About Kanban boards
Azure DevOps Services | Azure DevOps Server 2022 - Azure DevOps Server 2019 | TFS 2018
Your Kanban board provides you with a visual interactive space for you and your team to plan and show progress. Your team can track the critical information it needs by seeing which work items are in progress, where the bottlenecks are, who work is assigned to, and more.
As work progresses from idea to completion, you update the items on the board. Each column represents a work stage. Each card represents a work item and supports quick status updates through drag-and-drop, similar to sticky notes on a physical whiteboard.
Both Kanban boards and Taskboards support visualizing the flow of work and monitoring metrics to optimize that flow. Kanban boards track requirements are sprint-independent, and provide a cumulative flow chart for monitoring progress. Each sprint is associated with a Taskboard that supports tracking tasks defined for the sprint. You can monitor progress through capacity charts and the sprint burndown chart. For more information, see Update and monitor your Taskboard.
Product and portfolio Kanban boards
Each product and portfolio backlog has a corresponding Kanban board. Kanban boards are associated with a team and display work items that are based on the area and iteration paths that the team selected. For more information, see Define iteration (sprint) paths and configure team iterations.
To maximize a team's ability to consistently deliver high-quality software, Kanban emphasizes two main practices. The first is to visualize the flow of work. This practice requires you to map your team's workflow stages and configure your Kanban board to match. The second is to constrain the amount of work in progress, which requires you to set work-in-progress (WIP) limits. You're then ready to track progress on your Kanban board and monitor key metrics to reduce lead or cycle time. To get started, see Use your Kanban board.
Kanban concepts and terms
See the following table of terms and available tools used in tracking work using Kanban boards and Kanban methods.
|Concept or Term||Description|
|Blocker||An issue that prevents work from progressing. You can highlight work that is blocked by using tags and changing the card color. For more information, see Customize cards, Define style rules to highlight cards.|
|Bottleneck||A constraint in the system that limits the flow of work. Identifying bottlenecks makes it easier to reduce their effect and provides a mechanism for controlling work flowing through the process. For more information, see Manage columns, Identify bottlenecks.|
|Card reordering||Card reordering lets you change the priority order and forces cards to maintain the backlog priority when you drag and drop them on the board. For more information, see Reorder cards.|
|Cumulative flow diagram (CFD)||The in-context CFD report shows the count of items in each Kanban column for the past 30 weeks or less. From this chart, you can gain an idea of the amount of work in progress and lead time. Work in progress counts unfinished requirements. For more information, see Cumulative flow, lead time, and cycle time guidance.|
|Cycle time||Cycle time is the time calculated for a work item from first entering an In Progress category state to entering a Completed state category. For more information, see Cumulative flow, lead time, and cycle time guidance. You can gain valuable metrics and visualize the cycle time for a team and a configurable time period by adding the Cycle Time widget to the dashboard.|
|Definition of done||Criteria that a team specifies for each stage of work to share and standardize on what makes up work being done at that stage.|
|Kanban board||An interactive, electronic sign board that supports visualization of the flow of work from concept to completion and lean methods. Azure DevOps provides a Kanban board for each product and portfolio backlog. For more information, see Kanban basics and Kanban board features and epics and Track work in swimlanes.|
|Kanban columns||A Kanban column maps to a stage of work. The default columns map to the workflow states of the work item types that appear on the Kanban board. You configure the columns to map workflow states of your team. For more information, see Map the flow.|
|Lead time||Lead time is the time calculated for a work item from first entering a Proposed category state to entering a Completed state category. For more information, see Cumulative flow, lead time, and cycle time guidance. You can gain valuable metrics and visualize the lead time for a team and a configurable time period by adding the Lead Time widget to the dashboard.|
|Product backlog||An interactive list of work items that corresponds to a team's project plan or roadmap for what the team plans to deliver. The product backlog supports prioritizing work, forecasting work by sprints, and quickly linking work to portfolio backlog items. You can define your backlog items and then manage their status using the Kanban board. Each team can customize its product backlog. For more information, see Create your backlog.|
|Product backlog item||A type of work item that defines the applications, requirements, and elements that teams plan to create. Product owners typically define and stack rank product backlog items, which are defined with the Scrum process. For more information, see Scrum process work item types and workflow.|
|Portfolio backlog||An interactive list of work items, similar to the product backlog that supports organizing or grouping work under features epics, or scenarios. Portfolio backlogs work similarly to product backlogs in that you can prioritize work and view the tree hierarchy of work. For more information, see Define features and epics.|
|Swimlanes||A swimlane is a configurable row on a Kanban board, used to support different service class levels of work. For more information, see Speed up work with swimlanes.|
|Split columns||The Split columns feature lets your team implement a pull mechanism within the workflow process. Without split columns, teams push work forward, to signal that they completed their stage of work. However, pushing it to the next stage doesn't necessarily mean that a team member immediately starts work on that item. With split columns, your team knows exactly how many items sit idle, waiting for work to begin. For more information, see Manage columns.|
|Task checklists||A task is a type of work item used to track work required to complete a user story or product backlog item. You can add tasks from your Kanban board that appear as a checklist of work to be done. As you complete a task, you can update its status by checking the checkbox for the task. For more information, see Add tasks or child items as checklists.|
|Task switching||Task switching, also referred to as context switching or multitasking, is when a team member shifts their attention among different tasks. Limiting task switching can allow a person to work more efficiently by minimizing the amount of time required to redirect cognitive function to a new activity.|
|User story||A type of work item that defines the applications, requirements, and elements that teams plan to create. Product owners typically define and stack rank user stories. User story is defined with the Agile process. For more information, see Agile process work item types and workflow.|
|Work in progress (WIP)||Work that is started but isn't done or completed.|
|WIP limit||A WIP limit is a constraint that a team applies to one or more workflow stages to help prevent potential bottlenecks that hinder the continuous flow of work in the system. For more information, see Work in Progress limits.|
|Workflow states||Workflow states are defined for each work item type to support tracking the status of a work item, from its creation to its completion. These states define the workflow process: actions, steps, or stages that a piece of work goes through from inception to completion. The State and Reason fields differ depending on the work item type and process selected for the project. For more information, see Customize the workflow.|
|Workflow state categories||State categories determine how the Kanban board treats each workflow state. The state categories used by the backlogs are Proposed, In Progress, Resolved, and Completed. For more information, see Workflow states and state categories.|
For more information, see the following articles:
Use Kanban board controls
You can quickly switch from the backlog view to the board view using the Backlog and Board links. Use the following icons to enable other user interface features.
|Backlog||Switch to backlog view|
|Board||Switch to Kanban board view|
|Filter by keywords, tags, or fields|
|Customize the board and configure team settings:
Cards | Card reordering | Columns | Swimlanes | CFD chart | Backlogs | Working with bugs
|/||Enter or exit full screen mode|
Open keyboard shortcuts
? to open the Kanban board keyboard shortcuts. The following image isn't exhaustive.
For more information, see Keyboard shortcuts for Azure DevOps and Team Explorer.
Configure & customize your Kanban board
Your Kanban board is highly configurable to support your team's workflow. Each team can configure each board with the following tasks:
Configure card displays
Along with these team configurations, you can customize your project by adding or modifying work item types, the workflow, and add customized portfolio backlogs and boards.
Can you define a board configuration that multiple teams can subscribe to?
Answer: No. Each team controls their own team settings and board configurations.
Update work item status
Once you configure your Kanban board, you can add work items directly to the board. Update the status of work by dragging a card to another column on the Kanban board. You can even change the order of items as you move a card to a new column. For more information, see Workflow states and state categories.
Display leaf node work items
While you can create a hierarchy of backlog items, tasks, and bugs—we don't recommend that you create same-category hierarchies. In other words, don't create parent-child links among work items of the same type, such as story-story, bug-bug, or task-task. The last node in a same-category hierarchy may only appear on Kanban boards, sprint backlogs, and Taskboards. For example, if you link items within a same-category hierarchy that is four levels deep, only the items at the fourth level appear on the Kanban board, sprint backlog, and taskboard.
Rather than nest requirements, bugs, and tasks, we recommend that you maintain a flat list. Only create parent-child links one level deep between items that belong to a different category. For more information, see Fix re-ordering and nesting issues, How backlogs and boards display hierarchical (nested) items.
Reorder and reparent work items
All backlogs and boards support drag-and-drop to reorder and reparent work items. Updates made to one team's backlogs and boards are reflected in other team backlogs and boards that share the same area path. You might need to refresh the page to view the changes.
You can only use drag-and-drop to reorder or reparent work items assigned to area paths selected for your team. When the Parents view option is enabled, work items might appear on your backlog that your team doesn't own. Anything that appears with the information icon can't be reordered nor reparented as another team owns it.
Each team can customize the Kanban board columns and swimlanes. The values that get assigned to Kanban board fields might differ from what you expect when another team updates the work item from a different board.
Even if the management team and the feature teams configure their Kanban board columns with identical workflow mapping, one team's Kanban board items aren't reflected on another team's Kanban board. Only when the work item moves to a column that maps to a workflow state does the card column reflect the same on all boards.
For more information, see Manage columns.
Provide permissions and access
As a member added to the Contributors group of a project, you can use most features provided under Boards or Work. Users with Basic access have full access to all features. Users with Stakeholder access are limited to certain features.
Customize your project and board inheritance
If you need more than three board levels, you can add more. For more information, see Customize your backlogs or boards for a process.
You can also add or modify the fields defined for a work item type (WIT), add a custom WIT, or modify the workflow. For more information, see Customize an inheritance process.
If you need more than three board levels, you can add more. For more information, see Add portfolio backlogs.
You can also add or modify the fields defined for a work item type (WIT), add a custom WIT, or modify the workflow. For more information, see Customize the On-premises XML process model.