Customize your work tracking experience

Azure DevOps Services | Azure DevOps Server 2019 | TFS 2018 | TFS 2017 | TFS 2015 | TFS 2013

As you plan and track your project, you'll find you may want to configure a feature or customize your experience to meet your team's tracking needs. You configure teams and team Agile tools through the web portal administration context. The method you use to customize projects, which impacts all teams, depends on the process model you use.

Customizations you make occur at one of three levels:

  • Team assets or tools: Each team can customize or configure their specific tools, for details,see About teams and Agile tools
  • Project level: Add or modify work item types, data fields, backlog levels, and other objects shared across teams
  • Object level: Grant or restrict access to work tracking tools, which includes setting permissions for objects and the project and assigning users or groups to specific access levels.


If you're new to the work tracking system, see Get started with Agile tools to plan and track work.

Shared resources

Each project provides a number of shared resources that support all teams added to the project. You configure these features through the user interface or the admin context of the web portal. To understand how the system uses area and iteration paths, see About area and iteration paths.

Area path pick lists Sprint/iteration pick lists
Change the pick list of area paths to support grouping work items by team, product, or feature area.
Hierarchical area paths
Change the pick list of iteration paths to support grouping work into sprints, milestones, or other event-specific or time-related period. Activate sprints for each team.
Iterations or sprints
Shared queries Tags
Open shared queries or create your own
query using the query editor to list work items
or show hierarchical or dependent items.<br/Shared queries
Add tags to work items to filter backlogs and queries, or list items by tags
Add tags to filter backlogs, boards, and queries

Projects and process customizations

Your project determines the objects available to track work and the configuration of Agile tools. Specifically, the project determines the work item types (WITs)—user stories, tasks, bugs— and the data fields used to capture information. Customized objects are shared across teams added to the project.


The method you use to customize work tracking depends on the process model you subscribe to:

  • Inheritance: Supports WYSIWYG customization, available for Azure DevOps Services and Azure DevOps Server 2019
  • Hosted XML: Supports customization through import/export of process templates, available for a select number of customers of Azure DevOps Services who have opted into this model
  • On-premises XML: Supports customization through import/export of XML definition files for work tracking objects and is available for all on-premises deployments

The following table summarizes the differences between the three supported process models. For definitions of the main work tracking objects, see Agile glossary.

Feature Inheritance Hosted XML On-premises XML
WYSIWYG editing checkmark
Create inherited custom processes checkmark
Create custom process templates (see note 1) checkmark checkmark
Inherit changes in system processes (Agile, Scrum, CMMI) checkmark
Updated process changes automatically apply to projects checkmark checkmark
Basic customizations supported (fields, workflow, work item types, backlog levels) checkmark checkmark checkmark
Global lists Picklists (see note 2) checkmark
Advanced customizations supported (custom link types, team fields, global workflow, test management, and select process configuration) (see note 3) checkmark
Initial configuration of permissions and security groups (see note 3) checkmark checkmark
Update Microsoft field mappings using the TFSFieldMapping command-line tool (see note 4) checkmark checkmark
Use the witadmin command-line tools to edit projects checkmark
Use the witadmin command-line tools to list information about projects checkmark checkmark
REST API (read) checkmark checkmark checkmark
REST API (write) checkmark


  1. A process determines the building blocks used to track work. A process template specifies an interdependent-related set of XML definition files that provide the building blocks and initial configuration for tracking work and other functional areas.
  2. Hosted XML customization supports adding and updating global lists with a process update (subject to limits on maximum size of each list). To learn more, see Work tracking object limits.
  3. The Inherited process model doesn't support customization of the following features available with customization of process templates. Instead, you customize these areas within the web portal interface on a project-by-project basis. Or, you can use REST APIs or the Azure DevOps CLI command tool.
    • Configure areas and iterations
    • Work item queries
    • Security groups and permissions
    • Permissions and access to functional areas such as version control and build
  4. Support for Office Project integration with Azure DevOps is deprecated starting with Azure DevOps Server 2019. The TFSFieldMapping command is not supported for Azure DevOps Server 2019 nor for Azure DevOps Services. Starting with Visual Studio 2019, the Team Foundation plug-in for Office no longer supports Office Project.

Choose the process model for your project collection

For Azure DevOps Server 2019, you have a choice of process models. When you create a project collection, you'll need to choose between XML (On-premises XML process model) and Inheritance (Inheritance process model), as shown in the following dialog.

Create Team Project Collection wizard, Collection Name dialog


The choice you make is not reversible. Once the collection is created, you'll only be able to customize work tracking objects using the model selected. Also, there is no way to migrate existing project collections that use the On-premises XML process model to the Inheritance process model.

To learn more about project collections, see Manage project collections.

Grant or restrict access to work tracking tools

You can grant or restrict access to select features and functions through the web portal. When you add user accounts to your team, they're automatically added to the Contributor group. They then have access to most of the features they'll need to contribute to code, work tracking, builds, and test. However, the Contributor group doesn't allow users to create shared queries or to add area or iteration paths. You have to grant these permissions separately.

For a simplified view of the most common, default permissions and access assignments, see Permissions and access. If you're new to managing permissions, see Permissions and groups reference, Inheritance.

Otherwise, to grant or restrict access to select features or functions, review one of these topics:

Customization area Customization support
Manage access
Shared resources

Customize the test experience

Several WITs support the test experience within the web portal Test pages and Test Manager client. You can customize these WITs as you would any other WIT. The following image illustrates the support link relationships.

Test management work item types

See the following resources for additional usage and customization information:

Change the pick list for a person-name field

To add values for fields associated with user accounts such as Assigned To add users to a security group or by restricting access to a group or set of users. By default, the list for the Assigned To field contains the account names for all users and groups that have been added to the server. These accounts are often synchronized with Active Directory or Azure Active Directory. See Add AD/Azure AD users or groups to a built-in security group.

Less common customizations

You can only perform the following customizations when working with the Hosted XML or On-premises XML process models. The customizations made to process configuration apply to all teams added to the project.

Backlog and board limits (Hosted XML, On-premises XML)

To limit the display load time to acceptable parameters, the task board is restricted to a maximum of 1000 work items. For details, see Process configuration XML element reference.

You can increase this value up to a maximum of 1500 by specifying a value for the workItemCountLimit attribute of the TaskBacklog element. For details, see Process configuration XML element reference.

<TaskBacklog category="Microsoft.TaskCategory" pluralName="Tasks" singularName="Task" workItemCountLimit="800" >
    . . .

Change field assignments (Hosted XML, On-premises XML)

You can change the work item fields that are used in calculating capacity, burndown charts, forecasting, and velocity. Any change you make to one of the default assignments should correspond to a change made to the WIT used to define and capture information for that value.

For example, if you change the refname assigned to type="Activity" then you should include the same field in the WIT definition assigned to the Task Category which captures the activity information. For details, see Process configuration XML element reference.

The fields you assign are used by the following tools:

Tool Field type
Task board, capacity tools, sprint burndown Remaining work
Product and portfolio backlogs Backlog priority
Velocity and forecast Effort (maps to Story Points, Effort, or Size)
Task board, capacity tools Remaining work
Capacity tools Activity (Task Activity or Discipline)

Additional options

Do you want to customize your tools in a way that's not supported?

Here are a few options available to you: