Planning and Tracking Projects

Visual Studio Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) provides you and your team with the tools to effectively manage the lifecycle to develop applications. As the following illustration shows, you and your team can use these tools to tell user stories, to manage the backlog, plan a sprint, and run a sprint, to engage stakeholders to provide continuous feedback, and to easily incorporate feedback to support the next iteration of software.

Planning and Tracking Projects

In this topic

  • Tools for managing the application lifecycle

  • Team projects, teams, and process guidance

  • Team Foundation clients

  • Work items, queries, and alerts

  • Documents and reports

  • Manage portfolios through connection to Project Server

  • Customize and extend planning and tracking experiences

Tools for managing the application lifecycle

Related topics: Agile Planning and Iterations | Adopting Visual Studio ALM

By using Visual Studio ALM, you can manage customer needs more effectively. You can create a high-level plan that breaks your project down into potentially shippable increments, and you can create detailed plans to execute shorter iterations in which you develop those increments. These Agile and Scrum practices are increasingly being adopted by teams because they can be adopted incrementally and applied to almost any project and process. Visual Studio ALM supports these practices with the following tools that enable you to illustrate stories, define product backlogs, plan and run sprints, and engage stakeholders.


To access some of these tools you must have either Visual Studio Premium, Visual Studio Ultimate, or Visual Studio Test Professional installed. Also, you might need to be added to the Full group for Web Access Permissions. See Features Accessed Through Web Permissions.

  • PowerPoint Storyboarding: You can quickly illustrate a user story, requirement, or experience by using PowerPoint Storyboarding. With this tool you can build a storyboard from a collection of pre-defined storyboard shapes, capture existing user interfaces and customize the layouts of your web pages or phone application, as well as link the storyboard to a work item stored in Team Foundation Server.

  • Product backlog: The product backlog page shows a single view of the current backlog of work that can be dynamically re-ordered and grouped. Product Owners can quickly prioritize work and outline dependencies and relationships.

  • Sprint backlog and team capacity: The sprint backlog page reflects in real time the data you input that includes work items assigned to the iteration path, and specifying dates, individual work capacity, and work interruptions both for the team and individuals. Teams can get instant feedback on the rate of burndown and where they are over capacity.

  • Task board and burndown chart: As a daily practice, the team can view and update the task board to reflect the status of work items visually. The team sees the progress they are making against each product backlog item and can quickly focus on remaining work. Also, integrated into the task board is a real-time burndown chart of the remaining work in the team’s sprint.

  • Request Feedback and Microsoft Feedback Client: The Request Feedback and Microsoft Feedback Client tools enable teams to engage stakeholders to provide frequent and continuous feedback. The feedback client enables stakeholders to directly interact with working software while recording rich and actionable data for the team in the background through action scripts, annotations, screenshots, and video or audio recordings.

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Team projects, teams, and process guidance

Related topics: Create a Team Project | Choose a Process Template | Get Started as a Team | Process Guidance and Process Templates for Team Foundation Server | Customize Work Item Tracking and Your Team Project

The starting point for working with Visual Studio ALM is to create a team project to track information and to organize source code, builds, tests, and plans for your team. As the following illustration shows, you create a team project by choosing a process template, which defines the artifacts—work items, queries, documents, reports, and more—that support planning and tracking activities. Each team project corresponds to a default team. If you work within a large enterprise, you may want to define a team to support how your team works.

Process Template is used to create a Team Project

After you create a team project, you create your backlog and define tasks using work items. The types of work items you use will vary depending on the process template used to create your team project. You can learn more about each artifact for the default process templates that Visual Studio ALM provides through the following process guidance topics: Artifacts (Scrum), Artifacts (Agile), and Artifacts (CMMI). If you use a process template that is not listed, you might find associated guidance on another site.


After you upgrade to Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2012, you can still access the data from team projects that you created in the previous release. To access some of the new features, however, you will need to update your upgraded team project to access several new features that are available with the upgrade.

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Team Foundation clients

Related topics: Team Foundation Clients | Compatibility between Team Foundation Clients and Team Foundation Server

You interact with Team Foundation Server and Visual Studio ALM through one or more of the following Team Foundation clients. All clients require that you connect to a server that runs Team Foundation Server and select a team project collection and a team project. All clients require that you have the required permissions to access the team projects that you select.

  • Team Web Access provides a web interface to Team Foundation Server that supports access to application lifecycle management features of Visual Studio, including team projects, teams, project management, version control, and builds.

  • Team Web Access – Work Item Only View provides a limited web interface to Team Foundation Server that supports members of an organization to create and modify work items without having a client access license (CAL).

  • Team Explorer, a plug-in to Visual Studio, provides access to application lifecycle management features of Visual Studio, including team projects, My Work, code reviews, version control, and builds. You can also access this client by downloading it for free.

  • Team Explorer Everywhere enables teams to collaborate across platforms. This application provides the tools and plug-ins that you need to access Team Foundation Server from Eclipse-based environments.

  • Microsoft Test Manager provides support to define test efforts and create and run manual tests. Test Manager integrates with the work item database in Team Foundation to create and track bugs that are found during test efforts.

  • Microsoft Excel enables you to define and modify work items in bulk as well as to create reports from work item queries.

  • Microsoft Project allows you to plan projects, schedule tasks, assign resources, and track changes by accessing features that Team Foundation Server does not have, such as a project calendar, Gantt charts, and resource views.

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Work items, queries, and alerts

Related topics: Track Work and Manage Workflow | Define Queries | Add, Find, View, and Modify a Work Item | View, Create, and Share a Query | Set Alerts

You manage, assign, and update the status of work using work items. A work item is a database record that Team Foundation uses to track the assignment and progress of work. You can use different types of work items to track different types of work, such as user stories, customer requirements, product bugs, and development tasks. You use work item queries to list work items and to track the status or progress of an iteration or release. By specifying the filter criteria and query type, you can explore relationships among queried items, and modify them individually or in bulk.

Work item tracking task overview

Main tasks:

  1. Add new or modify work items

  2. Attach files to work items

  3. Create links among work items

  4. Find or list a filtered set of work items

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Documents and reports

Related topics: Manage Documents | Create and Customize Reports

You can share documents and files that you want to make available to all team members by uploading them to the project portal for your team project. To track your team's progress, you can create and customize reports that highlight the data that is most important for your project. By creating your own reports, you can drill down on specific information that is not analyzed by the default reports. In addition, you can customize how your reports are run, displayed, and delivered to each member of your team.

As the following illustration shows, you can create and customize reports from data in one of three databases. You can also create, customize, and view reports by using Excel, Project, or Reporting Services. Your team project includes built-in reports in Excel and Reporting Services, or you can quickly generate reports by using Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Project.

Team Foundation Data Stores and Reports Overview

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Manage portfolios through connection to Project Server

Related topics: Enabling Data Flow Between Team Foundation Server and Project Server

You can gain up-to-date insight into portfolio execution, alignment with strategic objectives and resource utilization of software development projects by leveraging the data stored in different systems. The integration of Team Foundation Server and Project Server automates the exchange of project information across teams and improves coordination between teams by using disparate methodologies, like Waterfall and Agile, by using common data and agreed-upon metrics. Agile teams can continue to think in terms of the product backlog and user stories and the Program Management Office (PMO) can continue to manage resources across the enterprise. Project managers and software development teams can use the tools they prefer, work at the granularity that supports their needs, and share information transparently between Team Foundation Server and Microsoft Project Server. When the two server products are configured, the synchronization engine maintains scheduling data and resource usage for the configured data in the mapped enterprise project plan and the team project.

You can review the progress of a portfolio of projects with the PMO by using the Project Center view that PWA provides. As the following illustration shows, you can easily track the progress of several agile development projects.

Project Portfolio with Agile Plan Updates

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Customize and extend planning and tracking experiences

Related topics: Customizing Team Projects and Processes | Customize Work Item Tracking and Your Team Project

You can customize your team project to support specific processes and practices that your team uses, and to design your workflow, work item forms, and data fields. As the following illustration shows, you can create or customize eight types of objects. You manage categories, work item types, and process configuration for team projects. You manage global lists, link types, and work item fields for team project collections. You can customize global workflow for a team project or a team project collection.

Work Item Tracking Objects

If you use Microsoft Project, you can customize how data is published and refreshed by modifying the project mapping file. When publishing or refreshing tasks in Microsoft Project, the project mapping file determines the publishing behavior and how the fields in each task are mapped to fields in Team Foundation.

You can customize some aspects of Visual Studio to extend existing features or to add new capabilities if you have special requirements. Some of the extensibility points are provided with your Visual Studio installation. For other extensibility points, you must also install the Visual Studio SDK.

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See Also


Adopting Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server for Application Lifecycle Management

Administering Team Foundation Server

Application Lifecycle Management with Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server