analyze how long it takes your team to complete a task, compare that time to the original estimate, and record this information on the burndown chart. This time tracking helps keep the team on track to meet their deadlines. 

How to create a sprint backlog

A sprint occurs within a specified timeframe, so the project team needs a well-defined backlog to ensure they stay on track with their tasks. A strong sprint backlog ensures that work can and will be completed during that time period. 

Here is how to create a robust sprint backlog:

1. Determine your sprint goals

Because sprints last for a fixed period, it’s important to establish the sprint goals first. Sprint backlogs should include clearly defined goals for the team, which keep your team focused and on task. The sprint backlog also prevents scope creep. Make sure your goals are specific and can be completed within the time constraint of the sprint.

2. Discuss the backlog with your team

Collaboration is vital to creating an effective sprint backlog. Sprint planning meetings are the perfect time to discuss backlog items with your team. You want their buy-in on the tasks they’ll be working on. This also helps give them a sense of ownership of the project. 

Lean on their expertise regarding what they can accomplish, given their current capacity and technical abilities. A sprint planning meeting template is useful for structuring these sessions.

3. Organize and prioritize tasks

Organizing and prioritizing tasks is vital to help your team focus on what is most important. To organize and prioritize tasks in the backlog, start with user stories. From these stories, the team can identify high-priority tasks. Once this is complete, you can order all other tasks based on their importance in the user story. Once the team has prioritized tasks, they can further break them down into subtasks.

4. Monitor and update as needed

Project managers monitor team progress to assess whether the team is on track with the sprint. They can then make process improvements if necessary. This is vital because, during a sprint, a team may have too much or not enough work. Daily sprint reviews and stand-up meetings ensure everyone knows what each team member is working on and help identify bottlenecks in the team. This allows team members to help each other when necessary to deliver the tasks on time. 

Jira's Scrum template includes several tools to help you plan sprints effectively. There’s also a helpful tutorial page on how to get started creating a sprint backlog with Jira. After refining your backlog during a sprint planning meeting, your tasks will be more detailed and may look like the following:


Create a comment feature


Users want to comment on and react to their friends’ posts.



Effort level

Moderate effort

Time required

2 days


Lanisha, DesignerRoland, Developer


Comment box

Due date

Aug. 24

Tips for managing your sprint backlog

Managing your sprint backlog is just as important for your team as managing a product backlog. Both prevent your team from working on tasks irrelevant to your product or customers. Effectively managing a sprint backlog requires project managers to continually ask their team for input, analyze the team’s processes, and monitor their progress. Jira's scrum template makes managing your backlog easy. 

Here are a few tips to effectively manage your sprint backlog: 

  • Ask for input from team members. From the early stages of sprint planning, getting the team’s input is vital. Their buy-in on tasks during a sprint creates a sense of ownership among the team. 
  • Use the Definition of Done. Every sprint must have solid, defined, and realistic criteria of what constitutes completion. This lets your team know when the task is complete. 
  • Streamline your process. Analyze workflows and workloads along the way to streamline the process for the next sprint. 
  • Keep the backlog flexible. While it is vital to mitigate scope creep, hiccups occur, and the backlog needs to be dynamic enough to handle them.

Manage sprint backlogs better with Jira

Sprint backlogs help you structure your team’s work before, during, and after a sprint. If you use them effectively, they can help you accurately predict future sprints and manage expectations. A well-crafted and maintained sprint backlog increases sprint efficiency.

Jira makes backlog refinement and sprint planning easy. Set up your next software project quickly with Jira’s Scrum Template and visualize, manage, and track work from sprint to sprint. Easily create a scrum backlog to build a queue of issues and start planning and executing sprints. 

Sprint backlog: Frequently asked questions

Who is responsible for the sprint backlog?

The entire development team is responsible for the sprint backlog. This shared ownership requires the input of the product owner, project manager, and sprint team. Everyone collaborates to determine which product backlog tasks should move to the sprint backlog. The team then sets realistic deadlines for the deliverables and task completion.

When should you utilize a sprint backlog?

A sprint backlog is part of sprint planning. However, your frequency of use will depend on the length of your sprints, and even that can vary from team to team in your company. But if you’re working in an Agile methodology, the best practice is to utilize one for every sprint you plan.

How often should you update a sprint backlog?

Daily. The sprint backlog helps you continually monitor your team’s progress. You can reconcile the estimated time and the actual time to complete each task, keeping your team on task and helping you decide if any adjustments are necessary.