Use Azure Boards to manage your product and portfolio backlogs

Azure DevOps Services | Azure DevOps Server 2020 | Azure DevOps Server 2019 | TFS 2018

Portfolio backlogs provide product owners insight into the work done by several agile feature teams. Product owners can define the high-level goals as Epics or Features. Feature teams can break down these work items into the user stories they'll prioritize and develop.

In this article you'll learn:

  • How to support a management view of multiple team progress
  • How feature teams can focus on their team backlog progress
  • How to assign work from a common backlog
  • How to set up a hierarchical set of teams and backlogs

Note

For guidance on configuring and customizing your project and teams to support your business needs, review Configuration and customization of Azure Boards.

By setting up a team structure like the one shown, you provide each feature team with their distinct backlog to plan, prioritize, and track their work. And, portfolio or product owners can create their vision, roadmap, and goals for each release, monitor progress across their portfolio of projects, and manage risks and dependencies.

Each team has its own view of the work

Set up a hierarchical team and backlog structure when you want to support the following elements:

  • Autonomous feature teams that can organize and manage their backlog of work
  • Portfolio management views for planning epics and features and monitoring progress of subordinate feature teams
  • Assign backlog items to feature teams from a common backlog

Note

The images you see from your web portal may differ from the images you see in this article. These differences result from updates made to Azure DevOps Services. However, the basic functionality available to you remains the same unless explicitly mentioned.

Note

The images you see from your web portal may differ from the images you see in this article. These differences result from updates made to your on-premises Azure DevOps. However, the basic functionality available to you remains the same unless explicitly mentioned.

Management view of team progress

In this example, we show the Epics portfolio backlog for the Management team. Drilling down, you can see all the backlog items and features, even though they belong to one of three different teams: Customer Service, Phone, and Web.

Backlog that shows parents and multi-team ownership.

In this example, we show the Epics portfolio backlog for the Management team. Drilling down, you can see all the backlog items and features, even though they belong to one of three different teams: Customer Service, Phone, and Web.

Backlog that shows parents and multi-team ownership.

Tip

Program managers can also gain insight into progress across teams using Delivery plans. See also Visibility across teams.

Feature team backlog ownership and view of progress

Each feature team has its own team home page or dashboards, product and portfolio backlogs, Kanban boards, and taskboards. These pages only show work relevant to each team. The relevance is based on assignments made to the work item area and iteration paths. For details, see About teams and Agile tools.

Tip

Add Node Name to the column options to show the team assigned to the work item.

The Customer Service feature team's view of the backlog only includes those work items assigned to their area path, Fabrikam Fiber/Customer Service. Here we show parents that provide a few of the features and epics to which the backlog items belong. Items that are owned by other teams appear with hollow-filled bars. For example, Mobile feedback and Text alerts belong to the Account Management team.

Items that are owned by other teams appear with an information icon, .

Backlog that shows parents and multi-team ownership

Items that are owned by other teams appear with an information icon, .

Backlog that shows parents and multi-team ownership

Assign work from a common backlog

While the hierarchical team and backlog structure works well to support autonomous teams to take ownership of their backlog, it also supports assigning work to teams from a common backlog. During a sprint or product planning meeting, product owners and development leads can review the backlog. Teams can also assign select items to various teams by assigning them to the feature team Area Path.

In this view of the Account Management backlog, all items still assigned to Account Management have yet to be assigned.

Management team common backlog

During the planning meeting, you can open each item, make notes, and assign the item to the team to work on it.

Tip

You can multi-select work items and perform a bulk edit of the area path. See Bulk modify work items.

Here, all backlog items have been assigned to feature teams while all features and epics remain owned by Account Management.

All backlog items have been assigned to feature teams.

In this view of the Account Management backlog, all items still assigned to Account Management have yet to be assigned.

Management team common backlog

During the planning meeting, you can open each item, make notes, and assign the item to the team to work on it.

Tip

You can multi-select work items and perform a bulk edit of the area path. See Bulk modify work items.

Here, all backlog items have been assigned to feature teams while all features and epics remain owned by Account Management.

All backlog items have been assigned to feature teams.

Add portfolio backlogs

If you need more than three backlog levels, you can add more. To learn how, see Customize your backlogs or boards for a process.

If you need more than three backlog levels, you can add more. To learn how, see Add portfolio backlogs.

Track dependencies across teams

The simplest way to track dependencies across teams is to link work items using the Related link type. If they're dependent in time, then you can use the Predecessor/Successor link types. You can then create queries that find work items containing these relationships. See Manage dependencies, link work items to support traceability to learn more.

Using Delivery Plans, you can track dependencies across projects within an organization. To learn more, see Track dependencies using Delivery Plans.

Portfolio feature progress

To view feature progress based on linked requirements, you can add a rollup column or view the Feature Timeline. To learn more, see Display rollup and View portfolio progress with the Feature Timeline.

To view feature progress based on linked requirements, you can view the Feature Timeline. To learn more, see View portfolio progress with the Feature Timeline.

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