Plan your organizational structure

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Your business structure should act as a guide to the number of organizations, projects, and teams that you create in Azure DevOps. This article helps you plan for different structures and scenarios for Azure DevOps.

Consider the following structures for your business or collaborative work in Azure DevOps:

You also may want to plan for the following scenarios:

You need to have at least one organization, which may represent your company, your larger collection of code projects, or even multiple related business units.

What is an organization?

An organization in Azure DevOps is a mechanism for organizing and connecting groups of related projects. Examples are business divisions, regional divisions, or other enterprise structure. You can choose one organization for your entire company, or separate organizations for specific business units, or an organization just for you.

Each organization gets its own free tier of services (up to five users for each service type) as follows. You can use all the services, or choose just what you need to complement your existing workflows.

  • Azure Pipelines: One hosted job with 1,800 minutes per month for CI/CD and one self-hosted job
  • Azure Boards: Work item tracking and Kanban boards
  • Azure Repos: Unlimited private Git repos
  • Azure Artifacts: Package management
  • Load testing (20,000 VUMs per month)
  • Unlimited Stakeholders
    • Five Azure DevOps users (Basic)
    • Free tier of Microsoft-hosted CI/CD (one concurrent job, up to 30 hours per month)
    • 2GB of Azure Artifacts storage
    • One self-hosted CI/CD concurrent job
    • 20,000 virtual user minutes of cloud-based load testing

Note

The cloud-based load testing service is deprecated. More information about the deprecation, the service availability, and alternative services can be found here.

How many organizations do you need?

When you're starting out with Azure DevOps, begin with one organization. Then, you can add additional organizations—which may require different security models—later. If you only have a single code repo or project, you don't need more than one organization. If you have separate teams that need to work on code or other projects in isolation, consider creating separate organizations for those teams. They'll have different URLs. Add projects, teams, and repos, as necessary, before you add another organization.

Take some time to review your work structure and the different business groups and participants to be managed. Read further for more guidance for mapping your projects to business units and structure considerations.

What is a team?

A team is a unit that supports many team-configurable tools, which help you plan and manage work, and make collaboration easier.

Creating a team for each distinct product or feature team

Every team owns their own backlog, to create a new backlog you create a new team. By configuring teams and backlogs into a hierarchical structure, program owners can more easily track progress across teams, manage portfolios, and generate rollup data. A team group is created when you create a team. You can use this group in queries or to set permissions for your team.

What is a project?

A project in Azure DevOps contains the following set of features:

  • Boards and backlogs for agile planning
  • Pipelines for continuous integration and deployment
  • Repos for version control and management of source code and artifacts
  • Continuous test integration throughout the project life cycle Each organization contains one or more projects

In the following image, the Contoso company has three projects within their Contoso-Manufacturing organization.

Image of an organization with three projects

How many projects do you need?

You need at least one project to start using an Azure DevOps service, such as Azure Boards, Azure Repos, or Azure Pipelines. When you create your organization, a default project is created for you. In your default project, there's a code repo to start working in, backlog to track work, and at least one pipeline to begin automating build and release.

Within an organization, you can do either of the following approaches:

  • Create a single project that contains many repos and teams
  • Create many projects, each with its own set of teams, repos, builds, work items, and other elements

Even if you have many teams working on hundreds of different applications and software projects, you can manage them within a single project in Azure DevOps. However, if you want to manage more granular security between your software projects and their teams, consider using many projects. At the highest level of isolation is an organization, where each organization is connected to a single Azure AD tenant. A single Azure AD tenant can be connected to many Azure DevOps organizations.

Single project

A single project puts all of the work at the same "portfolio" level for the entire organization. Your work has the same set of repos and iteration paths. A single project allows teams to share source repos, build definitions, release definitions, reports, and package feeds. You might have a large product or service that's managed by many teams. Those teams have tight inter-dependencies on each other across the product life cycle. You create a project and divide the work using teams and area paths. This setup gives your teams visibility into each other's work, so the organization stays aligned. Your teams use the same taxonomy for work item tracking, making it easier to communicate and stay consistent.

Tip

When multiple teams work on the same product, having all teams on the same iteration schedule helps keep your teams aligned and delivering value on the same cadence. For example, the organization in Azure DevOps has over 40 feature teams and 500 users within a single project - this works well because we're all working on a common product set with common goals and a common release schedule.

A high volume of queries and boards can make it hard to find what you're looking for. Depending on the architecture of your product, this difficulty can bleed into other areas such as builds, releases, and repos. Make sure to use good naming conventions and a simple folder structure. When you add a repo to your project, consider your strategy and determine whether that repo could be placed into its own project.

Many projects

Project structure is best determined by how you ship the product. Having several projects shifts the administration burden and gives your teams more autonomy to manage the project as the team decides. It also provides greater control of security and access to assets across the different projects. Having team independence with many projects creates some alignment challenges, however. If each project is using a different process or iteration schedule, it can make communication and collaboration difficult if the taxonomies aren't the same.

Tip

If you use the same process and iteration schedules across all your projects, your ability to roll-up data and report across teams is improved.

Azure DevOps provides cross-project experiences when it comes to managing work.

You may want to add another project because of the following scenarios:

  • To prohibit or manage access to the information within a project
  • To support custom work tracking processes for specific business units within your organization
  • To support entirely separate business units that have their own administrative policies and administrators
  • To support testing customization activities or adding extensions before rolling out changes to the working project

When you're considering many projects, keep in mind that Git repo portability makes it easy to migrate repos (including full history) between projects. Other history can't be migrated between projects. Examples are push and pull request history.

When you map projects to business units, your company gets a single organization and sets up many projects with one or more projects representing a business unit. All Azure DevOps assets of the company are contained within this organization and located within a given region (for example, Western Europe). Consider the following guidance for mapping your projects to business units:

One project, many teams One organization, many projects and teams Many organizations
General guidance Best for smaller organizations or larger organizations with highly aligned teams. Good when different efforts require different processes. Useful as part of TFS legacy migrations and for hard security boundaries between organizations. Used with multiple projects and teams within each organization.
Scale Supports tens of thousands of users and hundreds of teams, but best at this scale if all teams are working on related efforts. Same as with one project, but many projects may be easier.
Process Aligned processes across teams; team flexibility to customize boards, dashboards, and so on. Independent processes for each project. For example, different work item types, custom fields, and so on. Same as many projects.
Collaboration Highest default visibility and reuse between work and assets of different teams. Good visibility and reuse are possible, but it's easier to hide assets between projects whether intentional. Poor visibility, collaboration, and reuse between organizations.
Roll-up reporting and portfolio management Best ability to roll-up across teams and coordinate between teams. Good reporting possible across projects. More difficult for cross-project roll-up and team coordination. No roll-up or coordination between organizations.
Security/isolation Can lock down assets at a team level, but default is open visibility and collaboration. Better ability to lock down between projects. By default, provides good visibility within projects and good isolation across projects. Hard boundaries across organizations; excellent isolation and minimal ability to share across organizations.
Context switching Easiest for teams to work together and for users to switch between efforts. Relatively easy for users to work together and switch contexts between efforts. More difficult for users having to work across different organizations.
Information overload By default, all assets are visible to users will make use of “favorites” and similar mechanisms to avoid “information overload.” Reduced risk of information overload; most project assets hidden across project boundaries. Assets across organizations are isolated, reducing risk of information overload.
Administrative overhead Much administration is delegated down to individual teams. Easiest for user licensing and org-level administration. Additional work may be needed if alignment is required between efforts. Additional administration at the project level. Additional overhead, but can be useful when projects have different administrative needs. As with additional projects, there's additional administrative overhead, which enables additional flexibility between orgs.

Structure repos and version control within a project

Consider the specific strategic work scoped to one of the organizations you created previously and who should have access. Use this information to name and create a project. This project has a URL defined under the organization you created it in and can be accessed at https://dev.azure.com/{organization-name}/{project-name}.

Configure your project by visiting its URL and select the Project settings button at the lower right of the page.

open-project-settings-vert-brn.png

To learn more about managing projects, see Manage projects in Azure DevOps. You can move a project to a different organization by migrating the data. To learn more about migrating your project, see Migration options.

Managing version control

In projects where the Azure Repos service is enabled, version control repos can store and revise code. Consider the following options when you're configuring repos.

Git vs. Team Foundation Version Control (TFVC)

Azure Repos offers the following version control systems for teams to choose from:

  • Git and TFVC. Projects can have repos of each type. By default, new projects have an empty Git repo. Git enables a great amount of flexibility in developer workflows and integrates with nearly every relevant tool in the developer ecosystem. Any project can use Git repos. There's no limit on the number of Git repos that can be added to a project.

TFVC is a centralized version control system that is also available. Unlike Git, only one TFVC repository is allowed for a project. But, within that repo, folders, and branches are used to organize code for multiple products and services, if desired. Projects can use both TFVC and Git, if appropriate.

One vs. many repos

Do you need to set up multiple repos within a single project or have a repo set up per project? The following guidance relates to the planning and administration functions across those repos.

Starting with a single project containing multiple repos is reasonable, especially if the products/services are working on a coordinated release schedule. If developers are frequently working with multiple repos, keeping them in a single project encourages the processes to remain shared and consistent. Administering repo access is simpler in a single project, as access controls and options like case enforcement and max file size can be set at the project level. Repos can have these access controls and settings managed individually, even if they're in a single project.

If the products stored in multiple repos are working on independent schedules or processes, you can split them into multiple projects. Git repo portability makes it easy to move a repo between projects and still keep full-fidelity commit history. Other history, such as pull requests or build history. are not easily migrated.

Your decision for one vs. many repos should be largely based on code dependencies and architecture. A good first rule to apply is to put each independently deploy-able product or service in its own repo. Don't separate a codebase into many repos if you expect to make coordinated code changes across those repos, as there are no tools to assist in coordinating those changes. If your codebase is already a monolith, keep it in one repo. For more information about monolithic repos, see Git at Scale articles. If you have many disconnected services, one repo per service can be a good strategy.

Note

Consider managing your permissions so not everyone in your organization can create a repo. One of the big challenges a growing team or company faces is the rapid proliferation of repos. If you have too many of them, it's very hard to keep track of who owns what code or other content stored in those repos.

Shared repo vs. forked repos

We recommend using a shared repo within a trusted organization. Developers use branches to maintain isolation of their changes from one another. Used with a good branching and release strategy, a single repo can scale to support concurrent development for more than a thousand developers. For more information about branching and release strategy, see Adopt a Git branching strategy and Release Flow: Our Branching Strategy.

Forks can be useful when you're working with vendor teams that shouldn't have direct access to update the main repository. Forks can also be useful in scenarios where many developers contribute infrequently, such as in an open-source project. When you're working with forks, it may be useful to maintain a separate project to isolate the forked repos from the main repo. There may be added administrative overhead, but it keeps the main project cleaner. For more information, see the Forks article.

The following image displays a sample of how "your company" could structure its organizations, projects, work items, teams, and repos.

azure-devops-org_project_team_visual.png

More about organizational structure

Choosing your organization admin account type

When you create an organization, the identity that you sign in with defines the identity provider that the organization uses, such as your Azure Active Directory or Microsoft account. Your organization can be created by using a Microsoft account or with an Azure Active Directory account. This account provides the credentials to sign in as an admin to your new organization at https://dev.azure.com/{yourorganization}.

Using your Microsoft account

Use your Microsoft account if you don't need to authenticate users for an organization with Azure AD. All users must sign in to your organization with a Microsoft account. If you don't have a Microsoft account, you can create a Microsoft account at this time.

Enter your password and sign in

If you don't have an Azure Active Directory instance, create one for free from the Azure portal or use your Microsoft account to create an organization. Then, you can connect the organization to Azure AD.

Using your Azure Active Directory account

You might have an Azure AD account already if you use Azure or Office 365. If you work for a company that uses Azure AD to manage user permissions, you probably have an Azure AD account.

If you don't have an Azure AD account, learn how to sign up for Azure AD to automatically connect your organization to your Azure AD. All users must be members in that directory to access your organization. To add users from other organizations, use Azure AD B2B collaboration.

Azure DevOps authenticates users through your Azure AD, so that only users who are members in that directory have access to your organization. When you remove users from that directory, they can no longer access your organization. Only specific Azure AD administrators manage users in your directory, so administrators control who accesses your organization.

After you create your Azure account, only members of that directory can access your organization, or you must use Azure AD business-to-business (B2B) collaboration to add users from other organizations.

Learn more about how to manage users.

Mapping organizations to business units

Each business unit within your company gets its own organization in Azure DevOps, along with its own Azure Active Directory tenant. Set up projects within those individual organizations, as required, based on teams or ongoing work.

For a larger company, you can create multiple organizations using different user accounts (most likely Azure Active Directory accounts). Consider what groups and users share strategies and work, and group them into specific organizations. For example, the (fictional) Fabrikam company might create three organizations: Fabrikam-Marketing, Fabrikam-Engineering, and Fabrikam-Sales. Each organization has a separate URL, such as https://dev.azure.com/Fabrikam-Marketing, https://dev.azure.com/Fabrikam-Engineering, and https://dev.azure.com/Fabrikam-Sales. The organizations are all for the same company but are mostly isolated from each other. You don't need to have anything separated, however you should only create boundaries when it makes sense to your business. You can more easily partition an existing organization with projects, than combine different organizations.