Getting Started with Azure Boards

  • Native support for Scrum and Kanban
  • Customized dashboards and integrated reporting
  • Efficiently track user stories, backlog items, task, features and bugs
  • Track work using work items

Work Item Types

  • Agile
  • Basic
  • Scrum
  • CMMI

Features of Azure Boards

  1. Interactive Tools

Visual Tools helps team to easily track and share progress

2. Ease of Customization

3. Built-in Tools for Collaboration

4. Monitor Status with built-in dashboards

Best Practices for Agile Project Management

1. Configure your teams

  • Configure teams with the value streams of organization deliverables
  • Configure development teams to support rollup to project management feature teams

2. Configure your sprints

  • Define a sprint cadence that all teams within the product group will use
  • Define at least six or more iterations
  • Determine how teams will use iterations to manage backlog items
  • Unassigned sprint work is assigned to the default or future backlog sprint

3. Choose the work item types to use

For Agile based project, It is recommended to use User Stories, Bugs, and Features.

  • Quickly add features from the backlog
  • Use Requirements — User Stories (Agile), Issues (Basic) Product Backlog Items (Scrum), or Requirements (CMMI)
  • Use Bugs to capture code defects
  • Map Requirements to Features to track progress at the project management level
  • Size Requirements to be completed within a sprint
  • Size Features to be completed within a sprint
  • Size Epics to be delivered quarterly

4. Create product plan

Feature Plan

Product backlog

Groom each backlog

  • Define work to be performed
  • Reorder work items using drag-and-drop so that they appear in priority order
  • Open work items and add details
  • Assign work to team members or to sprints
  • Capture technical debt and non-feature work required to support a healthy ecosystem of delivery
  • Map unparented work to the Feature they belong to
  • (Optional) Estimate size of requirements to help determine team velocity and support forecasting

Tip

You can monitor team velocity based on estimates assigned to completed work or a simple count of work items completed during sprints. However, to use the Forecast feature, you must assign a value to the Story Points, Effort, or Size field. If you don’t want to estimate requirements, you can simply assign a value of 1 to requirement estimates and then use the Forecast tool based on a count of work items.

Best practice tips:

  • Periodically refine your backlog
  • Make sure features and requirements are sized appropriately
  • Define the acceptance criteria and the definition of done for features and work
  • Map unmapped work to Features
  • Forecast your backlog

To learn how:

Use tags to support queries and filtering

With work item tags, team members can assign ad-hoc tags to work items. You can use these tags to filter backlogs and boards as well as query on work items. For tags to be useful to the team, provide some general guidance on how your team should use tags. Consider documenting this guidance in a central place, such as the project wiki.

The following image illustrates a Kanban board filtered on the web keyword which displays cards with the Web tag.

Best practice tips:

  • Have a policy in place about how your teams will use tags
  • Indicate how you’ll use tags to support queries, filtering, reporting
  • Consider using tags to identify cross-team or cross-project dependencies

To learn how:

Forecast and milestone planning

To gain insight into what features can ship when, use the Forecast tool. This tool requires that you provide estimates to the Story Points, Effort, or Size field for each requirement. If you want to forecast on a simple count of work items, then simply assign the value of 1 to requirement estimates.

Order the features backlog in priority order

As project managers, you’ll want to always have your features backlog in priority order. This conveys to the development team which features are most important to complete first.

Here the features backlog shows the sequence of features to ship.

Order the requirements backlog based on parent features

First you want to make sure you are completing the requirements needed to ship features. As shown in the following image, the requirements backlog has been ordered according to the features you want to ship. This ordering assumes that all requirements in a feature must be complete in order to ship it. Also, Story Points have been assigned to each User Story.

Forecast the requirements backlog

With estimates assigned to each requirement, you can set a team velocity. In the example below, we specify 12 for the velocity, equivalent to stating that on average the team can complete 12 Story Points per sprint. The Forecast tool shows which requirements and features the team can complete within the next six sprints. Using the Planning tool, you can quickly assign requirements to the forecasted sprints.

To see the full image, click the image to expand. Choose the

close icon to close.

Getting good at estimates and having predictable team velocities are useful team goals for process improvement.

Update your Features board

With a forecast of when a feature will ship, you can update each feature’s iteration path. Quickly assign values to a feature by adding those fields to the card on the Kanban board as shown in the following image.

Milestone planning

Milestone markers aren’t used in Azure Boards work tracking, except for Delivery Plans. Delivery Plans provide a calendar view and allow you to define a milestone marker. However, you can use one or more of the following options to mark a work item as a milestone:

Manage dependencies

In Microsoft Project, you manage tasks that depend on the completion of other tasks by linking them. To manage dependencies in Azure Boards, you can add similar linking by adding Predecessor/Successor link types to work items. You add these links from the Add link dialog for a work item.

Add link dialog

Azure Boards supports a number of link types to track related work. Choose the Predecessor/Successor link types to track work with dependencies. The quickest way to add a number of these links is to add a tag to work items that participate in producing or consuming dependencies, create a query based on this tag, and then add the required links from the triage mode of the query results.

The following Add link dialog illustrates how two work items are linked using the Successor link type.

Visualize work item relationships

You can view dependencies and identify dependencies that have issues with Delivery Plans. As shown in the following image, you can toggle the display of dependency lines between linked work items. To learn more, see Track dependencies using Delivery Plans.

Minimum Viable Product versus Critical Path Management

Azure Boards doesn’t provide a native view of the critical path. In part, as Agile methodologies favor a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) over Critical Path Management (CPM). By using MVP, you identify the shortest path and dependencies by prioritizing epics, features, stories and tasks. For additional context, see The Critical Path on Agile Projects and Running a lean startup on Azure DevOps.

Best practice tips:

  • Add a dependency tag to work items participating in dependency management
  • Use Predecessor/Successor link types to track dependencies of work owned by other teams or within other projects
  • Create queries to track, add, and triage dependencies
  • Use the Dependency Tracker Marketplace extension to view work that you have dependencies on from other teams
  • Use the Work Item Visualization Marketplace extension to visualize dependencies

Note

Marketplace extensions are not supported features of Azure Boards and therefore not supported by the product team. For questions, suggestions, or issues you have when using these extensions, visit their corresponding extension page.

To learn how:

Work in sprints

Sprints allow the development team to focus on completing a pre-selected set of work. Work assign to a sprint appears on the team’s sprint backlog. Sprint backlogs are defined only for product backlogs, not for portfolio backlogs.

Sprint burndown chart

By updating the status of work daily throughout a sprint, you can easily track sprint progress with the Sprint burndown chart, as shown in the following image.

Best practice tips

Each sprint, perform the following tasks:

  • Plan each sprint with your team
  • Use the team’s Sprint backlog to review sprint deliverables
  • Ensure each sprint work item is assigned to a team member
  • Ensure each work item is scoped to be completed within the sprint
  • Ensure the acceptance criteria for the work is well defined and understood
  • Update the status of sprint work items as work moves from a New to Active to Completed state to track sprint burndown
  • Check in with other teams on dependencies that your team’s work depends on
  • Monitor sprint progress using the Sprint burndown chart

To learn how:

Review progress and feature deliverables

The three main tools you’ll want to use to review progress and deliverables are:

  • Features Kanban board
  • Features backlog with rollup columns
  • Delivery plans

Features Kanban board

Your Features board is another place to review progress and ensure the continuous flow of deliverables. The following image illustrates a customized Features board. In progress columns have been added such as Need more info, Spec Complete, In Progress, and Customer Rollout. These provide a more natural set of states as Features get proposed, researched, designed, developed, and then deployed to production.

To see the full image, click the image to expand. Choose the

close icon to close.

Rollup

One quick and visual way to monitor progress is from the Features backlog. By adding the rollup progress bar column, you can see what percentage of work items are completed for each feature, as shown in the following image.

Delivery plans and multiple team deliverables

To review features delivered across several teams, configure a delivery plan. Delivery plans provide an interactive board to review a calendar schedule of stories or features several teams plan to deliver.

Best practice tips

  • Customize your Features Kanban board to support your team’s processes
  • Add fields to cards so that you can update their values quickly and easily
  • Update the Iteration Path (Sprint) of Features as you gain clarity as to when they will ship
  • Review the Features board to talk through status, blocks/issues/risks/changes,and update status
  • Use the filter feature to focus on tagged items, assigned by features, a specific sprint and more
  • Add rollup columns to your Feature backlog to monitor overall progress based on work item count completion
  • Use delivery plans to review features being delivered by several teams and discuss cross-team dependencies

To learn how:

Process improvement

At the heart of Agile methods is continuous improvement. To improve your processes, you need to have shared goals and a shared plan. To initiate process improvement activities, consider adding them through regular practices, such as:

  • Sprint planning
  • Setting sprint goals
  • Conducting regular retrospectives

Consider the following questions when setting goals:

  • What are you learning about your customers? What do you need to know?
  • What data is being measured? Is it actionable? What data needs to be measured?
  • How is the flow of deliverables? Is it as expected? Where can improvements be made?
  • Is your team empowered to do there best? What tools or information would help them improve?
  • How well is information being shared? How well are teams collaborating?
  • How well is your team managing technical debt and closing bugs?

Some of the Agile tools you can use to support process improvement are team velocity, team dashboards, and the Retrospectives Marketplace extension.

Team velocity

From the team velocity chart, you can gain an understanding as to how well the team is planning and executing a sprint. As shown in the following example, the velocity chart shows the planned, completed, completed late, and incomplete count of work items for several sprints. Teams can review this chart to help determine how well they are estimating and executing and how they might improve.

Team dashboards

Teams can define one or more dashboards to share information and monitor real-time data on work progress.

Best practice tips

  • Identify process improvement goals that your team can agree to, write them down and review them periodically
  • Use team dashboards to share information and work tracking charts which you and your team review periodically
  • At sprint planning meetings, have your team identify at least one sprint goal related to process improvement
  • Conduct regular retrospectives to capture what went well, what didn’t go well, and actions to improve
  • Maintain an improvement tracking board, such as that available with the Retrospectives Marketplace extension.

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