Create your backlog

Creating a backlog helps you define the work that needs to be done. Once you have a backlog, you can use it to help manage when that work gets done.  You can create a single backlog or a portfolio of backlogs.

Do you have an existing backlog in your on-premises TFS that you want to migrate to your Visual Studio Online account? Find out if you can do that here.

  1. If you don't have a team project, create one. If a project exists but you don't have access to it, get added to the team.

  2. Open the backlog.  

    Choose the level of backlog before creating an item 
  3. Create a backlog item. Enter a title and add the item.

    Add button on the backlog page with the backlog item's title set 

    Different backlog item types appear with different colors. For example, bugs show as a different color than backlog items.

    The product backlog with different work item types indicated by name and by a color bar 
  4. Highlight an item in the list, and then add another item. It's added where focus is in the backlog list, which is indicated by a line.

    You can move the focus in the backlog with the up and down arrows on the keyboard or a pointing tool. 

    The backlog page with the target of the add command indicated by a green line

Create a portfolio backlog

Do you like to first think big, defining your large features first, and then break down and define work as you go along? You can work with a hierarchical portfolio of backlog items by creating features and then creating links between those features and the backlog items that support them. You can then view overall progress for features as well as for the backlog items that support them.

  1. Create some features. If you don't see feature items as an option, ask your account owner to start a trial or go here to get permanent access.

    A features backlog with items added
  2. Change the view to show features and backlog items.

    Choose the level of detail displayed in a backlog 

    Create some backlog items that support the feature, and watch them appear in the list.

    Add backlog items or bugs to features from the features backlog

Now you have created a backlog of the work that needs to be done by your team.


Q:Can I change the priority of items in the backlog?

A:Yes. Move items in the list to change their priority.

An item moving up in the backlog  

Now it is reordered.

The reordered backlog  

To move an item in the list using the keyboard, hold the Alt key down and use the up and down arrows.

Q:I already have backlog items. Can I map them to features?

A:Yes. You can add them to features through the mapping pane.

Open the mapping pane  

Drop a backlog item onto a feature in the mapping pane in order to add it.

Move the item you want to map onto the featureThe item appears under the feature you mapped it to

You can use the mapping pane to change which feature the backlog item supports, too.

Q:I want to learn more about best practices for creating and managing a backlog.

A: You can learn more about building and managing your backlog in this white paper by Mitch Lacey. The white paper section also includes many articles around agile best practices.

Q:I want to filter my backlog using categories I define. Is this possible?

A:Yes, you can create tags for your work items...

The add button (tags) on the user story form 

...and filter your backlog using those tags.

Filter applied to backlog items view 

Learn more about tagging here.

Q:Can I search on the tags I create?

A:Yes, you can create a query to search for a particular tag by adding the Tags field to the search criteria. Queries on tags using the Contains or Not Contains operators act as if those operators are exact matches, and so this field will return exact matches only. For example, if you create a tag search for tags that contain "website", your search will return "website" tags, but not "website-related". To search for multiple tags, create additional search clauses and group them.

Q:Can I create a hierarchy of backlog items in just one backlog?

A:If you want a backlog hierarchy, you should consider creating a portfolio backlog.

Q:Can I delete items from the backlog?

A:No, but you can change its status so that it doesn't appear. You can also change the area path of a backlog item so that it no longer shows up as work for your team.

Q:I want to create and track estimates of the work required for items in my backlog. Can I do this?

A:Yes. Open a backlog item and provide an estimate of the effort required to complete it.

The effort field on the product backlog item form

Q:Do work items and backlogs have different names, or work differently than shown here?

A:Yes, depending on the type of project you created (or more specifically, the process template you chose when creating the project). If you use Scrum, you'll create backlog items and features in the backlogs, with estimates in the effort field. If you use MSF for Agile Software Development, you'll create stories and features in the backlogs, and estimate story points. With MSF for CMMI Process Improvement, you'll create requirements and features in the backlogs, and estimate size.

Q:Can I migrate my backlog from my on-premises TFS server to Visual Studio Online?

A:If you have not made any customizations to the process template, you can migrate your work items and backlog from an on-premises TFS 2010, 2012, or 2013 server to Visual Studio Online. Learn more here.

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