Forecast your product backlog

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Teams use the forecast tool to help in their sprint planning efforts. By plugging in a value for the team velocity, the forecast tool will show which items in the backlog can be completed within future sprints. Both tools are team-specific tools that rely on the team's ability to estimate backlog items. Once your team has completed a sprint or two, they can use the team velocity to forecast how much of the backlog they can finish within the upcoming sprints.

Use this article to learn:

  • How to forecast upcoming sprints
  • Required and recommended team activities to support forecasting

Note

To understand the differences between backlogs, boards, taskboards, and Delivery plans, see Backlogs, boards, and plans. If your backlog or board doesn't show the work items that you expect or want, see Set up your backlogs and boards.

Note

To understand the differences between backlogs, boards, and taskboards, see Backlogs, and boards. If your backlog or board doesn't show the work items that you expect or want, see Set up your backlogs and boards.

Prerequisites

  • You must connect to a project. If you don't have a project yet, create one.
  • You must be added to a project as a member of the Contributors security group. If you're not on a project or team, get added now.
  • You must be granted Basic access or higher to use the forecast feature. For details, see About access levels.

Note

Users with Stakeholder access for a public project have full access to backlog and board features just like users with Basic access. For details, see About access levels.

  • You must connect to a project. If you don't have a project yet, create one.
  • You must be added to a project as a member of the Contributors security group. If you're not on a project or team, get added now.
  • You must be granted Basic access or higher to add or modify work items. For details, see About access levels.

Here's what you need to have in place before you attempt to forecast your team's backlog.

Required:

Recommended:

  • Define and size backlog items to minimize variability.
  • Determine how your team wants to treat bugs. If your team chooses to treat bugs like requirements, bugs will show up on the backlog and be counted within the Velocity chart and forecasting.
  • Set your team's area path. The forecast tool will forecast those items based on your team's default settings. These settings can specify to include items in area paths under the team's default or exclude them.
  • Don't create a hierarchy of backlog items and bugs. The display of the leaf node, the last node in a same-category hierarchy, may only appear on Kanban boards, sprint backlogs, and taskboards. To learn more, see Fix re-ordering and nesting issues, How backlogs and boards display hierarchical (nested) items.
    Instead of nesting requirements, bugs, and tasks, maintain a flat list—only creating parent-child links one level deep between different-category items. Use Features to group requirements or user stories. You can quickly map stories to features, which creates parent-child links in the background.
  • At the end of the sprint, update the status of those backlog items that the team has fully completed. Incomplete items should be moved back to the product backlog and considered in a future sprint planning meeting.

Note

If you work with several teams, and each team wants to work with their own backlog, velocity chart, and forecast tool, you can create additional teams. Each team then gets access to their own set of Agile tools. Each Agile tool filters work items to only include those whose assigned area paths and iteration paths meet those set for the team.

Forecast upcoming sprints

You can use the forecast tool to get an idea of how many items you can complete within a sprint. By plugging in a velocity, you can see which items are within scope for the set of sprints the team has activated.

To forecast your product backlog, perform the following actions.

  1. From your web browser, open your product backlog. (1) Check that you have selected the right project, (2) choose Boards>Backlogs, and then (3) select the correct team from the team selector menu.

    Open Work, Backlogs, for a team

    To choose another team, open the selector and select a different team or choose the home-icon Browse all team backlogs option. Or, you can enter a keyword in the search box to filter the list of team backlogs for the project.

    Choose another team

  2. Check that you have selected Backlog items (for Scrum), Stories (for Agile), or Requirements (for CMMI) as the backlog level. You can only forecast a product backlog. You can't forecast a portfolio backlog such as Features or Epics.

    Choose product backlog level, Backlog items, Stories, or Requirements

  3. (Optional) To choose which columns should display and in what order, choose the  actions icon and select Column options. You may want to add the Iteration Path to the set of columns that appear on your backlog. To learn more, see Change column options.

    Open Column Options

  4. Choose the  view options icon and slide Forecasting to On. To keep things simple, turn the Mapping and Planning panes Off.

    Boards>Backlog, view options menu, Forecast on

    Set In Progress Items to Off to hide those items that won't be counted in the forecast. The forecast tool ignores Scrum items set to Committed or Done and Agile and CMMI items set to Active, Resolved, or Completed.

  5. Enter your team's predicted velocity. If the Forecasting bar doesn't appear.

    Boards>Backlog, Set Forecast velocity

    Tip

    If your team has been working for several sprints, you can gain an idea of your team's velocity from the Velocity widget.

    The tool draws lines for each future sprint selected by the team. The Forecast lines show how much work your team should be able to complete in future sprints. Typically, items above the first line are already in progress for the current sprint. Items that fall between the first and second forecast lines indicate what can be completed in the named sprint.

To forecast your product backlog, perform the following actions.

  1. From your web browser, open your team's product backlog. (1) Select the team from the project/team selector, choose (2) Work, (3) Backlogs, and then (4) the product backlog, which is Backlog items (for Scrum), Stories (for Agile), or Requirements (for CMMI).

    Open the Boards>Backlogs page

    You can only forecast the product backlog of Stories, Backlog items, or Requirements.

    To choose another team, open the project/team selector and select a different team or choose the Browse option.

    Choose another team

    Note

    If you work with several teams, and each team wants to work with their own backlog, velocity chart, and forecast tool, you can create additional teams. Each team then gets access to their own set of Agile tools. Each Agile tool filters work items to only include those whose assigned area paths and iteration paths meet those set for the team.

  2. (Optional) To choose which columns should display and in what order, choose Column options. You may want to add the Iteration Path to the set of columns that appear on your backlog. To learn more, see Change column options.

  3. Set Forecast to On and enter your team's predicted velocity. If the Forecasting bar doesn't appear, set Parents to Hide.

    Web portal, Boards>Backlog, Forecast On

  4. Set In progress items to Hide to hide those items that won't be counted in the forecast. The forecast tool ignores Scrum items set to Committed or Done and Agile and CMMI items set to Active, Resolved, or Completed.

    The tool draws lines for each future sprint selected by the team. The Forecast lines show how much work your team should be able to complete in future sprints. Typically, items above the first line are already in progress for the current sprint. Items that fall between the first and second forecast lines indicate what can be completed in the named sprint.

Review the forecast results

  • Check the results manually to understand discrepancies in what you expect and what the forecast tool displays.
  • Check the amount of effort (Effort, Story Points, or Size) forecasted per sprint.
  • Question forecast results where the effort of an item is near to, or greater than, team velocity.

In this example, a Velocity of 20 is used. The forecast tool limits the number of items shown between the forecast lines to those that can be completed within the sprint or using unused velocity points from the previous sprint.

The forecast tool shows between two and four items can be worked on during Iterations 2 through 6 based on the amount of Story Points assigned to each user story or bug. The forecast logic carries over velocity points from one sprint to the next.

  • Iteration 2: 13 Story Points, items 1 and 2 can be completed; 7 velocity points are carried over to the next sprint

  • Iteration 3: 24 Story Points, items 3 through 5 can be completed; 3 (=20+7-24) velocity points are carried over to the next sprint

  • Iteration 4: 21 Story points, items 6 through 8 can be completed; 2 (=20+3-21) velocity points are carried over to the next sprint

  • Iteration 5: 16 Story points, items 9 through 12 can be completed; 6 (=20+2-16) velocity points are carried over to the next sprint

  • Iteration 6: 23 Story points, items 13 through 16 can be completed; 3 (=20+6-23) velocity points are carried over to the next sprint

    Boards>Backlog, Forecast results for 6 sprints

Note

The forecast logic changed for TFS 2017.2. Previously, the forecast tool limited the number of items shown between the forecast lines to those that could be completed within the sprint or using unused velocity points from the previous sprint.

Now, all items listed between the lines can be started in the sprint labeled by the first line, but may not be completed within the sprint. The amount of effort (Effort, Story Points, Size) that can't be completed in one sprint are carried over to the next sprint. For example, for a velocity of 15, if Item 1 has 35 Effort points, 20 Effort points are carried over to next sprint, then again 5 Effort points are carried over to the sprint after that.

In this example, a Velocity of 15 is used. The forecast tool shows between two and four items can be started or completed during the first six sprints based on the amount of Effort assigned to each work item. The forecast logic carries over effort points from one sprint to the next.

  • Sprint 1: 19 Effort points, items 1 and 2 can be completed and item 3 can be started; 4 Effort points are carried over into the next sprint.
  • Sprint 2: 13 Effort points, item 3 from the previous sprint can be completed, item 4 can be completed, and item 5 can be started; 2 Effort points are carried over into the next sprint.
  • Sprint 3: 15 Effort points, item 5 from the previous sprint and items 6 through 8 can be completed, and item 9 can be started; 2 Effort points are carried over into the next sprint.
  • Sprint 4: 13 Effort points, item 9 from the previous sprint and items 10 and 11 can be completed; no Effort points are carried over into the next sprint.
  • Sprint 5: 19 Effort points, items 12 and 13 can be completed and item 14 can be started; 4 Effort points are carried over into the next sprint.

Web portal, Backlog, Forecast On

The forecast tool shows only those work items that can be completed within a sprint between the forecast lines. Unused velocity points from one sprint are considered in the forecast of the following sprint. The forecasted sprint is listed along with the last item that can be completed during that sprint.

In this example, a velocity of 20 is used. The first two items with a total of 13 Effort points can be completed in Sprint 2.

In summary:

  • Sprint 2: 13 Effort points, items 1 and 2 can be completed; 7 velocity points are carried over to the next sprint
  • Sprint 3: 24 Effort points, items 3 through 5 can be completed; 3 (=20+7-24) velocity points are carried over to the next sprint
  • Sprint 4: 21 Effort points, items 6 through 8 can be completed; 2 (=20+3-21) velocity points are carried over to the next sprint
  • Sprint 5: 16 Effort points, items 9 through 12 can be completed; 6 (=20+2-16) velocity points are carried over to the next sprint
  • Sprint 6: 19 Effort points, items 13 through 15 can be completed; 3 (=20+6-23) velocity points are carried over to the next sprint

Web portal, Enter a velocity to show forecast lines

Determine the velocity needed to complete all items in the backlog

Another way to use the forecast tool is to enter different velocity values until all the backlog items are completed within a given set of sprints. This provides an estimate of what velocity is required to complete your backlog of items.

You can then assess the delta between the current team's velocity and the required velocity to determine what additional resources are required to meet production demands within a required time.

Try this next

Now that you understand how to work with forecasting, you can use this tool to support your team's sprint planning activities.