Scrum Product Backlog - An Essential Artifact for Agile Development

Scrum Product Backlog - An Essential Artifact for Agile DevelopmentScrum Product Backlog - An Essential Artifact for Agile Development

Understanding the Product Backlog is necessary to discuss product development using the Scrum Framework.

The Product Backlog is a dynamic, prioritized list of work items that the Scrum Team needs to address in order to create a successful product.

It's the to-do list that gives the development team a clear vision of the journey towards a finished product. It lists all the tasks - features, enhancements, bug fixes, and more - that need to be tackled during the development process.

Owned by the product owner and steered by customer needs, market demands, and business goals, the product backlog stands at the heart of Agile development.

In this lesson, we will explore the purpose, structure, and management of the Product Backlog and its importance in guiding the Scrum Team's work.

Where does the Product Backlog fit in Scrum?


In the world of software development, Scrum methodology is a popular approach that emphasizes collaboration, flexibility, and iterative feedback.

One of the key elements of this methodology is the use of Scrum artifacts – specific documents or tools that help teams manage their work more effectively.

One such artifact is the Product Backlog.

What is Scrum Artifact?

Scrum Artifact can be defined as any tangible item created in order to facilitate the use of Scrum methodology. These artifacts are designed to provide a clear understanding of project objectives and progress, as well as to encourage collaboration and communication amoing the team members.

Overview of Product Backlog

The Product Backlog is one such artifact used in Scrum methodology. It can be thought of as a dynamic list that outlines all the work that needs to be done on a particular project.

The items on this list are referred to as user stories – brief descriptions that capture what users want from a given product.

The Product Backlog is typically managed by the product owner – someone who works closely with stakeholders to ensure that user requirements are being met.

However, all members of the development team should have access to this document so they can understand what needs to be done and how their work fits into the bigger picture.

Purpose of the Product Backlog

The Product Backlog serves as the single source of truth for all work items that the Scrum Team needs to address. Its main purposes include:

  1. Capturing product requirements: The Product Backlog captures all the requirements, features, enhancements, and fixes that need to be implemented in the product.

  2. Prioritizing work: The Product Backlog is ordered by priority, ensuring that the most valuable and important work items are addressed first.

  3. Providing transparency: The Product Backlog provides a transparent view of the work that needs to be done, allowing the Scrum Team and stakeholders to understand and align on the product direction and priorities.

  4. Guiding the Scrum Team: The Product Backlog serves as a roadmap for the Scrum Team, guiding their work and informing their planning and decision-making.

Structure of the Product Backlog

The Product Backlog consists of Product Backlog Items (PBIs), which can include features, user stories, use cases, bug fixes, or any other work items required to deliver a successful product. Each PBI typically includes:

  • Title: A brief, descriptive title that captures the essence of the work item.
  • Description: A clear and concise description of the work item, detailing its purpose and requirements.
  • Priority: An indication of the item's priority relative to other items in the Product Backlog.
  • Estimation: An estimate of the effort required to complete the work item, often expressed in story points or ideal hours.
  • Acceptance Criteria: A set of criteria that must be met for the work item to be considered complete and acceptable.

How to Create a Product Backlog

Creating an effective and useful product backlog requires collaboration between all stakeholders involved in creating and delivering products or projects.

Here are some steps you can follow when creating your own:

  1. Identify objectives – Start by identifying what you want to achieve with the product or project.
  2. Create a list of features – Make a list of features and functions that are required for the product to be successful.
  3. Prioritize items – Prioritize the items on your list based on their importance and how they align with your objectives.
  4. Estimation – Estimate the time, cost, and/or complexity of each item in terms of story points.
  5. Re-evaluate regularly – Continue to add, remove, and prioritize items as needed throughout the project's lifecycle.

Managing the Product Backlog

The Product Owner is responsible for managing the Product Backlog Inventory (PBI), which involves:

  1. Creating and refining PBIs: The Product Owner works with stakeholders and the Scrum Team to create, refine, and clarify PBIs, ensuring that they are well-formed, actionable, and testable.

  2. Prioritizing PBIs: The Product Owner continuously evaluates and prioritizes the Product Backlog, ensuring that the most valuable and important work items are addressed first.

  3. Updating the Product Backlog: The Product Owner regularly updates the Product Backlog to reflect new insights, changing priorities, and completed work, ensuring that it remains relevant, transparent, and aligned with the product vision and goals.

The Importance of Maintaining and Updating a Product Backlog

Maintaining an up-to-date product backlog is crucial to the success of any project using Scrum methodology.

Without accurate information about what needs to be done, it can be difficult for teams to deliver value on time and within budget.

Regularly updating the product backlog ensures that everyone on the team has a shared understanding of what needs to be done next, which helps keep productivity high and reduces confusion.


Maintaining an up-to-date product backlog allows stakeholders to see progress being made towards their goals.

They can track how much work has been completed so far, which helps them manage expectations around delivery timelines.

If stakeholders see little progress being made towards their goals due to outdated information in the backlog, they may lose confidence in the development team's ability to deliver.

Techniques for Keeping a Product Backlog Up-to-Date

There are several techniques teams can use for keeping their product backlogs up-to-date:

  1. Regular backlog grooming sessions: As mentioned earlier, regular backlog grooming sessions allow teams to review and update the product backlog as needed. These sessions can be scheduled weekly or bi-weekly, depending on the size and complexity of the project.
  2. User stories: User stories are an effective way to keep items in the product backlog up-to-date. They help ensure that each item is well-defined and has clear acceptance criteria.
  3. Continuous feedback from stakeholders: It's important to solicit feedback from stakeholders on a regular basis to ensure that their needs are being met. This feedback can be used to update items in the product backlog or prioritize new items that have been identified.

Techniques for prioritizing items in the Product Backlog

There are several techniques for prioritizing items in the product backlog effectively.

One popular method used by many teams is known as MoSCoW prioritization: Must-Have, Should-Have, Could-Have, and Won't Have this time.

Must-Have items are critical requirements without which the project cannot succeed.

Should-Have items are important but not necessarily critical requirements – they have some flexibility around delivery dates or functionality scope.

Could-Have items represent nice-to-have features or functionalities but aren't essential for success; they can be deferred to later sprints if necessary.

Won't Have items represent requirements that are not going to be included in this release or product increment, but may be considered in future releases.

Another technique for prioritizing is the Kano Model, which helps teams understand the customer's level of satisfaction with product features and functionalities.

It involves categorizing features as Must-Have, Performance, and Delighter based on how they impact customer satisfaction.


The Product Backlog is a Scrum Artifact that plays a crucial role in the success of projects and organizations using Scrum methodology.


It is a prioritized list of features, requirements, and enhancements that the product owner has identified as necessary for the product's success.

The Product Backlog is dynamic, and as such requires constant refinement, updating, and maintenance to ensure its usefulness. Prioritization is essential when it comes to the Product Backlog.

In the next lesson, we will explore the Scrum Artifact of Sprint Backlog and its importance in planning and managing the work during a Sprint.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) / People Also Ask (PAA)

Is a product backlog the same as a user story?

Is product backlog refinement considered a ceremony in Scrum?

What is the lifespan of the product backlog?

Is it possible to modify the product backlog during the project?

Does the product backlog include epics?

What determines the ordering of items in the product backlog?

When is an item in the product backlog considered to be completed?

What is the difference between the release backlog and the product backlog?