Portfolio management

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Portfolio backlogs provide product owners insight into the work performed by several agile feature teams. Product owners can define the high-level goals as Epics or Features, and feature teams can break these down 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

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

Management view of team progress

Note

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.

Note

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

Note

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.

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, new navigation

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

Tip

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

Choose New navigation for guidance. Previous navigation isn't supported for Azure DevOps Server 2019.

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, 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 which 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, new navigation

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

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 and 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.

Management team common backlog

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

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. You can then create queries that find work items containing these relationships.

See Manage dependencies, link work items to support traceability to learn more.

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