Scrum process work item types and workflow

Last Update: 4/6/2017

Team Services | TFS 2017 | TFS 2015 | TFS 2013

To plan a software project and track software defects using Scrum, teams use the product backlog item (PBI) and bug work item types (WITs). To gain insight into a portfolio of features, scenarios, or user experiences, product owners and program managers can map PBIs and bugs to features. When teams work in sprints, they define tasks which automatically link to PBIs and bugs.

Scrum process, WITs used to plan and track

Using the web portal or Microsoft Test Manager, testers can create and run test cases and create bugs to track code defects. Impediments track blocking issues.

NOTE

Feature availability: Work item tracking forms and features available to you differ depending on whether you connect to the cloud or an on-premises Team Foundation Server (TFS), and whether you open the form from the web portal or Visual Studio Team Explorer. Forms and guidance provided in this topic reflect those available with the new form experience (Team Services and the web portal for TFS 2017 and later versions).

If you connect to TFS 2015 or earlier versions, or open the form from Visual Studio Team Explorer, see Add work items (TFS).

Define PBIs and bugs

When you define a product backlog item, you want to focus on the value that your customers will receive and avoid descriptions of how your team will develop the feature. The product owner can prioritize your product backlog based on each item's business value, effort, and relative dependency on other backlog items. As your business requirements evolve, so does your product backlog. Typically, teams specify details only for the highest priority items, or those items assigned to the current and next sprint.

You can create PBIs and bugs from the quick add panel on the product backlog page.

Add an item to your product backlog

Later, you can open each PBI or bug to provide more details and estimate the effort. Also, by prioritizing the PBIs and bugs on the backlog page (which is captured in the Backlog Priority field), product owners can indicate which items should be given higher priority.

Product backlog item work item form

By defining the Effort for PBIs and bugs, teams can use the forecast feature and velocity charts to estimate future sprints or work efforts. By defining the Business Value, product owners can specify priorities separate from the changeable backlog stack ranking.

Use the following guidance and that provided for fields used in common across work item types when filling out the form. For details about creating bugs, see Manage bugs.

Field/tab

Usage

Effort

Estimate the amount of work required to complete a PBI using any unit of measurement your team prefers, such as story points or time. A numeric value is required.

Agile velocity charts and forecast tools reference the values in this field. For additional guidance, see the Estimating white paper.

Business Value

Specify a number that captures the relative value of a PBI compared to other PBIs. The higher the number, the greater the business value.

Description

Provide enough detail for estimating how much work will be required to implement the item. Focus on who the feature is for, what users want to accomplish, and why. Don't describe how the feature should be developed. 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 helps ensure a common understanding within the team to meet customers' expectations. The acceptance criteria can be used as the basis for acceptance tests so that the team can more effectively evaluate whether an item has been satisfactorily completed.

Tip: Use the Discussion section to add and review comments made about the work being performed. This feature is only available from Team Services.

Track progress

As work progresses, you change the State field to update the status. Optionally, you can specify a reason. The state and reason fields appear on the work item form in the header area.

Bug work item form, header area

Scrum workflow states

By updating the State, teams know which items are new, in progress, or completed. Most WITs support transition both forward and backward from each workflow state. These diagrams show the main progression and regression states of the PBI, bug, and task WITs.

Product Backlog Item

Product Backlog Item workflow states, Scrum process

Bug

Bug workflow states, Scrum process

Task

Task workflow states, Scrum process

PBIs and bugs follow this typical workflow progression:

  • The product owner creates a PBI or a tester creates a bug in the New state with the default reason, New backlog item
  • The product owner moves the item to Approved after it is sufficiently described and ready for the team to estimate the level of effort. Most of the time, items near the top of the Product Backlog are in the Approved state, while items toward the middle and bottom are in a New state
  • The team updates the status to Committed when they decide to complete the work during the sprint
  • The item is moved to the Done state when the team has completed all its associated tasks and the product owner agrees that it has been implemented according to the Acceptance Criteria.

Update status with Kanban or task boards

Teams can use the Kanban board to update the status of PBIs, and the sprint task board to update the status of tasks. Dragging items to a new state column updates both the State and Reason fields.

Track progress on the Kanban board

You can customize the Kanban board to support additional swim lanes or columns. For additional customization options, see Customize your work tracking experience.

Map PBIs to features

When you manage a suite of products or user experiences, you might want to view the scope and progress of work across the product portfolio. You can do this by defining features and mapping PBIs to features.

From the Feature backlog page, you can quickly add features, in the same way that you added PBIs.

Quick add features from the Features backlog

The feature work item contains similar fields provided for PBIs. In addition to Priority and Business Value, you can specify the Target Date by which the feature should be implemented.

Feature work item form

From the backlog page with mapping turned on, you can drag PBIs to the feature that they implement.

Map a PBI to a feature

This mapping creates parent-child links from feature to PBIs, which is captured in the Links tab icon (links tab).

Using portfolio backlogs, you can drill down from one backlog to another to view the level of detail you want. Also, you can use portfolio backlogs to view a rollup of work in progress across several teams when you setup a hierarchy of teams.

Define tasks

When your team manages their work in sprints, they can use the sprint backlog page to break down the work to be accomplished into distinct tasks.

Add a task to an item in the sprint backlog

Name the task and estimate the work it will take.

Scrum process, Task work item form

Using Scrum, teams forecast work and define tasks at the start of each sprint, and each team member performs a subset of those tasks. Tasks can include development, testing, and other kinds of work. For example, a developer can define tasks to implement PBIs, and a tester can define tasks to write and run test cases.

When teams estimate work using hours or days, they define tasks and the Remaining Work and Activity (optional) fields.


Field/tab

Usage

Remaining Work

Indicate how many hours or days of work remain to complete a task. As work progresses, update this field. It's used to calculate capacity charts, the sprint burndown chart, and the Sprint Burndown (Scrum) report.
If you divide a task into subtasks, specify Remaining Work for the subtasks only. You can specify work in any unit of measurement your team chooses.

Activity

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

Track test progress

Test PBIs

From the web portal or Test Manager, you can create test cases that automatically link to a PBI or bug. Or, you can link a PBI or bug to a test case from the Links tab icon (links tab).

Select the test suite and add a test case

The test case contains a number of fields, many of which are automated and integrated with Test Manager and the build process. For a description of each field, see Query based on build and test integration fields.

Scrum Test case work item form

The Links tab icon (links tab) captures the links to all the PBIs and bugs in a test case. By linking PBIs and bugs to test cases, the team can track the progress made in testing each item.

Track code defects

You can create bugs from the web portal web portal, Visual Studio, or when testing with Test Manager.

Definitions for common WIT fields

The following fields and tabs appear in most work items. Each tab is used to track specific information, such as History tab icon history, Links tab icon links, or Attachment tab icon attachments. These three tabs provide a history of changes, view of linked work items, and ability to view and attach files.

The only required field for all WITs is Title. When the work item is saved, the system assigns it a unique ID. The form highlights required field in yellow. For information about other fields, see Work item field index.

Field/tab

Usage

Title

Enter a description of 255 characters or less. You can always modify the title later.

Assigned To

Assign the work item to the team member responsible for performing the work. Depending on the context you are working in, the drop-down menu will list only team members or contributors to the team project.

State

When the work item is created, the State defaults to the first state in the workflow. As work progresses, update it to reflect the current state.

Reason

Use the default first. Update it when you change state. Each State is associated with a default reason.

Area

Choose the area path associated with the product or team, or leave blank until assigned during a planning meeting.

To change the dropdown list of areas, see Add and modify area and iteration paths.

Iteration

Choose the sprint or iteration in which the work is to be completed, or leave it blank and assign it later, during a planning meeting.

To change the drop-down list of iterations, see Add and modify area and iteration paths.

History tab icon(History)

Review the audit trail that the system captures and capture additional information.

Every time that the work item is updated, information is appended to the history. History includes the date of the change, who made the change, and which fields were changed. You can also add formatted text to the history field.

Links tab icon (Links)

Add all types of links, such as hyperlinks, changesets, source files, and so on.

This tab also lists all links defined for the work item.

Attachment tab icon(Attachments)

Share more detailed information by adding files to the work item, such as email threads, documents, images, log files, or other file types.

Before you start tracking work, you must have a team project. To create one hosted in the cloud, see Sign up for Visual Studio Team Services. To create one hosted on an on-premises TFS, see Create a team project.

If you have a team project, start tracking work:

For more information on Agile tools:

Customize work tracking

You can customize work item types by adding custom fields, custom workflow states, and custom pages on the form. The methods available to you depend on which platform you work from. For an overview of what you can customize, see Customize work.

Track impediments

Use the impediment WIT to track events that may block progress or ship a PBI. Use the Bug WIT exclusively to track code defects.

You can add an impediment from the New work item widget added to a team dashboard, or from the New menu on the Queries page.

Add work item from a New work item widget

Work items you add from the widget are automatically scoped to your team's default area and iteration paths. To change the team context, see Switch team context.

Backlog list order

The Backlog Priority field is used to track the relative ranking of PBIs, bugs, features, or epics. However, by default it doesn't appear on the work item form. The sequence of items on the backlog page is determined according to where you have added the items or moved the items on the page. As you drag items, a background process updates this field.

Switch team project or team focus

Several features depend on the team project or team that you have selected. For example, dashboards, backlogs, and board views will change depending on the context selected.

For example, when you add a work item, the system references the default area and iteration paths defined for the team context. Work items you add from the team dashboard (new work item widget) and queries page are assigned the team default iteration. Work items you add from a team backlog or board, are assigned the team default backlog iteration. To change team defaults, see Set team defaults.

You navigate to your team context from the top navigation bar. The method changes slightly depending on the platform/version you work from.

NOTE

Feature availability: The Account Landing Page feature is in preview mode for Team Services and enabled for all users from web portal for TFS 2017.1 and later versions. To learn more about this feature, see Work effectively from your account hub. To enable or disable the feature, see Enable preview features.

You can switch your team focus to a team project or team you've recently viewed from the team project/team drop-down menu. If you don't see the team or team project you want, click Browse… to browse all team projects and teams. To access your account hub, click the Team Services icon Team Services icon. If you haven't yet enabled the Account Landing Page, you'll be taken to the account home page.

To go directly to the project vision and status page, choose the project home icon from the drop-down menu, for example, project home icon.

Choose another team from the team project menu

To switch your team focus to a team project or team you've recently viewed, hover over the Team Services icon Team Services icon and choose from the drop-down menu of options. If you don't see the team or team project you want, choose Browse… to browse all team projects and teams. Your selection will open the project vision and status page for the team project.

To access your account hub, click the Team Services icon Team Services icon. If you haven't yet enabled the Account Landing Page, you'll be taken to the account home page.

To go directly to the project vision and status page, choose the project home icon from the drop-down menu, for example, project home icon.

Choose another team from the team project menu

Open the team project/team drop-down menu and select the team project/team that you've recently visited. If you don't see the team or team project you want, choose Browse all to browse all team projects and teams.

Choose another team from the team project menu

Open the team project/team drop-down menu and select the team project/team that you've recently visited. If you don't see the team or team project you want, choose Browse all to browse all team projects and teams.

Choose another team from the team project menu

Work item forms displayed in a client and the web portal for TFS 2015 and earlier versions display link tabs and link control restrictions as described in the following table.

Tab name

Work item type

Link restrictions

All Links

Feedback Request

Feedback Response

  • No restrictions.

Links

Product Backlog Item

Bug

Impediment

Shared steps

Task

Test Case

  • No restrictions.

Links

Code Review Request

  • Allows only Parent and Child links to Code Review Response work items.

  • Excludes links to work items in other team projects.

Stories

Feedback Response

  • Allows only Related links.

  • Allows links to Bug and Product Backlog Items.

  • Excludes links to work items in other team projects.

Storyboards

Product Backlog Item

  • Allows only Storyboard links.

Tasks

Product Backlog Item

  • Allows only Child links to Tasks.

  • Excludes links to work items in other team projects.

Test Cases

Product Backlog Item

Bug

  • Allows only Tested By links.

  • Allows links only to test cases.

  • Excludes links to work items in other team projects.

Tested Backlog Items

Test case

  • Allows only Tests links.

  • Allows links to Bug and Product Backlog Items.

  • Excludes links to work items in other team projects.

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