About configuring and customizing Azure Boards

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

You can configure and customize Azure Boards in many ways, to better manage your portfolio, dependencies, and monitoring. We recommend the tasks covered in this article especially for administrators who are responsible for managing multi-team projects.

Quick access to common tasks:

Customize cards | Manage columns | Expedite work with swimlanes | Configure your backlog.


Most of the guidance in this article is valid for both the cloud and on-premises versions. However, some of the features included in this article, such as Rollup, Analytics, and some portfolio planning tools, are only available for the cloud at this time.

If you're just getting started as a Project Administrator, see also Get started as an administrator.


To make the most of Azure Boards, understand how your teams use their tools and functions (for example, Scrum, Kanban, and Scrumban), and their dependencies on configurations and customizations. The following table summarizes the primary items you should consider as you structure your project.

Project level

  • How many teams you want to define
  • How to structure area paths to support portfolio management views
  • Field customizations
  • Custom work item types (WITs)
  • Portfolio backlog customizations
  • Workflow customizations

Team level

  • How you use your product backlog to plan and prioritize your work
  • Whether you track bugs as requirements or as tasks, or not use bugs at all
  • Whether or not you use tasks to track time and capacity
  • How you use portfolio backlog levels
  • How you inform upper management of progress, status, and risks

Customize your work tracking building blocks and tools to support business needs and communicate the usage guidelines to your team.

Work item types and portfolio backlogs

When you create a project in Azure Boards, you first select a process. Each process (Agile, Basic, Scrum, and CMMI) supports a hierarchy of WITs, including product and portfolio backlogs. Default WITs for each process are listed in corresponding tabs, with backlogs under Requirements and tasks under Task.

The following image shows the hierarchy for the Agile process backlog work item:

  • User Stories and tasks are used to track work.

  • Bugs track code defects.

  • Epics and features are used to group work under larger scenarios.

    Diagram that shows Agile work item types.

Each team can configure how they manage Bug work items, at the same level as User Story or Task work items, by configuring the Working with bugs setting. For more information about using these work item types, see Agile process.

You can add custom WITs at each level, and even add custom portfolio backlogs. Here, for example, is a project that added Objectives and Key Results as custom WITs and corresponding portfolio backlogs to the Scrum process.

Objectives and Key Results as additional portfolio backlogs

Teams can choose which WITs they use to track their work. The following table summarizes the main options, recommended usage, and supported tasks and tools.

Work tracking options

Tasks and tools supported

Tasks only

Not recommended
There's no way to quickly enter new tasks in a backlog nor prioritize a backlog of tasks. Also, there's no support for calendar views, cross-team views, or portfolio planning

Requirements with child-dependent tasks

Supports Scrum methods
Recommended for teams that follow Scrum methods and want to track time associated with work.

Many teams start out using Scrum methods to track and plan their work using the tools available through the Sprints hub. The Sprints tools support estimating and tracking remaining work and use of capacity planning. If you don't plan on using these tools, then adding child-dependent tasks is optional. Developers might add them as a checklist of items they need to complete a user story or backlog requirement.

Requirements only, such as user stories (Agile), issues (Basic), product backlog items (Scrum), requirements (CMMI)

Supports Kanban and Scrumban methods
Recommended for teams that follow Kanban or Scrumban methods, estimate work using Story Points, Effort, or Size, and don't track time associated with work.

Requirements grouped under portfolio WITs, such as epics and features

Supports calendar views, cross-team views, and portfolio planning
Recommended for organizations with several teams that want to view rollups and calendar views associated with multiple teams, and take advantage of all portfolio planning tools.

Options to configure and customize

The following table shows the areas you can configure and customize and the tools impacted by those customizations. You can customize each area at the Organization, Project, or Team level as noted, or a combination of two. For a description of the Standard tools, Analytics tools, and Portfolio planning tools, see What is Azure Boards, In-context reports: Work tracking, and Plans (Agile at scale).

Configure or customize

Standard tools


Portfolio planning tools

  • Boards>All tools
  • Backlogs>All tools
  • Sprints>All tools
  • Cumulative flow diagram
  • Velocity
  • Burndown trend
  • Delivery plans
  • Feature timeline
  • Epic Roadmap
  • Portfolio plans (Beta)
  • Backlogs>Sprint planning
  • Sprints>Sprint backlogs
  • Sprints>Sprint capacity
  • Sprints>Taskboard
  • Velocity
  • Burndown trend
  • Delivery plans
  • Feature timeline
  • Epic Roadmap
  • Portfolio plans (Beta)

Show bugs on backlogs & boards (Team)
Custom WITs, Product backlog (Process)
Custom WITs, Taskboard (Process)

  • Boards>Product board
  • Backlogs>Product backlog
  • Backlogs> Mapping tool
  • Sprints>Sprint backlogs
  • Sprints>Taskboard
  • Velocity

Custom WITs, Portfolio backlog (Process)
More portfolio backlogs (Process)

  • Boards>Portfolio boards
  • Backlogs>Portfolio backlogs
  • Backlogs> Mapping tool
  • Velocity

Custom workflow (Process)

  • Boards>Product board
  • Boards>Portfolio boards
  • Sprints>Taskboard
  • Cumulative flow diagram

Custom field (Process)

  • Boards>Product board
  • Boards>Portfolio boards

Area paths, product teams, and portfolio management

Use area paths to group work items by product, feature, or business areas and to support teams responsible for work assigned to those areas. You can define a hierarchical set of area paths or a flat set. Typically, you define a hierarchical set of area paths to support a business hierarchy that wants to track progress of several teams.

Area paths and hierarchical grouping

The two main ways to group work items are by area path and by parenting them under a portfolio WIT as described early in this article. The two aren't mutually exclusive. Here are their differences:

  • Area paths assigned to a team determine what work items appear in a team view: product backlog, portfolio backlog, delivery plans, or other portfolio planning tool
  • Grouping work items under a parent feature or epic determine what rollup views are supported and how work appears in a portfolio planning tool

You can also assign tags to work items to group them for query and filter purposes. So when you structure your teams and projects, make sure you understand how you use these grouping tools to support your business needs. Your choices affect the use of portfolio planning tools.

Area path-dependent tools

To perform the following tasks, you must define area paths:


You can define your area path structure and assign area paths to teams. Or, you can add a team and create the area path with the team name at that time. If teams are fully independent, create a flat set of area paths. However, if you want to create a hierarchy of teams, then you'll want to create a tree-hierarchy of area paths. For more information, see Configure a hierarchy of teams.

To use the following tools, teams must subscribe to area paths:

Area paths and team assignments

Each project has a default team and default area path. In some cases, there's only one team to plan and track work. As organizations grow, however, you might add more teams to manage the backlog and sprints.

The following example shows area paths and their assignments to teams, which support portfolio management views for the Account Management and Service Delivery teams.

Screenshot of Area paths and team assignments.

For more information, see the following articles:


  • Consider what upper management needs to know and how to best support them
  • Consider how you want to use rollup both for a team and portfolio management
  • Define epics and scenarios for large initiatives that take two or more sprints to complete
  • Create hierarchical area paths to support sub categories of features and product areas
  • Define requirements for work that can be accomplished in a single sprint and can be assigned to a single individual
  • Define tasks to track more granular details or when you want to track time spent working


  • You can only assign a work item to a single individual. When you define work items, consider how many work items you need and who to assign them to.
  • Choose the Node Name field as a column option to view the leaf area node in a backlog list or board card. For more information, see Customize cards.
  • Don't create parent-child links among work items of the same type, such as story-story, bug-bug, task-task.

Most Azure Boards tools support a filtered view of work items based on area path or iteration path. You can also apply more filters based on keyword, assignment, WIT, and more.

Bugs as requirements or tasks

Each team can choose how they want to manage bugs. Some teams like to track bugs along with requirements on the backlog. Other teams like to track bugs as tasks performed in support of a requirement. The bugs then appear on their Taskboard.

If you use the Scrum process, your default setup is to track bugs along with product backlog items (PBIs). If you work in a project based on the Agile or CMMI processes, bugs don't automatically appear on your backlog.

Determine with your team how you want to manage bugs. Then, change your team settings accordingly.


After you refresh a backlog or board and you don't see bugs where you expect them, review How backlogs and boards display hierarchical (nested) items. Only leaf nodes of nested items appear on sprint Taskboards.

System WITs on a backlog

To track issues or impediments along with your requirements or in a portfolio backlog, add them to your custom Inherited process. For more information, see Customize your backlogs or boards (Inheritance process).

Rollup, hierarchy, and portfolio management

Rollup columns allow you to view progress bars or totals of numeric fields or descendant items within a hierarchy. Descendant items correspond to all child items within the hierarchy. You can add one or more rollup columns to a product or portfolio backlog.

Here we show Progress by all Work Items, which displays progress bars for ascendant work items based on the percentage of closed descendant items.

Screenshot of backlog, Progress bars showing rollup by work items.

Delivery Plans supports rollup views of epics, features, and other custom portfolio backlogs.

Screenshot showing Delivery Plans Progress rollup view of four scenarios.

Iteration paths sprints releases & versioning

Iteration paths support Scrum and Scrumban processes where work is assigned to a set time period. Iteration paths allow you to group work into sprints, milestones, or other event-specific or time-related period. Each iteration or sprint corresponds to a regular time interval referred to as a sprint cadence. Typical sprint cadences are two weeks, three weeks, or a month long. For more information, see About area and iteration paths.

Iteration paths can be a flat list, or grouped under release milestones as shown in the following image.

Screenshot of Iteration paths, grouped.

While Iteration Paths don't affect Kanban board tools, you can use Iteration Paths as a filter on boards. For more information, see Filter your Kanban board.

Define iteration paths and assign them to teams when you want to use the following tools:


If a team hasn't subscribed or selected an iteration path, that iteration path won't appear in a team view or tool.

Time tracking

Most organizations following Scrum processes use time estimates for Sprint capacity planning. Azure Boards tools fully support tracking time for this purpose. The main field used is the task Remaining Work field, which typically zeros out at the end of the sprint.

However, some organizations require time tracking to support other purposes, such as for billing or maintaining time allocation records. Time values for estimated work and completed work are of interest. The Agile and CMMI processes provide these fields—Original Estimate, Completed Work, Remaining Work—for use in tracking time. You can use them for that purpose. However, Azure Boards provides limited native support for time tracking. Instead, consider using a Marketplace extension to support your other time tracking requirements.


The Original Estimate, Completed Work, Remaining Work fields were designed to support integration with Microsoft Project. Integration support with Microsoft Project is deprecated for Azure DevOps Server 2019 and later versions, including the cloud service.

Process changes that affect all teams

Any change made to a process in a project impacts all teams in that project. Many changes don't cause much disruption to the teams they support, but the following changes do.

Custom fields

When you add custom fields to a WIT, it doesn’t directly affect any specific tool. Instead, these fields become visible within the corresponding work items. For instance, if you introduce a custom numeric field, you can utilize it for rollup calculations on backlogs. Also, you can use this custom field with the following reporting tools. So, while the effect isn’t tool-specific, it does enhance your ability to tailor work items to your project’s needs.


All default and custom fields are shared across all projects in a collection or organization. There is a limit of 1024 fields that you can define for a process.

Custom WITs

The following table shows the effects when you add a custom WIT to a specific category.



Epic or feature

  • Child work items of the new WIT appear on the product backlog
  • Work items based on the new WIT appear on the sprint backlogs and Taskboards
  • Work items based on the new WIT appear on the product backlog and Kanban board
  • Each team must configure the Kanban board to support the new WIT
  • Work items based on the new WIT appear on the corresponding portfolio backlogs and Kanban boards
  • Each team must configure the Kanban boards to support the new WIT
  • The new WITs might not appear on one or more of the portfolio planning tools

Custom workflow

Each process supports a default workflow. This workflow defines the default columns that appear on the Kanban boards and sprint Taskboards.

Workflow states: User Story, Agile process

User Story workflow states, Agile process

Sometimes, teams want to track the status of their work that goes beyond these default states. Support is provided in one of the following ways:

  • Add custom workflow states to the WIT: This option impacts all teams and requires that they update their Kanban board configuration.
  • Add columns to a Kanban board: This option only impacts the team that adds the columns.

Both workflow states and Kanban columns appear in the Cumulative Flow diagram for a team. Individuals can choose which columns appear in the chart. For more information, see Cumulative flow diagram.

Who can make changes?

Since process-level, project-level, and team-level settings can have a wide effect, changes are restricted to users with the following required permissions.

Process-level changes

To create, edit, or manage Inherited processes and apply them to projects, you must be a member of the Project Collection Administrators group. Or, you must have the corresponding permissions Create process, Delete process, Edit process, or Delete a field from organization set to Allow. See Set permissions and access for work tracking, Customize an inherited process.

For more information, see the following articles:

Project-level changes

To add Area Paths or Iteration Paths, you must be a member of the Project Administrators group.

Or, to add, edit, and manage Area Paths or Iteration Paths under a specific node, you must have one or more of the following permissions set to Allow:

  • Create child nodes
  • Delete this node
  • Edit this node
  • View permissions in this node

For more information, see the following articles:

Team-level changes

To configure team tools, you must be a team administrator or a member of the Project Administrators group.

Team administrators do the following operations:

  • Add team members
  • Subscribe to area and iteration paths
  • Configure backlogs and other common team settings
  • Configure Kanban boards
  • Manage team notifications

For more information on configuring backlogs and boards, see Manage and configure team tools.

Next steps