Add tasks to backlog items

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You add tasks to backlog items when you want to track the work required to implement them and to estimate the work assigned to individual team members and the team. The capacity tool tells you how much work your team can commit to. However, to compare capacity with actually planned work, you need to define and estimate tasks for each backlog item.

In this topic you'll learn how to:

  • Select a sprint backlog for a team
  • Add tasks to backlog items from the sprint backlog or taskboard
  • Estimate work, set Remaining Work

Add as many tasks as needed to capture the work required to complete each item. Tasks can represent different work to be performed - such as design, code, test, content, sign off. Usually, each team member adds their own tasks and sets estimates for the work. However, a development lead could define the initial tasks for a story or requirement.

Prerequisites

  • You must connect to a team project. If you don't have a team project yet, create one in VSTS.
  • You must be a member of the Contributors group or be granted Stakeholder access to add or modify work items. Or, you must have your View work items in this node, and your Edit work items in this node permissions set to Allow.
  • If you haven't been added to a team project or team, get added now.

To learn more, see Set permissions and access for work tracking.

  • You must connect to a team project. If you don't have a team project yet, create one in an on-premises TFS.
  • You must be a member of the Contributors group or be granted Stakeholder access to add or modify work items. Or, you must have your View work items in this node, and your Edit work items in this node permissions set to Allow.
  • If you haven't been added to a team project or team, get added now.

To learn more, see Set permissions and access for work tracking.

Note

The New Navigation feature, which provides a vertical navigation experience, is in preview for VSTS. Go here to enable it. When you enable New Navigation, you automatically enable several new Agile tool features described in this blog post, New Work Hubs. For on-premises TFS users, choose Horizontal Navigation for guidance.

Open a Sprint backlog for a team

  1. From your web browser, open your team's sprint backlog. (1) Check that you have selected the right project, (2) choose Work>Sprints, (3) select the correct team from the team selector menu, and lastly (4), choose Backlog.

    Open Work, Sprints, for a team

    To choose another team, open the selector and select a different team or choose the home-icon Browse all sprints 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. To choose a different sprint than the one shown, open the sprint selector and choose the sprint you want.

    Choose another sprint

    The system lists only those sprints that have been selected for the current team focus. If you don't see the sprints you want listed, then choose New Sprint from the menu, and then choose Select existing iteration. For details, see Define iteration paths (aka sprints).

The New Navigation feature isn't supported on the TFS platform at this time. Choose the Horizontal Navigation tab for guidance.

Add tasks to backlog items

If you haven't yet assigned backlog items to your sprint, do that now. Also, you'll want to have set the start and end dates for your sprint.

For each sprint backlog item, add a task. Adding tasks from the sprint backlog or board automatically links the task to its parent backlog item.

Tip

You can quickly add several tasks on the task board by simply entering a title. You can then later bulk edit items to assign them or add additional details. You can also enter Remaining Work onto the card by making sure you add that field to display on the task board.

You can add tasks from the sprint Backlog or Taskboard.

From the Backlog view, choose the plus sign to open the work item form for a task.

Sprint backlog page, add task

Fill out the form as described in the next section.

Another option, is to open the Taskboard, and add tasks as cards. Simply click the plus icon, enter a title for the item, and then press Enter on your keyboard.

Add task from the task board

Tip

You can quickly add tasks through the Taskboard by just specifying the title of the work item. To show fields on the card, see Customize cards.

The New Navigation feature isn't supported on the TFS platform at this time. Choose the Horizontal Navigation tab for guidance.

Fill out the task form

Name the task and enter an estimate for Remaining Work. Also, if you know who'll perform the work, go ahead and assign the task to that team member.

Add task

New task form

Web portal, Task form, oldform

At the planning stage, Remaining Work corresponds to an estimate of how long it will take to complete the task.

A good rule of thumb is to size tasks to take no more than a day to complete. If a task is too large, the team should break it down. In some cases, you may not be able to estimate some tasks effectively until other tasks have been completed. Create the task now, but estimate it when you have enough information.

During the sprint, team members update remaining work to continually reflect the time required to complete the task. This value can actually increase after work begins. For example, after working 4 hours on a task that was estimated to take 8 hours, the team member realizes he needs 16 hours over what he estimated. He would update the Remaining Work field with 20 (8-4+16). As you perform a task, you might find that more time is required. Always update the task with your best estimate of remaining work. That way, you help accurately reflect the total amount of work remaining in the sprint.

Field Usage

Original Estimate

The amount of estimated work required to complete a task. Typically, this field doesn't change after it is assigned.

You can specify work in hours or in days. There are no inherent time units associated with this field.

Remaining Work

The amount of work remaining to complete a task. As work progresses, update this field. It's used to calculate capacity charts and the sprint burndown chartYou can specify work in any unit of measurement your team chooses.

Completed Work

The amount of work spent implementing a task.

Activity

Select the type of activity this task represents when your team estimates sprint capacity by activity.

Unparented tasks

Tasks without links to parent backlog items or user stories appear at the top of the task board. You can track unparented tasks in similar ways to other tasks, or drag them to an existing backlog item to parent them. The Unparented card tracks the total of remaining work defined for all unparented tasks, however, it isn't associated with any work item.

Unparented tasks, agile hubs taskboard

The New Navigation feature isn't supported on the TFS platform at this time. Choose the Horizontal Navigation tab for guidance.

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