Organize your backlog

Last Update: 5/19/2017

Team Services | TFS 2017 | TFS 2015 | TFS 2013

After you've added features to your portfolio backlog, you can quickly organize your backlog by mapping backlog items to them. With features and epics, you can quickly add and group items into a hierarchy, drill up or down within the hierarchy, reorder and reparent items, and filter hierarchical views.


The images you see from your web portal may differ from the images you see in this topic. These differences result from updates made to Team Services or your on-premises TFS, options that you or your admin have enabled, and which process was chosen when creating your team project—Agile, Scrum, or CMMI. However, the basic functionality available to you remains the same unless explicitly mentioned.

Work items are denoted with icons for Team Services and TFS 2017.2 and later versions. For an overview of changes in the navigation experience and working within the user and administration contexts, see Work in the web portal.

From the product backlog page, set Parents to Show when you want to drill up or down within the hierarchy, set Parents to Show. You can also drag and drop items to reparent items from this view.

Hierarchical view of backlogs

Use the expand expand icon and collapse collapse icon icons to expand or collapse one level of the hierarchy.

Collapsed hierachical view

Map items to group them under a feature or epic

If you've already created your backlog, and now you want to organize it, you can do that most easily by mapping them.

To map a backlog item under a feature, you first turn mapping on from your backlog (Backlog items, Stories, or Requirements). Next, find the Unparented backlog items group by turning the Parents control to Show. Unparented backlog items will appear at the end of the parented set of backlog items.

Drag items that are currently unparented to the feature under which they belong. Also, you can drag a backlog item to a different feature to change its parent. This mapping creates parent-child links from feature to user stories, which is captured in the Links tab icon (links) tab.

Map a backlog item to a portfolio backlog work item


Feature availability: Multi-select of work items on the backlog and sprint backlogs is supported from Team Services and TFS 2015.1 or later versions. This feature works in the same way as multi-select works within query results.

It's the same process to map features to epics. From the Features backlog, drag features to an epic listed under the mapping pane.

Change parent (re-parent) and reorder items

When you need to change the order or grouping, simply drag the item to its new location.

You can re-parent an item using the mapping pane, or simply drag it within the hierarchy to change its parent.

Reparent or reorder work items on a backlog

You can only re-parent backlog items under other features, and features under other epics.

Also, to change an item's priority within a group, you can drag the item up or down within its hierarchical group. This works the same as when you moved items into priority order on your product backlog.

Change parent of multiple backlog items


Feature availability: The Change parent… menu option from the backlog page is supported from Team Services.

From the product backlog you can multi-select several work items and choose Change parent… to link the items to a parent work item item.

Change parent of several backlog items

Filter backlogs, boards, and queries

If you have many items listed in your product or portfolio backlog, Kanban board, or query results—and you want to focus on a subset of them—you can filter the set.

Filter based on keywords

You can use keywords to filter your backlogs, Kanban boards, and query results. The filter function picks up work items based on any visible/displayed column or field, including tags, based on the keyword that you enter. Also, you can enter a value for an ID, whether or not the ID field is visible.

Here, we filter the backlog to only show items that include 'Web' in any one of the displayed column fields.

Apply text filter

The filtered set is always a flat list, even if you've selected to show parents.

The filter criteria ignores the following characters when the field value starts with the character: {, (, [, !, @, #, $, %, ^, &, *, ~, `, ', ".

Filter based on tags

If you've added tags to your work items, you can filter your backlogs, Kanban boards, and query results using the tag filter icon tag filter. For backlogs and query results, add Tags as a column option prior to filtering on tags.

To filter the Kanban board using tags, make sure that you first customize cards to Show tags. See also, Filter the Kanban board for additional options.

To learn more about filtering using Tags, see Add tags to work items to categorize and filter lists and boards, Filter lists using tags