What is a backlog? How do you manage a backlog? What are the benefits of using a backlog in your projects? These are some of the questions we'll be answering in this project management glossary article.

What is a backlog?

In project management, a backlog is the list of tasks that have been prioritized for a given time period. In other words, a backlog is a record of what needs to be done and in which order it should be done.

A backlog is a prioritized list of epics, features, requirements, bugs, and other tasks that need to be completed during your project. It may also include additional information related to each task such as an estimate for how much time it will take or who needs to complete it so there are no delays when executing your projects. Backlogs can be used in any type of project, whether they are short-term projects or long-term initiatives.

Project management definition: What is project backlog?
What is project backlog?

Why should you use backlogs to manage your project?

There are many benefits to using backlogs for your projects and milestones. They help you keep track of all the work that needs to get done so there's no confusion as to what should be completed by the end of your project.

Backlogs help you:

  • Track anything that needs to get done throughout a certain period of time (very helpful for longer projects)
  • Manage resources and who will be completing what
  • Identify risks or issues early on in the process so they can be resolved quickly
  • Identify any bottlenecks throughout your projects

How do you create a backlog?

Creating a backlog can be done in various ways, with the most common method being to create user stories which are short descriptions of the tasks users need or want to be completed. Once user stories are created, you then prioritize them based on their level of importance (i.e., high priority, medium priority, low priority).

Here are a few tools that can help you create your backlog:

  • Index cards: this is a simple and effective backlog creation strategy. Write down all the tasks on separate pieces of paper or index cards, then prioritize them based on their importance to your project.
  • Trello: if you use Trello for task management in your projects, add new backlogs as boards within this software so you can easily track the progress of each task.
  • Jira: similar to Trello, you can create backlogs for your new projects within Jira and track progress.
  • Foxly for Jira: Foxly is a prioritization plugin for Jira that helps you prioritize your projects' backlogs and identify the most impactful tasks, with the help of industry standard prioritization methods.

TIP: Build a backlog with the information you have and add to it as more details emerge throughout your project, instead of trying to define everything at once.

Who manages backlogs?

Backlog management is usually assigned to the project manager. However, backlog grooming can also be delegated to team members so they're more involved in their projects and understand what needs to be done at all times.

Ideally, backlog management is a collaborative process that should involve everyone on the project. You can work with a backlog team that includes other members of your management, or the people who will be completing each task. This way, everyone is aware of what needs to get done and there are no delays in executing projects throughout the company!

If you're looking for a tool to help you prioritize as a team in Jira, you can take a look at Priority planning poker.

How can I Improve my backlog management skills?

There are many ways to improve your backlog management skills and we've listed a few of them below:

  • Ask for feedback on the backlogs your team creates and uses
  • Track how long it takes, on average, to complete each backlog item
  • If there are large backlog items, break them down into smaller tasks so everyone is aware of what needs to be done.

What is backlog grooming and how can it help me?

Backlog grooming is a part of backlog management and involves reviewing backlog items to ensure they're prioritized correctly, estimated accurately, implemented efficiently in the project workflow, and completed successfully.

What are the benefits of backlog grooming?

In a backlog grooming meeting, you will go through every task on your backlog and break it down into smaller tasks, so that each team member knows what they need to do at all times. This is a great way for you - as a project manager - to ensure everyone understands their role in the project and that there are no delays when executing your projects throughout your company!

Backlog grooming helps you get many things done in your projects:

  • It ensures backlogs actually provide value for your projects and that they're completed in a timely manner
  • It ensures backlog items are estimated accurately so the team knows how long it takes to complete them
  • It makes backlog management easier because you can easily trace back what needs to be done and when, which minimizes errors throughout your project workflow

These processes all work together to improve your backlog management and ensure your projects run smooth.

For more on backlog grooming, this is a good article.

Project Backlog FAQs

What is backlog in projects?

Backlog is the list of tasks that have been prioritized for a given time period. In other words, backlog is a record of what needs to be done and in which order it should be done.

What are the benefits of backlog grooming?

What are the benefits of backlog grooming?

  1. Ensures backlogs actually provide value in your projects and that they are completed in a timely manner.
  2. Ensures backlog items are estimated accurately so the team knows how much time it will take to complete them.
  3. Makes backlog management easier because you can easily trace back what needs to be done and when, which minimizes errors throughout your project workflow.

Who manages backlogs?

Backlog management is usually assigned to the project manager. However, backlog grooming can also be delegated to team members so they are more involved in their projects and understand what needs to get done at all times.

How do you create a backlog?

Creating a backlog can be done in many different ways, with the most common method being to create user stories. User stories are short descriptions of what tasks users need or want to be completed and then prioritize them based on their level of importance (i.e., high priority, medium priority, low priority).