Expedite work with swimlanes

Azure Boards | Azure DevOps Server 2020 | Azure DevOps Server 2019 | TFS 2018 - TFS 2015

Your Kanban board supports your ability to visualize the flow of work as it moves from just defined to completed. When you add swimlanes, you can also visualize the status of work that supports different service-level classes. You can create a swimlane to represent any other dimension that supports your tracking needs.

For example, you can create three swimlanes—Expedite, Standard, and Parked—to track high-priority work, standard work, and work that's currently blocked.

Conceptual image of Kanban board showing three swimlanes

Tip

Type o to expand all swimlanes and u to collapse all swimlanes. To move the focus up or down, enter the ↑↓ up/down arrows. For more tips, see Keyboard shortcuts.

Prerequisites

  • You must have a Kanban board you want to configure. When you add a team, you add a Kanban board for that team. To learn more, see About teams and Agile tools.
  • You must be added to the team administrator role for the team's settings you want to modify, or be a member of the Project Administrators security group. To get added, see Add a team administrator or Set permissions at the project- or collection-level.
  • Users assigned Basic access or higher can exercise all backlog and board features.
  • Users assigned Stakeholder access have limited access to backlog and board features. Stakeholders can edit work items on the board and add existing tags to a work item. They can't add work items to a board and can't update fields displayed on cards. For details, see About access levels.
  • You must have a Kanban board you want to configure. When you add a team, you add a Kanban board for that team. To learn more, see About teams and Agile tools.
  • You must be added to the team administrator role for the team's settings you want to modify, or be a member of the Project Administrators security group. To get added, see Add a team administrator or Set permissions at the project- or collection-level.
  • Users assigned Basic access or higher can exercise all backlog and board features.
  • Users assigned Stakeholder access have limited access to backlog and board features. Stakeholders can edit work items on the board and add existing tags to a work item. They can't add work items to a board, can't drag-and-drop work items to update status or reorder cards, and can't update fields displayed on cards. For details, see About access levels.

Types of swimlanes

You can use swimlanes to sort work on your Kanban board to track items that you differentiate as follows:

  • High priority items
  • Service-level class
  • Date-driven requirement
  • Dependency for or from another team
  • Blocked items
  • Technical debt or other engineering work that's not a specific user story

Track work in swimlanes

Once you've set up your swimlanes, you can drag items into a swimlane as well as reorder them within the lane.

Tip

When you have many swimlanes or cards on your board, you may encounter slow performance when dragging a card. We recommend that you use swimlanes in conjunction with card styles, tags, and board filters to manage your work items. If you have a lot of cards in the default lane, place that lane lower on the board to enhance performance when dragging a card to another swimlane.

Screenshot of Kanban board, Drag items into a swimlane.

Screenshot of Kanban board, Drag items into a swimlane, TFS 2017 and earlier versions.

You can also focus on a single swimlane by collapsing all other lanes.

Screenshot of Kanban board, Collapsed swimlanes.

Screenshot of Kanban board, Collapsed swimlanes, TFS 2017 and earlier versions.

Important

Work items that appear on more than one team's Kanban board can yield results that don't meet your expectations. Each team can customize the Kanban board columns and swimlanes. Therefore, the values assigned to Board Column or Board Swimlane may differ from what you expect when another team updates the work item from a different board.

The primary work around for this issue is to maintain single ownership of work items by Defining area paths and assign to a team. Another option is to add custom workflow states which all teams can use. For details, see Customize the workflow (Inheritance process).

Important

Work items that appear on more than one team's Kanban board can yield results that don't meet your expectations. Each team can customize the Kanban board columns and swimlanes. Therefore, the values assigned to Board Column or Board Swimlane may differ from what you expect when another team updates the work item from a different board.

The primary work around for this issue is to maintain single ownership of work items by Defining area paths and assign to a team. Another option is to add custom workflow states which all teams can use. For details, see Change the workflow for a work item type.

Add or remove a swimlane

So, what swimlanes will support your tracking needs?

Once you've identified one or two, add them to your Kanban board.

  1. Open your Kanban board. If you're not a team admin, get added as one. Only team and project admins can customize the Kanban board.

  2. Choose the gear icon to configure the board and set general team settings.

    Screenshot of gear icon to open board settings for a team.

  3. Choose Swimlanes and then choose the plus icon and enter the name of the swimlane you want to add.

    Kanban board settings dialog, Add a swimlane

    The default lane appears unlabeled on the Kanban board. You can rename it to anything you like, however, you can't delete it. Also, you can rename it directly from the Kanban board.

  4. To reorder your swimlanes, simply grab the lane and move it up or down.

    Kanban board settings dialog, Reorder a swimlane

  5. If you need to delete a swimlane, first move all items out of the lane. Then open the Settings dialog, choose the actions icon and select Remove.

    Kanban board settings dialog, Remove a swimlane

  6. When done with your changes, choose Save.

  1. Open your Kanban board. If you're not a team admin, get added as one. Only team and project admins can customize the Kanban board.

  2. Choose the gear icon to open the common configuration settings dialog for the Kanban board.

    Screenshot of Kanban board, open common configuration settings.

  3. Choose Swimlanes and then choose the plus icon and enter the name of the swimlane you want to add.

    Kanban board settings dialog, Add a swimlane

    The default lane appears unlabeled on the Kanban board. You can rename it to anything you like, however, you can't delete it. Also, you can rename it directly from the Kanban board.

  4. To reorder your swimlanes, simply grab the lane and move it up or down.

    Kanban board settings dialog, Reorder a swimlane

  5. If you need to delete a swimlane, first move all items out of the lane. Then open the Settings dialog, choose the actions icon and select Remove.

    Kanban board settings dialog, Remove a swimlane

  6. When done with your changes, choose Save.

  1. Open your Kanban board. If you're not a team admin, get added as one. Only team and project admins can customize the Kanban board.

  2. Choose the gear icon to open the common configuration settings dialog for the Kanban board.

    Kanban board, open common configuration settings, TFS 2015 version.

  3. Choose Swimlanes, and then choose the plus icon, and enter the name of the swimlane you want to add.

    For TFS 2015.1 and later versions
    Kanban board, Add a swimlane
    The default lane appears unlabeled on the Kanban board. You can rename it to anything you like, however, you can't delete it. Also, you can rename it directly from the Kanban board.

    For TFS 2015
    Add a swimlane
    The default lane is automatically renamed to Standard when you add a second lane. You can rename it to anything you like, however, you can't delete it.

  4. To reorder your swimlanes, simply grab the lane and move it up or down.
    Kanban board, Open swimlanes

  5. If you need to delete a lane, first move all items out of the lane. Then, choose the actions icon and select Delete.

    Kanban board settings, Delete a swimlane

  6. When done with your changes, choose Save.

Query for work items based on swimlane

You can track which work items have been added to a Kanban board swimlane by creating a query and using the Board Lane field.

Track lane moves

For TFS 2015.1 and later versions

You can track Kanban board swimlane moves by creating a query and using the Board Lane field.

For TFS 2015

Similar to the way column moves are tracked, swimlane moves are captured in the history field.

Work item form, History tab, History of a swimlane move

For TFS 2015 and earlier versions, you can't query for all items in a particular swimlane. To perform such a query, you'd have to assign a value to a field, such as the Priority field, or tag each item in a similar way.

As you can see, swimlanes provides another way to organize and visualize the flow of work using Kanban. Here are a few more options you have for customizing the look and feel of your Kanban board.

REST API resources

To programmatically interact with the Kanban board and other team settings, see the REST API, Boards reference.