Simply stated – Within an agile development project, the Sprint Backlog is a document that lists the tasks to be performed as part of a Sprint. During Sprint Planning Meeting, the User Stories, which are approved, estimated, and committed, are taken up for discussion by the Scrum Team. Each Scrum Team member also uses Effort Estimated Task List to select the tasks they plan to work on in the Sprint, based on their skills and experience. The list of the tasks to be executed by the Scrum Team in the upcoming Sprint is called the Sprint Backlog.
What is a Sprint Backlog?
“The Sprint Backlog is an ordered list of Product Backlog items, preferably User Stories that the team believes it can complete during the coming Sprint. These items are pulled from the top of the Product Backlog during the Sprint Planning Meeting.”
The sprint backlog includes,
- List of user stories within the sprint in order of priority.
- Relative effort estimate for each user story.
- Tasks necessary to develop each user story.
- Effort, in hours, to complete each task.
The Scrum process to Sprint Backlog
At the task level, you estimate the number of hours each task will take to complete. Because a sprint has a specific length, and thus a set number of available working hours, you can use the time each task takes to determine whether the tasks will fit into your sprint. Once the Sprint Backlog is finalized and committed to by the Scrum Team, new user stories should not be added. If new requirements arise during a Sprint, they will be added to the overall Prioritized Product Backlog and included in a future Sprint.
The scrum team collaborates to create and maintain the sprint backlog – they are the people committing to completing the tasks, they must be the people to choose what they are committing to. The sprint backlog should reflect an up-to-the-day snapshot of the sprint’s progress. During the sprint, team members are expected to update the sprint backlog as new information is available, but minimally once per day. Many teams will do this during the daily scrum.
Tips for Creating a Good Sprint Backlog
- Involve every team member in the process.
- Discuss how every item should be implemented.
- Have a definition of done. Having a common definition of done in place, available and visible to everyone is extremely important.
- Identify all kinds of tasks.
- Don’t assign tasks up front. Resist the temptation to direct work; the team should decide who is going to do what according to the circumstances.
- Review the sprint commitment. After task identification, when the team has a much better understanding about the real effort that is needed, the sprint commitment should be reanalyzed.
- Don’t use too much time. Respect the time box. Define a meeting duration and stick to it.
- Evolve the Sprint Backlog during the sprint. The team will understand more about the stories as they work on them. The Sprint Backlog should reflect these changes.
The sprint backlog is commonly maintained as a spreadsheet, but it is also possible to use your defect tracking system or any of a number of software products designed specifically for Scrum or agile. Another common practice is that it is represented on a Scrum board or task board, which provides a constantly visible depiction of the status of the User Stories in the backlog.
Note: During a sprint, new tasks may be discovered and tasks already identified may be adjusted. This is perfectly normal behavior. The Scrum team simply adds the new tasks (and an estimate of the work remaining on that task) to the sprint backlog or adjusts the wording (and if necessary the estimated work remaining) for tasks in progress.
Invest in Agile Sprint Backlog
Sprint Backlog fulfills purposes of more than one project document and thus plays an important part in maintaining and transferring project information. If the team invests the time and effort to build a good backlog it will be rewarded with a much better overall understanding of the work to be done, a sense of progress on a daily basis, and a clear commitment to what will be delivered.