Work in sprints

Sprint backlogs support teams who implement Scrum and time-boxed iterations. From the sprint backlogs and boards, you can add, assign, and update tasks.

Also, teams can use the task board and capacity charts to support daily scrum meetings and show how work is progressing throughout the sprint cycle.

Assign items from the backlog to the sprint

  1. If you haven't already, create your backlog and specify your sprint schedule.

  2. From the backlog page, move the items that you expect to work on into the current sprint.

    Move tasks into the current sprint

    That’s your initial guess at what you’ll be able to do in the sprint. Next, you’ll define tasks, estimate that work, and use your team’s capacity to make sure it fits in the sprint.

Set your team's capacity

Setting capacity helps you make sure you’re taking on the right amount of work in the sprint. As you work day-to-day, you’ll be able to see if your team is on track.

  1. Go to the capacity tab for the sprint and set the daily capacity for each team member.

    Set capacity per day for team members

    If you have teammates who work on multiple teams, set capacity accordingly.

  2. Set individual team member days off as well as days the whole team takes off.

    Set days off for the team

  3. If you assign work by activities, allocate individual capacities to an activity.

    Set activity types

Break the items down into tasks

  1. From the backlog page, you can add tasks for each backlog item assigned to the sprint.

    Add tasks to a backlog item

    Give the task a name, and estimate the work it will take.

    Name the task and estimate the amount of work

  2. Or, you can add tasks from the task board.

    Add a task

  3. After you've added some tasks, your backlog looks something like this. Tasks assigned to the sprint but not linked to a parent backlog item appear under Unparented.

    Sprint backlog broken down into tasks

Order, re-parent, and reassign items to different sprints

Re-order items by moving them up or down within the list. Re-parent tasks by moving them to a different requirement within the list. And, reassign requirements by moving them to a different sprint or back to the product backlog.

Note, however, that nested requirements within a sprint backlog disables ordering and re-parenting.

For example, the following Backlog items-to-Tasks view shows two child backlog items linked to Hello World Web Site. Because these items are also assigned to Sprint 1, ordering and re-parenting is disabled for Sprint 1 backlog.

Nested items disable ordering and re-parenting

Sprint backlogs flatten the hierarchy to show child items appearing at the same level as the parent item.

Sprint backlog with flattened hierarchy

To reinstate the feature, you must either remove the nested items from the iteration or flatten the sprint backlog by removing the parent-child links.

While you can create a hierarchy of backlog items, tasks, and bugs─we don’t recommend that you do. The Kanban board, sprint backlog, and task board only show the last node in a hierarchy, called the leaf node. For example, if you link items within a hierarchy that is four levels deep, only the items at the fourth level appear on the Kanban board, sprint backlog, and task board.

Instead of nesting requirements, bugs, and tasks, we recommend that you maintain a flat list. Use the feature work item type when you want to group requirements. You can quickly map requirements to features, which creates parent-child links in the background.

Go here to see illustrated examples on how hierarchal items appear on backlogs and boards.

Use the task board

The task board is at the heart of daily standups that occur in Scrum. Let's look at some of the things you can do with the task board to facilitate these meetings and visualize progress.

  1. Move tasks on the task board to reflect their current state.

    Move a task to update status

  2. Assign tasks to a specific person.

    Assign a task

  3. Update the remaining work by either using the drop-down list, or typing a specific value.

    As you change the amount of remaining work, or move tasks from one state to another, the amount of remaining work for that column updates to reflect your changes.

  4. You can group tasks by people or filter tasks by a person. Stories where they don't have any tasks are collapsed.

    Group by people or filter by a person

    In addition, you can re-parent tasks by moving them under a different story or backlog item. You can also move stories/PBIs to a different sprint or to the backlog.

    You can reorder items and re-parent tasks by moving them to a new location or under a different story or backlog item. When you move an item to a different sprint or back to the backlog, all of its child tasks move with it.

We just walked through using the task board, including changing the state of work items, updating hours, and changing assignments.

Q & A

Q: How do I move several items at once?

A: To move multiple items from the backlog to a sprint, or to update several tasks at once, use the bulk edit feature from the query results view. From the backlogs and boards, you can only move one item at a time.

Q: Can I estimate my tasks or capacity in something other than hours?

A: Yes. The remaining work field is just an integer, as is the capacity field in capacity per day. Just make sure that you use the same measurement for both fields, and ignore the little 'h' where it appears.

Q: Is there a quick way to assign work to an activity or a person?

A: Yes. If you have the Work details pane turned on for the sprint backlog, you can drag and drop a work item onto the person or activity to assign it.

Q: How are tasks handled when I move a story or product backlog item to a different sprint or back to the backlog?

A: Tasks that have been completed for a sprint remain assigned to the sprint. Tasks still in progress are moved with the story or product backlog item to the sprint backlog or product backlog.

Q: How can I tell when I have enough work for a sprint?

A: As you add estimated tasks to the items in the sprint backlog, you can tell how each task uses up your capacity. You can see whether your team, as a whole, has the capacity to complete the work.

Capacity chart for all team members

If you assign work to individuals when you plan the sprint, you can see whether each individual has the capacity for the work assigned to him.

Capacity chart for a team member

Or, if you assign work to activities, you can make sure each activity is within capacity.

Capacity chart for an activity type

The colors of the capacity bars help you understand whether you still have capacity remaining, whether you are over capacity, or whether you are simply looking at the total work without any reference to capacity.

Assess capacity at a glance

Q: Why does the drop-down on the task board only contain certain names?

A: The task board is designed to help your team manage their work, so it only contains the names of team members.

Q: Can I track my work if I belong to more than one team?

A: Yes. Track your work for each team you belong to.

Q: Can I predict how much work my team can accomplish?

A: Yes. Learn how to forecast a sprint.

Q: Is there a limit to how many tasks appear on the task board?

A: Yes. The limit is 1000 tasks.

Q: How can I tell if my team is on track to finish by the end of the sprint?

A: The task board chart can help you see your progress against the ideal trend line of completing work.

Sprint progress chart showing ideal trendline and actual work completed

Note that the chart does not display information for dates that are not part of the standard work week, such as weekends.
A miniature version of this chart appears on your team home page. You can also choose to visualize progress in other ways.

Q: I don't like seeing an initial spike of work in the task board chart. How can I avoid that?

A: If you prefer to see a smooth burndown of work without an initial spike, set the first day of your sprint as a non-working day so everyone can add their tasks before charting begins.

Q: Where can I learn more about working in sprints?

A: Start by reading some of the white papers for ALM, particularly the ones on sprint planning and sprint retrospectives.