Split columns

Azure Boards | Azure DevOps Server 2019 | TFS 2018 | TFS 2017 | TFS 2015

You use your Kanban board to visualize the flow of work, and monitor how items are or aren't progressing. Because each column corresponds to a stage of work, you can quickly see the number of items in progress at any each stage.

However, a lag often exists between when work gets moved into a column and when work actually starts. To counter that lag and reveal the actual state of work in progress, you can turn on split columns.

When split, each column contains two sub-columns, Doing and Done.

Kanban with split columns

Split columns lets your team implement a pull mechanism within the workflow process. Without split columns, teams push work forward, to signal that they've completed their stage of work. However, pushing it to the next stage doesn't necessarily mean that a team member immediately starts work on that item.

By contrast, with split columns, your team knows exactly how many items sit idle, waiting for work to begin. You now have greater visibility into the quantity of items that sit idle at each stage throughout your workflow process.


Push items into Done, pull items into Doing

With split columns turned on, you update status of items on the Kanban board in the same way you have before. However, now when you've completed work on an item, you move it into Done, instead of a downstream column. When the next team member becomes free to work on the next high priority item, she pulls it into Doing and reassigns it to herself.

For example, as a team member completes his coding task, he moves the item into Done under the Develop column. When the tester is ready to test the item, she pulls it into Doing under the Test column.

Kanban board showing split column

If you're new to Kanban, review Kanban basics to get an overview of how to access your board and implement Kanban.

Identify bottlenecks, drive toward a perfect flow scenario

How can you use split columns to improve workflow?

Split columns provides you even greater insight into how many items sit idle in a Done column. Your team can readily see when items pile up, which signal a potential bottleneck.

Kanban board, split columns showing stacked items

By reviewing the frequency of pile ups and where they occur, your team can adjust their processes to eliminate the bottlenecks. Workflow processes that incur no or very few bottlenecks correspond to perfect flows. No item sits in a queue for any

Choose which columns you want to split

Now that you understand how your team can use split columns, here's how to turn them on. Before you split columns, you'll want to have mapped each stage of your team's process to a Kanban column.

Only split columns where clear hand-offs exist and you want teams to pull the item into the next stage.


Your web portal uses either the New navigation or Previous navigation user interface. Choose the New navigation tab if the New Navigation feature is enabled. You'll see a vertical sidebar along with other navigational features when New Navigation has been enabled for the signed-in user or the organization. Choose Previous navigation when you see a top-level, blue-bar—indicating that New navigation isn't enabled. For more information, see Web portal navigation.


Choose the New navigation tab for guidance. Azure DevOps Server 2019 supports the New Navigation user interface. For more information, see Web portal navigation.


Choose the Previous navigation tab for guidance. TFS 2018 and earlier versions only support the previous navigation user interface. For more information, see Web portal navigation.

  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.

    Open board settings for a team, vert nav

  3. Choose Columns and then choose the column tab that you want to split. Place a check in the checkbox to cause the column to split.


    You'll see different column titles and choices based on the process used to create your project and whether your team has chosen to treat bugs like requirements or like tasks.

    Kanban board settings dialog, Split columns

  4. When done with your changes, choose Save.


    You can filter queries and create charts using the Board Column Done field.

Choose the Previous navigation tab for guidance. New navigation isn't supported for TFS 2018 and earlier versions.