TFS vNext: Configuring your project to have a master backlog and sub-teams


One backlog to rule them all…

One common practice we’ve seen our customers use is to have a master backlog, which “feeds” several teams. The master backlog is prioritized and maintained, and when it comes time to plan for the next sprint, all the teams gather together and “sign up” for backlog items to work on in the upcoming sprint.

That way, they can ensure that all teams are working on the most important items for each sprint.

This blog post will tell you how to configure and use a master backlog.

Let’s start with a newly created team project: “Demo Project”. When a project is created, a default team is created for that project. This team is the “master” team.


Configure the “Master” team’s work areas


Click on the “Configure work areas…” link



The root area path is selected for the this team. Click on the context menu, and select “Exclude sub-areas”




This will configure it so that the backlog for the “master” team only includes backlog items that are located at the root area path, but not below the root area path.





Press Close and that is done.


Create sub-teams, which will each have their own backlog


Navigate to the Administration Console by click the “gear” icon in the upper right




You will see that one team already exists. Is the “default project team” created when you create a team project, which is acting as the “master” team.


Select “New team” to create another team




Select a team name, and if you want, a description:




Just for fun, click on “settings”




This will display the advance settings. You will note that by default, the “Create an area path with the name of the team” is checked.


When this is checked, creating a team will also create an area path of the same name (in this case: “Blue Team”, and then associate that area path with the newly created team.



Press “Create Team” and you’ve just created your first team




Repeat the process again, to create a second team.




What you have now is three teams. The “master team” which is the default team that resides at the Team Project level, and two sub-teams (Red and Blue).


Click on one of your teams, and you’ll see the settings for that team.

NOTE: That you can add members to each sub-team, as well as administrators and a cool pic if you want.




Click on the “areas” tab




You’ll see that new area paths were created for both teams, and that this team (the Blue Team) is configured to use the “Blue Team” area path.




Feel free to poke around. But eventually, we need to use this stuff. So close the Admin Console tab on your browser to return to the main screen.




Populate the master backlog


Here is the home page for the “master team”, that is the default team configured for the team project.

Click on the “View backlog” link to view the master backlog.




Here’s the backlog, with a few things added:



Assign a backlog item to a sub-team


Open up a backlog item by double clicking it. Set the Area to the appropriate sub-team




Save and Close the work item, to view the backlog again.

You will notice that “backlog item 1” is still on the backlog, even though it was assigned to a sub-team.




You will need to refresh your browser to see that item removed. Here it is after a refresh:




You can do this with any number of backlog items, assigning to the teams to work on.



View the sub-team’s backlog


Select the “team navigator” in the upper right. This shows the projects and teams you’ve recently viewed. Since we haved looked at our newly created teams, we’ll probably have to select “Browse All Teams”




Select the desired sub-team from the list, and press “Navigate”




You’ll now see the sub-team’s backlog, complete with the item that has been assigned to it:




Configure the sub-team’s iterations


You’ll notice that there are no iterations available for planning. You need to tell TFS that you want this team to work on specific iterations. The easiest way is to navigation to the Home page:




And then click on the “Configure schedule and iterations…” link




Here you can select the sprint’s you want this team to particpate in.

Just check the boxes

Below we are selecting Sprints 1 through 6 of the first Release




Press Close to return to the home page. Then click on “View backlog” to go back to the backlog page.

You’ll now see the sprints available for planning






Go ahead and configure all the sub-team’s to have the correct iterations. Now you can have a single master backlog “to rule them all”, and decide with each sprint, which sub-team is going to take on each backlog item.


The sub-teams can then use their own backlog to prioritize and pull into a sprint for planning.