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.

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

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

Reorder your backlog

To change the order in which items are listed, drag them up or down within the list.

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.

Also, using the context menu for an item, you can move it to the top of the list or specify a value within the list.

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?

With a porfolio backlog, you can add features that link to child backlog items. You can then view overall progress for features as well as for the backlog items that support them.

  1. Create some features.

    Features backlog with feature items added

  2. Change the view to show features and backlog items.

    Choose the level of detail displayed in a backlog

  3. 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 & A

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 feature

The 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. Additional articles on Agile best practices can be found here.

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 nested hierarchy of backlog items in just one backlog?

A: Yes you can, however the recommended method is to map backlog items to features to created a hierarchy of backlog items.

Q: Can I delete items from the backlog?

A: No. However, when you change the State to Removed, Closed, or Done, you essentially remove it from the backlog. Also, you can change the area path of a backlog item so that it no longer shows up as work for your team.

Q: How do I track estimates of the work required for my backlog items?

A: Depending on the work item type that appears on your backlog, you open an item and provide an estimate of the Effort, Story Points, or Size required to complete it.

The Effort field on the product backlog item form

Q: Why do my work items and backlogs have different names than those shown here?

A: Objects used to track work vary based on the process template used to create your team project.

With the Scrum template, you create Product Backlog Items and Bugs and estimate Effort. With the Agile tempalte, you create User Stories and estimate Story Points.
And, with the CMMI template, you create Requirements and estimate the Size.

All three templates support tracking features on the portfolio backlog.

Q: Can I track bugs on the backlog?

A: Yes. If your team project is based on the Scrum process template, the bug work item type already shows up on your backlog.

However, each team can configure whether or not they want to track bugs on their backlog.

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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