Plan and track work

Azure Boards | Azure DevOps Server 2020 | Azure DevOps Server 2019 | TFS 2018 - TFS 2013

You track your work by creating work items. This article walks you through creating issues and tasks using a Kanban board for the Basic process, or creating user stories and tasks using for the Agile process.

Choose one of the following four system processes—Agile, Basic, Scrum, or Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI)—for guidance depending on what process was selected for your project. For an overview of each of these processes, see Choose a process.

Note

The Basic process is available when you add a project to Azure DevOps Services or Azure DevOps Server 2019 Update 1. For earlier on-premises deployments, choose Agile, Scrum, or CMMI process.

The Agile process provides several work item types—for example, user stories, tasks, bugs, features, and epics among others—to plan and track work. We recommend you start by adding user stories. If you need to group them into a hierarchy, you can define features. If you want to track additional details of work, you can add tasks to a user story.

Work item types Backlog hierarchy
Agile process work item types, conceptual image Hierarchical backlog

Within each work item form, you can describe the work to be done, assign work to project contributors, track status, and collaborate with others through the Discussion section.

Here we show how to add user stories and child tasks from the web portal and add details to those work items .

Prerequisites

  • After you connect to a project, you can add work items. If you don't have a project yet, create one in Azure DevOps.
  • To add work items to a board, and use all other board features, you must be granted Basic access and have been added as a member of the Contributors or Project Administrators group.
  • If you have been granted Stakeholder access for a private project and have been added as a member of the Contributors or Project Administrators group, you can view boards, open and modify work items, and add child tasks to a checklist. However, you can't update the status of a backlog item or reorder or reparent a backlog item using drag-and-drop, nor update a field on a card.
  • If you have been granted Stakeholder access for a public project, and have been added as a member of the Contributors or Project Administrators group, you have full access to all Boards features.

For details, see Default permissions and access for Azure Boards

Note

The images shown in this article correspond to the latest version of Azure Boards. While they may differ from those shown in earlier, on-premises versions of Azure DevOps, they are similar in the functions described unless otherwise noted.

Open the Kanban board

A Kanban board is provisioned with the addition of each project and each team. You can only create or add Kanban boards to a project by adding another team. To learn more, see About teams and Agile tools.

The User Stories Kanban board is the best tool for quickly adding user stories and child tasks. To open, choose Boards>Boards.

Open your Kanban board

The Features Kanban board is the best tool for quickly adding features and user stories that are children of those features. To open the Features board from the Stories board, choose Features from the board selector.

Open the features board

Add work items to your board

  1. From the Stories board, choose New item and start adding those stories you want to track.

    Add new item

  2. Enter return and the system assigns a work item ID to the user story.

    Added item

  3. To track the work you want to manage, add as many user stories that you need.

Add details to a board item

Choose the issue or user story title to open it. Change one or more field values, add a description, or make a note in the Discussion section. You can also choose the attachments icon Attachments tab and drag-and-drop a file to share the file with others.

Note

The Discussion section is available with TFS 2017.2 and later versions.

For example, here we assign the story to Raisa Pokrovskaya and we add a discussion note, at-mentioning Raisa.

User Story work item form, add details

Choose Save & Close when done.

Field descriptions

Field

Usage

Enter a description of 255 characters or less. You can always modify the title later.

Assign the work item to the team member responsible for performing the work. Depending on the context you are working in, the drop-down menu will list only team members or contributors to the project.

Note

You can only assign work to a single user. If you need to assign work to more than one user, add a work item for each user and distinguish the work to be done by title and description. The Assigned To field only accepts user accounts that have been added to a project or team.

When the work item is created, the State defaults to the first state in the workflow. As work progresses, update it to reflect the current state.

Use the default first. Update it when you change state as need. Each State is associated with a default reason.

Choose the area path associated with the product or team, or leave blank until assigned during a planning meeting. To change the dropdown list of areas, see Define area paths and assign to a team.

Choose the sprint or iteration in which the work is to be completed, or leave it blank and assign it later during a planning meeting. To change the drop-down list of iterations, see Define iteration (sprint) paths and configure team iterations.

Provide enough detail to create shared understanding of scope and support estimation efforts. Focus on the user, what they want to accomplish, and why. Don't describe how to develop the product. Do provide sufficient details so that your team can write tasks and test cases to implement the item.

Define what "Done" means by describing the criteria for the team to use to verify whether the PBI or the bug fix is fully implemented.

Before work begins on a PBI or bug, describe the criteria for customer acceptance as clearly as possible. Have conversations between the team and customers to determine the acceptance criteria. These criteria help ensure a common understanding within the team to meet customers' expectations. Also, this information provides the basis for acceptance testing.

Impact Assessment (CMMI only)

Describes the customer impact of not implementing the requirement. You might include details from the Kano model about whether this requirement is in the surprise, required, or obvious categories.

A subjective rating of the issue or task it relates to the business. You can specify the following values:

  • 1: Product cannot ship without the successful resolution of the work item, and it should be addressed as soon as possible.
  • 2: Product cannot ship without the successful resolution of the work item, but it does not need to be addressed immediately.
  • 3: Resolution of the work item is optional based on resources, time, and risk.
  • 4: Resolution of the work item is not required.

Provide a relative estimate of the amount of work required to complete a PBI. For user stories and requirements, you capture estimates in Story Points and Size. For product backlog items or issues (Basic process), you specify Effort. Most Agile methods recommend that you set estimates for backlog items based on relative size of work. Such methods include powers of 2 (1, 2, 4, 8) and the Fibonacci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, etc.). Use any numeric unit of measurement your team prefers.
The estimates you set for Effort, Size, or Story Points are used to calculate velocity and forecast sprints.

Specify a priority that captures the relative value of a PBI compared to other PBIs. The higher the number, the greater the business value.
Use this field when you want to capture a priority separate from the changeable backlog stack ranking.

Update status

The State field tracks the status of a work item. With the Kanban board, you can quickly update the status of backlog items by dragging and dropping them to a different column. This feature requires that you have Basic access or higher.

As work starts, drag the user story card from the Backlog column to the Active column. Once work is ready for review, move to the Resolved column. After it is reviewed and accepted, move to the Closed column.

Update status on Kanban board

You can add or rename columns as needed, see Customize your board.

Tip

You can add or rename columns as needed, see Customize your board.

Add tasks

Task checklists provide a quick and easy way to track elements of work which are important to support completing a backlog item. In addition, you can assign individual tasks to different team members.

Tip

Tasks that you create from the Kanban board are automatically assigned to the sprint/iteration path of the parent work item under which you define them.

Tasks that you create from the Kanban board show up on your sprint taskboard. Also, tasks that you create from the sprint backlog or taskboard show up within tasks checklists on the Kanban board.

Note

The Task checklists are available from with TFS 2015.1 and later versions.

  1. To start adding tasks, choose the actions icon for the story and select the plus icon Add Task option.

    Choose Add Task from Issues menu

    Enter a title for the task and type Enter when done.

    Add first task

  2. If you have a number of tasks to add, simply keep typing your task titles and type Enter.

    Several tasks added

  3. You can mark a task as done, expand or collapse the task checklist, or reorder and reparent tasks.

    Mark a task as done Reorder and reparent tasks Expand or collapse the checklist
    To mark a task as complete, check the task checkbox. The task State changes to Done.
    Mark task as done
    To reorder a task, drag it within the checklist. To reparent a the task, drag it to another issue on the board.
    Drag tasks to reorder them within the list
    To expand or collapse a task checklist, simply choose the task annotation.
    Collapse task checklist

Add details to a task

If you have details you want to add about a task, choose the title, to open it. Change one or more field values, add a description, or make a note in the Discussion section. Choose Save & Close when done.

Here we assign the task to Christie Church.

Task form

Field descriptions

In addition to the fields you can define for a backlog item—user story, issue, product backlog item, or requirement—you can specify the following fields for a task to support capacity and time tracking.

Note

There are no inherent time units associated with this field even though the taskboard always shows "h" for hours in relationship to Remaining Work. You can specify work in any unit of measurement your team chooses.

Field

Usage

The type of activity that is required to perform a task.To learn more about how this field is used, see Capacity planning. Allowed values are:

  • Deployment
  • Design
  • Development
  • Documentation
  • Requirements
  • Testing

Discipline (CMMI process)

The type of activity that is required to perform a task.To learn more about how this field is used, see Capacity planning. Allowed values are:

  • Analysis
  • Development
  • Test
  • User Education
  • User Experience

The amount of estimated work required to complete a task. Typically, this field doesn't change after it is assigned.

The amount of work that remains to finish a task. You can specify work in hours or in days. As work progresses, update this field. It's used to calculate capacity charts and the sprint burndown chart.
If you divide a task into subtasks, specify Remaining Work for the subtasks only.

The amount of work spent implementing a task. Enter a value for this field when you complete the task.

Task Type (CMMI only)

Select the kind of task to implement from the allowed values:

  • Corrective Action
  • Mitigation Action
  • Planned

Capture comments in the Discussion section

Use the Discussion section to add and review comments made about the work being performed.

Discussion section within a work item form

The rich text editor tool bar displays below the text entry area when you click your cursor within each text box that can be formatted.

Discussion section, New Rich Text Editor toolbar

Note

There is no Discussion work item field. To query work items with comments entered in the Discussion area, you filter on the History field. The full content of the text entered into the Discussion text box is added to the History field.

Mention someone, a group, work item, or pull request ( , , or pull-request id icon)

Choose one of these icons — , , or pull-request id icon— to open a menu of recent entries you've made to mention someone, link to a work item, or link to a pull request. Or, you can simply type @, #, or ! to open the same menu.

Discussion section, @mention drop-down menu

Note

This latest version of the rich text editor requires Azure DevOps Server 2019 Update 1 or later version.

Type a name, or enter a number and the menu list will filter to match your entry. Choose the entry you want to add. You can bring a group into the discussion by typing @ and the group name, such as a team or security group.

Edit or delete a comment

If you need to edit or delete any of your discussion comments, choose Edit or choose the actions icon and then choose Delete.

Discussion section, Edit, Delete actions

Note

The edit/delete feature requires Azure DevOps Server 2019 Update 1 or later version.

After updating the comment, choose Update. To delete the comment, you'll need to confirm that you want to delete it.

A full audit trail of all edited and deleted comments is maintained in the History tab on the work item form.

Use the **@mention** control to notify another team member about the discussion. Simply type @ and their name. To reference a work item, use the #ID control. Type # and a list of work items that you've recently referenced will appear from which you can select.

To reference a work item, use the #ID control. Type # and a list of work items that you've recently referenced will appear from which you can select.

Note that you can't edit or delete comments once they've been entered.

Important

For on-premises Azure DevOps Server, you must configure an SMTP server in order for team members to receive notifications.

Add a reaction to a comment

You can add one or more reactions to any comment. Choose a smiley icon at the upper-right corner of any comment or choose from the icons at the bottom of a comment next to any existing reactions. To remove your reaction, click the reaction on the bottom of your comment. The following shows an example of the experience of adding a reaction, as well as the display of reactions on a comment.

Add reactions to a comment

Q & A

Q: How to mark a task or work item as a milestone task?

A: Milestone markers aren't used in Azure Boards work tracking, except for Delivery Plans. Delivery Plans provide a calendar view and allow you to define a milestone marker. For more information, see Review team Delivery Plans.

However, you can use one or more of the following options to mark a work item as a milestone:

Q: How do I change the picklist of values?

A: Picklist value entries are dependent on the data type. Refer to the following articles based on the field type of interest:

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