Add, review, and update work items in Azure Boards

Azure DevOps Services | Azure DevOps Server 2022 - Azure DevOps Server 2019 | TFS 2018

Collaborate with others by adding, updating, and reviewing your work items as cards on a Kanban board.

If you're a project administrator just getting started, review Configure and customize Azure Boards to learn more about defining area and iteration paths and customizing your work item types. To add another Kanban board, you do that by adding a team. For details, see About teams and Agile tools.

Use Kanban boards to plan and show progress

Your Kanban board provides you with a visual interactive space for you and your team to plan and show progress. With it, your team can track the critical information they need by seeing which work items are in progress, where the bottlenecks are, who work is assigned to, and more.

Boards present work items as cards and support quick status updates through drag-and-drop, similar to sticky notes on a physical whiteboard.

In a nutshell, you use boards to:

To get started, you'll want to follow the steps outlined below.

Configure Kanban board.Update the Kanban board.Monitor progress.


A Kanban board is provisioned with the addition of each project and each team. You can only create or add Kanban boards to a project by adding another team. To learn more, see About teams and Agile tools.

Product and portfolio Kanban boards

Each product and portfolio backlog has a corresponding Kanban board. Both backlogs and boards are associated with a team, and display work items based on the area and iteration paths selected by the team as described in Define iteration (sprint) paths and configure team iterations.

Each board supports many Kanban practices such as defining columns and swimlanes, setting Work-in-Progress (WIP) limits, defining the Definition of Done, and more. To get started, see Kanban quickstart.

Screenshot of Kanban board, Agile template.

Screenshot of Kanban board, Kanban board, Agile template, TFS 2018.

Configure and customize your Kanban board

Your Kanban board is highly configurable to support your team's workflow. Each team can configure each board in the following areas:

Along with these team configurations, you can customize a project by adding or modifying work item types, the workflow, and add customized portfolio backlogs and boards.

Common board configurations for multiple teams

Question: 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've configured your Kanban board, you can add work items directly to the board. You can then 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.

Git showing how to reorder cards while changing columns.

Use the Cumulative Flow Diagram to monitor metrics

The Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD) is an in-context report available for both product and portfolio backlog levels. Use this chart to monitor key metrics to fine-tune your processes.

Screenshot of Analytics report, Cumulative Flow Diagram.

The Average work in progress value excludes completed work items. Use the interactive controls to choose the time frame, swimlanes, and workflow states or Kanban board columns.

Screenshot of Kanban board, cumulative flow diagram.

The CFD 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. Lead time indicates the amount of time it takes to complete a requirement from the time it was first proposed.

By monitoring these metrics, you can gain insight into how to optimize your processes and minimize lead time.

To learn more, see the following articles:

Display of 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. That is, don't create parent-child links among work items of the same type, such as story-story, bug-bug, task-task. The reason is that the display of the leaf node, 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.

Instead of nesting requirements, bugs, and tasks, we recommend that you maintain a flat list. In other words, only create parent-child links one level deep between items that belong to a different category. To learn more, see Fix re-ordering and nesting issues, How backlogs and boards display hierarchical (nested) items.

Exercising select features with multi-team ownership

When you share area paths across two or more teams, you'll want to understand how Azure Boards manages conflicts that can arise when exercising these features:

  • Reordering or reparenting work items on a backlog or board
  • Updates made to Kanban Board Column, Done, and Lane fields when dragging items to a different column

Reordering and reparenting 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 may 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 may appear on your backlog that your team doesn't own. Anything that appears with the information icon can't be reordered nor reparented as it's owned by another team.

Screenshot of information message on team ownership.

Kanban board column updates

Because each team can customize the Kanban board columns and swimlanes, the values assigned to Kanban board fields may 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 Feature Kanban board columns with identical workflow mapping, updating work items on one team's Kanban board won't be 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.

By design, the team with the longest area path wins the conflict and determines the values for the Kanban Board Column, Board Column Done, and Board Lane fields. If the shared area paths are of equal depth, the results are non-deterministic.

The primary work-around for this issue is to maintain single ownership of work items by Defining area paths and assign to a team. Another option is to add custom workflow states that all teams can use. For details, see Customize the workflow (Inheritance process).

The primary work-around for this issue is to maintain single ownership of work items by Defining area paths and assign to a team. Another option is to add custom workflow states that all teams can use. For details, see Change the workflow for a work item type.

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. For details, see Stakeholder access quick reference.

To learn more about permissions and access, see Permissions and access for work tracking and Stakeholder access quick reference.

To add users to a project, see Add users to a project or team.

Customize your project and boards

If you need more than three board levels, you can add more. To learn how, 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. To learn more, see Customize an inheritance process.

If you need more than three board levels, you can add more. To learn how, 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. To learn more, see Customize the On-premises XML process model.

Can I view a Kanban board of work items defined by a query?

The Query Based Boards Marketplace extension supports viewing a flat-list query of work items as a Kanban board. The query can contain different work item types and work items defined in different projects.

Try this next

Take these tools for a test run by signing up for free. From there, you're ready to add items to your Kanban board and customize it.