Create your backlog

VSTS

Your product backlog corresponds to your project plan, the roadmap for what your team plans to deliver. Once defined, you have a prioritized list of features and requirements to build. Your backlog also provides a repository of all the information you need to track and share with your team.

Your backlog consists of a list of work items. You use work items to share information, assign work to team members, track dependencies, organize work, and more. Because the most important work appears at the top of the list, your team always knows what to work on next.

Open your backlog from the web portal

From your web browser, open your product backlog from the Work hub, Backlogs page. If you don't have a team project yet, create one in VSTS.

Web portal, choose Work hub, Backlogs

The URL follows this pattern: https://<account name>.visualstudio.com/DefaultCollection/<project name>/_backlogs

Convert ideas into backlog items or stories

Begin building your backlog by entering a title and click Add. Repeat this step until you've captured all your main ideas.

Tip

Your backlog shows work that you are planning to do or have started working on. As soon as the State of a work item is set to Done or Completed, the work item no longer shows up on your backlog. You can use the backlog controls to filter or change your view.

Add work items to the backlog

Note

Depending on the process chosen to create your team project—Agile, Scrum, or CMMI— the items in your backlog may be called product backlog items (PBIs), user stories, or requirements. All three are similar: they describe the customer value to be delivered and the work to be performed.

By default, PBIs and bugs appear on Scrum backlogs, user stories on Agile backlogs, and requirements on CMMI backlogs. Each team can choose how bugs show up on their backlogs and boards.

Move items into priority order

After you've got some items on your backlog, you can order them and create a prioritized list of work. Frequently reviewing and prioritizing your backlog can help your team know what's most important to deliver next.

Reorder your backlog by simply dragging work items. Or, if you prefer the keyboard, hold the Alt key and use the up and down arrows.

Reorder work items

Tip

You can't sort your backlog on a column. If you want to view a sorted listed, click Create query, save and open the query, and then sort the query results. To learn more about queries, see Use the query editor to list and manage queries.

Add details and estimates

Getting your backlog built and prioritized provides the high level roadmap. However, before your team can actually start work on any item, they'll need more details. You capture these details within the work item form.

Tip

To plan a sprint, at a minimum you should estimate the effort involved to implement each backlog item. You capture effort in the following fields within the work item form: Effort (Scrum), Story Points (Agile), or Size (CMMI) fields.

Open each item (double-click, or press Enter to open the selected item) and add all the info you want to track. Enter as much detail as the team needs to understand the scope, estimate the work required, develop tests, and ensure that the end product meets acceptance criteria.

Field Usage
Effort
Story Points
Size

Provide a relative estimate of the amount of work required to complete a PBI. For user stories and requirements, you capture estimates in the Story Points and Size fields.

Most Agile methods recommend setting estimates for backlog items based on relative size of work. Such methods include powers of 2 (1, 2, 4, 8) and the Fibonacci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, etc.). Use any numeric unit of measurement your team prefers.

The estimates you set for Effort, Size, or Story Points are used in calculating velocity and forecasting sprints.

Business Value Specify a priority that captures the relative value of a PBI compared to other PBIs. The higher the number, the greater the business value.
Use this field when you want to capture a priority separate from the changeable backlog stack ranking.
Description Provide enough detail to create shared understanding of scope and to support estimation efforts. Focus on the user, what they want to accomplish, and why. Don't describe how to develop the product. Do provide sufficient details so that your team can write tasks and test cases to implement the item.
Acceptance Criteria

Define what "Done" means by describing the criteria that the team should use to verify whether the PBI or the bug fix has been fully implemented.

Before work begins on a PBI or bug, describe the criteria for customer acceptance as clearly as possible. Conversations between the team and customers to determine the acceptance criteria help ensure a common understanding within the team to meet customers' expectations. Also, this info provides the basis for acceptance testing.

Try this next

Now that you've got a working backlog in place, your team can begin work on the top priority items. From here, it's time to make the decision on how you want to work as a team: Scrum or Kanban? You can use these methods independently or together.

Teams that want the least overhead in terms of tracking and estimating may prefer Kanban. Teams that like to work at a steady cadence and plot the details of their sprint plan may prefer Scrum and sprint planning.

Note

Depending on the process chosen to create your team project—Agile, Scrum, or CMMI— the items in your backlog may be called product backlog items (PBIs), user stories, or requirements. All three are similar: they describe the customer value to be delivered and the work to be performed.

By default, PBIs and bugs appear on Scrum backlogs, user stories on Agile backlogs, and requirements on CMMI backlogs. Each team can choose how they want to treat bugs: either as requirements or tasks.

If you've already defined a long list of items, you don't have to reenter them one at a time. Instead, use Microsoft Excel to quickly import them to your backlog.

To contribute to the backlog, you must be a member of the Contributors group. If you don't have access to the team project, ask the account owner or project administrator to add you: VSTS or TFS.

If you don't see the team or team project you want, click the VSTS icon VSTS icon to browse all team projects and teams.

Note

Your product backlog is one of three classes of backlogs available to you. For an overview of the features supported on each backlog and the two types of boards, see Backlogs, boards, and plans.

Treat bugs like requirements or tasks

You have a choice as to how you want to manage bugs. Some teams like to track bugs along with requirements on the backlog. Other teams like to track bugs as tasks performed in support of a requirement, and have them appear on their task board.

If you're using the Scrum process, your default setup is to track bugs along with PBIs. However, if you're working in a team project based on the Agile or CMMI processes, bugs don't automatically appear on your backlog.

Talk with your team to determine how they want to manage bugs and then change your team settings accordingly.