A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Project Backlogs in 2023


In the world of Agile project management, a product backlog is an incredible list of items that you have to make sure are developed in the project development process. You have to do this because these are the most important items in the project’s structure.

You can compare this list to your wish list on the Amazon website where you add all of the items that you think that you need the most, the project backlog is like that in regards to project development.

So, if you want to learn more about project backlogs, you are in the right place, because in this article we are going to talk about project backlogs, what they contain, and how you can create and manage one for your own projects. Let’s begin.

What is a Project Backlog?

what is a project backlog

A project backlog is an extremely crucial list of elements that every project manager should have in their hands or minds whenever they are starting a new project. It is a list of all of the different deliverables that are related to a successful Agile product development process.

Basically, the product owner which is connected to the product development creates a detailed backlog of all of the things that they have to create, perform and maintain in the product development process.

This document or list acts as a single verified source of all of the requirements for the entire project that the development team is working on.

The main difference between a product backlog and all of the other documentation related to a project development process is that this list of requirements is extremely flexible and you can add or subtract different requirements from it as you see fit with the changing variables of the project.

While creating a product backlog, the standard practice is to add all of the requirements that the customer has initially mentioned to you, but you have to make sure that you don’t make any rigid plans on this. These requirements of the customer are just the starting point for the dev team.

As the product dev process moves along, the dev team reshapes these requirements and the overall product backlog according to the changing customer needs.

What Does a Product Backlog Consist of?

Now that we have seen what a product backlog is and what it means to have one for your project development team, the question is what it contains and how it is different from some of the other project-related documents that the project managers are required to keep in their arsenal.

Here are the four different categories that differentiate the items included in the project backlogs.

  • Defects
  • Research
  • Technical Debt
  • Features

1. Defects

Manage bugs and defects log in nTask

Bugs and other defects related to the project occur in the product when the service or product in question doesn’t behave as it was intended to do.

Sure, if you talk about creating the best product possible that has no bugs can be impossible. Especially when you are talking about software in the project management paradigm.

However, if you are familiar with software development, then fixing different issues that arise in the software is very important so that the product value is increased and there are increased levels of customer satisfaction regarding the product or service.

Normally there are three different types of defects in any service or product that you are developing.

  • Defects that Should be Fixed during the Sprint, but not Right Away: These types of defects in your product can be added to the sprint backlog instead of the more important product backlog. This is because the sprint backlog only contains those product backlog items that the development team is going to develop in a specific sprint
  • Defects that Should be Fixed Right Away: These errors and defects don’t need to be added to any backlog, because they are critical and they have to go away as soon as possible
  • Errors that Can’t be Fixed During Your Current Sprint: These issues or defects that are present in your product should be added to the product backlog because you can’t do anything to fix them at the current moment, so they should be shunned away till the appropriate time

2. Research


If you are a professional then you know that developing any kind of software, product, or service without thoroughly researching the product or the entire product development process that you are going to execute, is a big mistake.

While the research part of the product backlog is quite relevant to the user, it is very important to perform a lot of research about the whole product development process before starting your work on it.

And to make sure that it happens, you can also include research into your product backlog as a task.

We know that there is no monetary output from performing research about the product or the product development process, but you need to understand that if you do the proper research you will have the knowledge about everything that will happen in the product in the future.

3. Technical Debt

Technical debt is an extremely critical long-term effect that plagues your product by making poor decisions that can result in short-term benefits.

To avoid this debacle, you need to make sure that you make some changes in your approach to the product development process.

4. Features

Last but not least are the features that are offered by the product or the service that the company is trying to develop. Product features are the functionalities that deliver values to the end-user or the customer associated with the company.

These features can be differentiated based on the following characteristics.

  • The features of the product should be testable by the product development team and should fit within the acceptance criteria set by the customer or the project manager
  • These features should be described in such a way or they should be designed in such a way that their business value is measured objectively
  • These features should have enough information associated with them so that the Agile team can easily calculate the amount of work required to develop them

Let’s now take a look at how product roadmaps are different from product backlogs.

Product Backlog vs. Product Roadmap

You will see an occurrence at many different places in the project management paradigm where people often confuse product backlog with another important document related to the project development process, and that is the product roadmap.

While both of them are quite similar in regard to project navigation, here are a few differences between them.

Product Backlogging Product Road-Mapping
Audience The project development team. All of the stakeholders associated with the project and the management team.
Purpose The purpose of this is to share all of the task-level details to develop the product or service according to the outlined requirements in the roadmap. Communicate the high-level objectives to realize the product vision.
Measures All of the tasks and initiatives have been completed. All of the strategic goals and metrics have been achieved.

So, what do you think came first into the project management paradigm? The Agile product roadmap or the product backlog? The Agile product roadmap.

Advantages of Product Backlog Implementation

As simply discussed and mentioned in the customer feedback and other post-project development feedback significantly impacts the backlog. It is super important they understand the following benefits of the backlog prioritization, including, 

  • Higher return on investment
  • Risks are minimized
  • Dependencies are managed in a better way
  • Attaining a higher level of customer or business satisfaction
  • Value-driven development can be focused on 

What does an effective Sprint Backlog look like?

By definition, the sprint backlog is a lot easier to maintain and create. It is quite smaller and more digestible. Now, this does mean that it can be developed without thinking strategically about the capacity of the team and the resources at hand. If you ever give your team more than they can handle, the product will get bogged down. 

Teams may feel that they have to do more than they can, it is up to the development team as well as the scrum master, an expert in scrum technology who guides through the skill and experience, only to know what the team is quite capable of doing and by having a good estimation of their ability. 

Manage your project backlog with nTask

nTask Board

nTask is one of the top project management software that helps agile teams conveniently manage their product backlogs and collaborate in planning sprints. 

There are multiple project views that allow agile teams to work with the tools they prefer while giving other departments that might manage their work efficiently the features they require. All the project views share real-time data so there is a signal source of truth that keeps everyone working together. 

Let’s now take a look at how you can create and manage product backlogs easily for your agile products.

Creating and Managing Product Backlogs

In an agile project development environment, the product owner is the person responsible for the creation and management of the product backlog.

Let’s take a look at the 3 steps which you can use to create and manage product backlogs for your products.

1. Having a Solid Product Roadmap Designed

The first step in creating the best product backlog is to have a product roadmap designed by your team because it lays the foundation for the whole thing to be developed.

2. Creating the Backlog Item List of the Product

The next time after creating a product roadmap, it is time to create the backlog item list of the product in question. For this item list, you need to make sure that the items that you are adding to the list have some real value, otherwise, they should not be added.

3. The Prioritization of the Product Backlog

There should be task prioritization in the product backlog items. But one thing you should know is that all of the items in the backlog must be treated equally so that there is no clutter and everything is of high importance.

Here are some of the prioritization aspects that you need to note for your product backlogs. They are:

  • Value
  • Customer expectations
  • Complexity and risk
  • Development effort

Check this out:

Best Product Backlog Management Tools to Use in 2023

What is Sprint Backlog?

Now you know about project backlogs but what about sprint backlogs? A sprint backlog is an effective subset of deliverable items that usually make up a proper product backlog or a project backlog.

The sprint backlog also consists of many work items that are due to be built as a part of the project development process, but only in the current sprint that the team is working on. These work items that are being worked on in the sprint can also be from outside the product backlog.

One thing that you need to know is that the items that are being worked on in the current sprint should be properly completed within the confines of the allotted time limit of the current sprint.

It is important that the items are completed in time and that the sprint backlog is properly aligned with the overall sprint goal so that the goals and milestones set by the company are completed side by side and without any hiccups.

Benefits of Sprint Backlogs

Here are some of the benefits that sprint backlogs have to offer to the overall project development process.

  • First and foremost, the sprint backlogs help every single member of the development team to be on the same page about what they have to do in the current sprint. They keep everyone organized and ready for anything that might come before them as a development challenge
  • It also brings a supreme level of transparency and accountability to the overall project development process, so that the team members can evaluate their progress and the sprint’s progress easily so that they can avoid any delays and hurdles in the way
  • The sprint backlog also provides the development team with an incredible opportunity to try out any new ideas or strategies that they might have regarding their work

Expected Benefits from Product Backlogs

The items included in the product backlogs act as placeholders for any future conversation about achieving the desired outcome for the company or the business in question.

This means that whether or not a project development team has a fully fleshed idea in their mind, it can be added to the product backlog.

You need to remember that when a new idea or an item is added to the product backlog, it only needs to have a short description or enough information to remind the entire project development team what it is and what has to be done about it.

This open and dynamic nature of a product backlog ensures that the project development team manages their learning about the potential ways of delivering that outcome and learning about it in the first place.

Another good thing about the product backlog is that the development team doesn’t need to have a complete idea and description of a particular element to start working on it. They just need an initial idea of what to do, and they can add new backlog items as things progress further.

Another benefit of a product backlog is that the teams can use them to avoid wasting their precious time debating about whether a specific option in the project backlog is valuable or not based on the minor piece of information that they have at hand.

So, when a new idea manifests, the team can add a product backlog item as a reminder that they need to investigate that item further and make sure that it is valuable for the team to work on and not just a dud.


This was our guide on project backlogs, and how you can create and manage them for your products or projects that you are currently developing.

If you think that some important information should be added to the article, or if you think that we mentioned something factually incorrect for this piece, then write to us and we will check it out ASAP.

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