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Sprint Backlog Vs Release Backlog


In case you're unaware, then it should be known that in Agile development, a Backlog simply consists of a prioritised list of various features, which should be executed as a part of product development. With the help of a Backlog (in general), you can expect your team to work on the most valuable features, fixing the essential bugs or performing crucial work related to product development. Thus, the Backlog (Sprint, Release or Product) is extremely useful in scenarios where it's impossible to carry out every possible task that's being asked to do. While many may think Backlog as a to-do list, it should be known more as a wish list. 

When you start to understand Backlog (in general) as a wish list and not as a to-do list, you can simply invite more changes & flexibility into the scenario. The primary purposes of a Backlog (Sprint, Release or Product) are as follows:


In this diagram, the Product Backlog contains ten defined features, out of which the priorities are selected for implementation during the Release Backlog creation. And to implement one of the features, it's moved to the Sprint Backlog, which contains tasks. 

Sprint Backlog

The Sprint Backlog can be defined as a set or list of items, ideally known as tasks, which are selected and to be completed during the current Sprint cycle by the Scrum Team, known as the Sprint Goal. The Sprint Backlog will also contain details regarding the method in which the items are to be implemented, along with the effort needed to complete the same and also a Sprint Goal. 

The items in the Sprint Backlog are called product features/tasks because they are destined to provide value to the end user.

Importance of Sprint Backlog

The primary objective of a Sprint Backlog is to properly define the tasks that the Scrum Team needs to be doing to complete the product. Furthermore, it helps in tracking the total amount of work that has been done in a Sprint and what needs to be done further to complete the targets by the Sprint's deadline. It also helps the Scrum Team to focus.

Apart from the above-mentioned information, the Sprint Backlog can also help determine how much work the Scrum Team can undertake for future Sprints. Since the Sprint Backlog will be updated Daily, the Scrum Team will be able to get proper knowledge of how much time tasks need to be completed, which will help in estimating the acceptance for future workloads. 

Sprint Backlog process

The first & foremost step in creating a Sprint Backlog would be setting the Sprint Goal. The Scrum Master organises a meeting where the Product Owner will explain the most important features in the Product Backlog. Once the Sprint Goal has been set by the Scrum Team, the Developers will be analysing the features which are at the highest priority on the current Product Backlog and transfer them to the Release Backlog.

From the Release Backlog, the features are then transferred to the Sprint Backlog, where the Developers will create certain tasks to be completed under each feature. At the same time, the Developers will list all the required items to achieve each task. Thus, the Sprint Backlog will contain the features along with the tasks which are to be acquired at the end of a particular Sprint. 

Furthermore, since the items will be listed in a prioritised order, the entire team will know what should be done first and what shouldn't. The Developers will also discuss the feasibility of each task, taking into account the estimated & size of the effort necessary to complete every task, which will help in the resource & Sprint Planning process

Advantages of a Sprint Backlog

  • Helps in promoting achievable goals

It's extremely crucial for the Scrum Team to first decide the overall size & effort of each item present in the Sprint Backlog and then assign the same within the group. Since the Scrum Team will be empowered to not only set but also organise the workload, there will be minimal risks regarding staff burnout and pursuing over-achievable targets.

  • Performing accurate estimations

During the creation of the Sprint Backlog, the Scrum Team will be able to predict the speed of delivery along with offering time estimates for every item. By creating such estimations & predictions, the team can easily avoid any impossible turnaround times, keeping the schedule ongoing and protecting the well-being of the employees. 

Moreover, with proper experience, the Scrum Team will be able to properly analyse their velocity in the earlier Sprints, which will help the team members obtain a crystal clear understanding of the number of tasks they can perform in the current Sprint. 

  • Maintaining team focus

When a Sprint Backlog is developed, the Sprint Goal is agreed upon by the entire Scrum Team. As a result, the team members can be sure that they're working on the correct thing just in time. If there's any other requirement, the same can be added to the Product Backlog and considered for subsequent Sprints. 

Release Backlog

It should be remembered that the primary goal of any given release is to simply deliver a particular subset of the Product Backlog. Thus, Release Backlog can be defined as the product features which are to be completed within a release cycle. 

The Scrum Team will identify the User Stories which will go into a specific release and those same user stories will become a part of the Release Backlog. The team will then prioritize the user stories and estimate the total amount of time required to complete each item. 

Thus, it can be concluded that the Sprint Backlog forms a part of the Release Backlog. And the Release Backlog forms a part of the Product Backlog. However, as a disclaimer, it should be known that the Release Backlog is not defined in the Scrum Framework.

Importance of Release Backlog

The major significance of Release Backlog is to monitor the progress of a release in real-time, with the help of a Release Burndown chart. Since Release Backlogs contain features pulled from the Product Backlog, the goal is to complete each feature within a single cycle of release. 

The Release Backlog also helps in determining the velocity of the Scrum Team & the resources available, depending upon which the number of features along with the release date will be set. Additionally, the items present in the Release Backlog will be prioritised based upon the effort they're required to complete and their business value. 

Process of a Release Backlog

The creation of the Release Backlog starts by siphoning certain features off the Product Backlog. These features are selected by the Scrum Team as well as the stakeholders (mainly product managers) because they want these features to be implemented for the product release. 

Once the features are transferred to the Release Backlog from the Product Backlog, the items will be further refined. For example, if 'Feature #1' requires more effort than 'Feature #2' but bring less value to the product, then 'Feature #2' will be put earlier in the prioritised list. These decisions are made by the Product Owner.

After proper prioritising of the features are done, the Scrum Team will then work towards creating a timeline for the same, so that the Release Backlog could be completed within a defined time limit. 

Advantages of a Release Backlog
  • Implements the features that bring value to the Product & Customer

As discussed previously, the Product Backlog contains multiple features that are to be implemented during its cycle. But, not all features offer the same value to the customer. Therefore, Release Backlog helps in selecting and prioritising the features that are of utmost value to the customer rather than churning out features for the sake of it, offering sub-par value to the customer. 

  • Promotes efficiency among the team members

Since the Scrum Team will be busy implementing the features that bring the highest level of value to the customer, such a mindset will help in encouraging efficiency among the team members. No amount of effort will be wasted on unnecessary tasks or items, leading to higher creativity & productivity. 

  • Tracks the team's progress and the product development

With the help of the Release Backlog along with a Release Burndown chart, it'll be easy for the Scrum Team as well as the Stakeholders to track the progress of the product development as well as the entire team. Thus, measurements can be made against predetermined time frames and the overall amount of remaining work can be easily identified.


In the end, proper organisation & planning of the product development will be highly integral to your success. That's where Backlogs assist in offering a guidance. 

If you can not only create but also manage your Backlog ideally, then the Backlog will become an indispensable instrument that will help your team to reach their maximum efficiency, make them dynamic and thus offer the maximum amount of value to both the customer & business.

  1. https://www.scrum.org/resources/what-is-a-sprint-Backlog
  2. https://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/agile/scrum/scrum-tools/sprint-Backlog#
  3. https://www.visual-paradigm.com/scrum/what-is-sprint-Backlog-in-scrum/
  4. https://www.aha.io/roadmapping/guide/release-management/product-release-sprint-Backlog

Useful Links:

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Is a passionate learner and blogger on Agile, Scrum and Scaling areas. She has been following and practicing these areas for several years and now converting those experiences into useful articles for your continuous learning.