Import and export global workflow

Azure DevOps Services | Azure DevOps Server 2022 - Azure DevOps Server 2019 | TFS 2018 - TFS 2013


For the On-premises XML process model, you can use witadmin to list, import, export, and modify a process for a project. For the Inherited and Hosted XML process models, you can only use witadmin to list and export process information. For an overview of process models and what is supported, see Customize your work tracking experience.

By using global workflow, you can minimize the work required to define and update work item fields and global lists that multiple projects and types of work items share. With global workflow, you can define and update fields and global lists. You can manage the global workflow for a project collection or a project by using the following commands in the witadmin command-line tool:

  • exportglobalworkflow: Exports the global workflow to an XML file or the Command Prompt window.
  • importglobalworkflow: Imports global workflow from an XML file.

To learn about global workflow, see Global workflow XML element reference.

How to run the witadmin command-line tool

To run the witadmin command-line tool, open a Command Prompt window where Visual Studio is installed. The witadmin command-line tool installs with any version of Visual Studio. You can access this tool by installing the free version of Visual Studio Community or Visual Studio Team Explorer.


If you are connecting to an on-premises server, you must use the same or later version of Visual Studio or Team Explorer as Azure DevOps Server. For example, if you connect to a TFS 2017 instance, you must connect from Visual Studio 2017 or Team Explorer 2017. There is no Team Explorer 2015 version.

Visual Studio 2017 or Team Explorer 2017 client:

%programfiles(x86)%\Microsoft Visual Studio\2017\Community\Common7\IDE\CommonExtensions\Microsoft\TeamFoundation\Team Explorer

or, TeamExplorer, Professional or Enterprise in place of Community, depending on the version you've installed.

On a 32-bit edition of Windows, replace %programfiles(x86)% with %programfiles%. You can install Visual Studio Community (which provides access to Team Explorer) or Visual Studio Team Explorer 2017 for free.


  • To export a global workflow, you must be a valid user of the project or project collection.
  • To import a global workflow to a project, you must be a member of the following security groups: Team Foundation Administrators, Project Collection Administrators, or Project Administrators.
  • To import a global workflow to a project collection, you must be a member of either the Team Foundation Administrators or Project Collection Administrators.

See Change project collection-level permissions.


Even if you sign in with administrative permissions, you must open an elevated Command Prompt window to perform this function on a server that is running Windows Server 2008. To open an elevated Command Prompt window, choose Start, open the Command Prompt shortcut menu, and then choose Run as Administrator. For more information, see the following page on the Microsoft website: User Access Control.


witadmin exportglobalworkflow /collection:CollectionURL [/p:ProjectName] [/f:FileName] [/e:Encoding] [/exportgloballists]   
witadmin importglobalworkflow /collection:CollectionURL [/p:ProjectName] /f:FileName [/e:Encoding] [/v]  


Parameter Description
/collection:CollectionURL Specifies the URI of the collection. You must specify the URI in the following format: http://ServerName:Port/VirtualDirectoryName/CollectionName

If you do not specify a virtual directory, you must specify the URI in the following format:

/p:ProjectName Optional. The project for which you want to export or import the global workflow. This project must be defined in the collection that you specified by using the /collection parameter. If you do not specify a project, the global workflow is imported or exported for the collection.
/f:FileName The path and the name of the XML definition file for global workflow to export or import.

Note: If the client computer is running Windows Vista, you might not have permissions to certain folders. If you try to export the global list to a location where you do not have permissions, the registry virtualization technology automatically redirects the exported file and saves it to the virtual store. For more information, see the Registry Virtualization page on the Microsoft web site. To avoid this redirection, you can export the file to a location where you have permissions.
/e:Encoding Optional. The name of a .NET Framework 2.0 encoding format. The specified encoding will be used to export or import the XML data. For example, /e utf-7 specifies Unicode (UTF-7) encoding. If you omit this parameter, witadmin attempts to detect the encoding and uses UTF-8 if detection fails.
/v Optional. Validates the XML that defines the global workflow but does not import the definition file.
/exportgloballists Optional. Exports the definitions of global lists that the global workflow references. The definitions for global lists will be embedded into the XML definition of the global workflow. If you do not specify this parameter, the definitions for global lists are omitted.
/? or help Displays help about the command in the Command Prompt window.


You can define work item fields by importing them through a global workflow. However, you cannot change the properties of existing fields by using global workflow. If you import a global workflow that does not contain a FIELDS element, all previously imported rules for global workflow will be deleted. Field definitions will not be affected.


Unless otherwise specified, the following values apply in each example:

  • URI for the collection: http://AdventureWorksServer:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection
  • Project: Contoso
  • Port number for the server website: 8080

Export the definition of a global workflow for a project

The following example exports the global workflow for a project:

witadmin exportglobalworkflow /collection:http://AdventureWorksServer:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection /p:Contoso /f:C:myGlobalWorkflow.xml  

Import the definition of a global workflow to a project

The following example imports the global workflow to the Contoso project:

witadmin importglobalworkflow /collection:http://AdventureWorksServer:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection /p:Contoso /f:C:collectionGlobalWorkflow.xml   

Import the definition of a global workflow to a collection

The following example imports the global workflow to the collection:

witadmin importglobalworkflow /collection:http://AdventureWorksServer:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection /f:C:collectionGlobalWorkflow.xml