The Sprint Backlog — Some Boring Facts

This post is a bit boring (but quite necessary if you’re following our Scrum series). It covers mere practical details about the Sprint Backlog. Force yourself to through it and then reward yourself with a banana. It consists of just one short definition and 5 simple facts. You’ll surely manage.

Have a look at the post on scrum basics to put the Sprint Backlog into the greater picture. This post is also a build-up to the next post which will elaborate on Sprint Planning (a more intriguing topic) in which I’ll also pay more attention to the benefits and rationale of the Sprint Backlog.


A Sprint Backlog is a detailed task-list. It details how The Team plans to accomplish the Product Backlog items it has committed to.

This short definition captures the simple core idea of the Sprint Backlog. More elaborate and alternative definitions are found at the end of this post.

5 simple facts

1) The Sprint Backlog is created anew for each month at the Sprint Planning meeting. This way it captures the most recent state and priorities in the Product Backlog. This is inspection and adaptation in practice.

2) The Sprint Backlog is created by The Team itself and is based on top priority Product Backlog-items chosen by the customer (Product Owner).

3) Only tasks that The Team agrees to commit to is added to the sprint.

4) Tasks are broken down into manageable pieces and given estimates. If a task estimate exceeds a threshold of e.g. 16 hours, one should make an effort to break it into smaller pieces.

5) Team members signs up for tasks. The team self-organizes. It’s a core attribute of Scrum that The Team manages itself.

6) Tasks can be added or removed during the sprint. If the team is lagging behind its estimates, tasks with minimal or no impact on the sprint goal can be removed from the sprint. Likewise tasks can be added to the sprint if The Team is ahead. New requirements are chosen from the Product Backlog. Unplanned tasks can also be added, but must be marked as such to be able to track their impact on the project.

Other definitions of the Sprint Backlog

The sprint backlog is the list of tasks that the Scrum team is committing that they will complete in the current sprint. Items on the sprint backlog are drawn from the Product Backlog, by the team based on the priorities set by the Product Owner and the team’s perception of the time it will take to complete the various features. (Definition provided by Mountain Goat Software).

The sprint backlog is a greatly detailed document containing information about how the team is going to implement the requirements for the upcoming sprint. Tasks are broken down into hours with no task being more than 16 hours. If a task is greater than 16 hours, it should be broken down further. Tasks on the sprint backlog are never assigned, rather tasks are signed-up for by the team members as they like. (Definition provided by Wikipedia)