Shedding Light on the Definition: What Exactly is a Product Backlog?

Product backlog is a crucial component of software development methodologies such as Scrum and Agile. Having an efficient Product Backlog allows for proper prioritization and organization of tasks, enabling development teams to complete projects faster and more efficiently. In fact, according to a study in the International Journal of Engineering Science Invention, Agile methodology increases the productivity of software development teams by almost 64% compared to traditional models. In this glossary page, we’ll explore the meaning and benefits of Product Backlog and discuss its use cases and best practices.

“The product backlog is a prioritized wishlist that details what is to be built, consisting of everything from features, bug fixes, technical work, and knowledge acquisition. It guides the work of the team, outlining what is needed and the order in which it must be done.” – Jeff Sutherland, co-creator of Scrum

What is a Product Backlog? Definition of Product Backlog

A product backlog is a prioritized list of features, enhancements, bugfixes, and other tasks that need to be completed for the successful development of a software product. Essentially, the Product Backlog represents the “to-do list” for a development team, capturing the requirements and user stories that drive progress in delivering a valuable end user product.

ℹ️ Synonyms: Feature backlog, user story backlog, backlog of requirements, project backlog, sprint backlog.

How it Works

The Product Backlog is managed by the Product Owner or designated leader in collaboration with the development team. As new tasks are created, they are added to the Product Backlog and prioritized according to the business and user needs. These tasks are organized in a way that ensures the most important and urgent tasks are worked on first.

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During the development process, tasks from the Product Backlog are selected to be a part of the next development iteration, also known as a sprint. The development team then works on completing the tasks. The Product Backlog is a living, ever-changing document that is constantly refined and reprioritized to meet the needs of the project, with new tasks being added and existing ones being adjusted based on the changing requirements and feedback from stakeholders.

Benefits of using Product Backlog

Using a Product Backlog can lead to more efficient and successful project development. Some benefits include:

  • Increased visibility and communication among team members in terms of tasks, priorities, and development progress.
  • Enhanced ability to incorporate feedback and changing requirements throughout the development process.
  • Improved project management and resource allocation with a clear understanding of task prioritization.
  • Reduced risk of task duplication or confusion by providing a single source of truth for all team members.
  • A higher likelihood of project success due to better focus on delivering value and meeting objectives.

Product Backlog use cases

The use of a Product Backlog is not limited to software development. Businesses in various industries, including healthcare, finance, and retail, can utilize a Product Backlog to prioritize and organize tasks for a product or project. Some examples of use cases include:

  • New software application development, to keep track of requirements, user stories, and features during the entire development cycle.
  • Managing updates and enhancements to existing products, ensuring that the most valuable changes are implemented in a timely manner.
  • Website redesign projects, where new features and functionality must be planned and organized efficiently.
  • Content creation projects, such as the development of training courses or marketing collateral, where prioritization and organization of tasks is critical.
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Best Practices

To get the most value from a Product Backlog, it is important to follow some best practices. These include regular refinement and reprioritization, involving the development team and relevant stakeholders in backlog management, and ensuring that tasks are transparent, well-defined, and actionable. Additionally, leverage metrics and data (e.g., estimates and actual effort required) to make better decisions about task priority and allocation. In general, keeping a well-organized, updated and relevant backlog will enable the development team to work more efficiently and collaboratively, leading to a successful outcome.

Most recommended books about Product Backlog

For those interested in learning more about Product Backlog and related methodologies, the following are some highly-recommended books to explore:

  • “Agile Estimating and Planning” by Mike Cohn
  • “Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process” by Kenneth S. Rubin
  • “Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time” by Jeff Sutherland and JJ Sutherland
  • “User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development” by Mike Cohn
  • “The Product Owner’s Guide to Effective Backlog Management: Effective Product Backlog Management Practices” by Matheus Guimaraes


In summary, a Product Backlog is a vital tool for organizing and prioritizing tasks in a software development project, using methodologies such as Scrum or Agile. Providing a clear and actionable “to-do list” for development teams, an efficient Product Backlog enhances collaboration, communication and project success. By following best practices and applying these principles across industries and project types, organizations can benefit from improved project outcomes and increased productivity.

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Back in 2013, I founded Echo with the simple business idea: "Connect great tech companies around the globe with the brightest software engineers in Eastern Europe." We've employed hundreds of talents so far and keep going.
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li-url Lou Reverchuk

IT Entrepreneur

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