Configure and customize Agile planning tools for a team project

To get the most out of using the Agile planning tools that Visual Studio Online and Team Foundation Server (TFS) provide, you’ll want to configure those features in ways that support your team’s processes. Several features can be configured through the web user interface. Other features can be customized only for TFS on-premises deployments by changing an XML definition.

Agile planning tools, configure and customize

This topic provides an overview of what you can customize and pointers to content that shows you how.

Configure through the UI

Customize the XML definition

Visual Studio Online and TFS on-premises deployments

To download the latest TFS update, go here.

TFS on-premises deployments only

In addition, you can customize the following three areas which affect several Agile planning tools:

  • Color assigned to WITs.

  • Map workflow states to metastates, which impact all Kanban boards.

  • Change a field used to track remaining work, backlog priority, size or effort of work used in forecasting and velocity calculations, and the task activity type.

Edit the configuration of Agile planning tools

The Agile planning tools reference the configuration of the categories and process configuration XML definition files for the team project. The categories group the WITs that are used to determine what will appear on the portfolio backlog, backlog, and task backlog pages.

Agile configuration, categories + process

To edit an XML definition file, you export, edit, and then import the file. Another tool you can use to modify these files is the TFS Team Project Manager, a community resource project available on CodePlex.

Process for customizing a WIT object

To edit process configuration using the witadmin command line tool, follow these steps.

  1. If you don't have administration permissions for your team project, get them.

  2. Open a Command Prompt window where either Visual Studio or Team Explorer is installed and enter:

    cd %programfiles%\Microsoft Visual Studio 12.0\Common7\IDE

    On a 64-bit edition of Windows, replace %programfiles% with %programfiles(x86)%. You can download Team Explorer for free.

  3. Export the process configuration file.

    witadmin exportprocessconfig /collection:CollectionURL /p:ProjectName /f:"DirectoryPath/ProcessConfiguration.xml"

    An example of a CollectionURL is http://MyServer:8080/tfs/TeamProjectCollectionName.

  4. Edit the file. For details, see Process configuration XML element reference.

  5. Import the process configuration file.

    witadmin importprocessconfig /collection:CollectionURL /p:ProjectName /f:"DirectoryPath/ProcessConfiguration.xml"

  6. Open Team Web Access (TWA) in a browser to view the changes. If it is already open, refresh the page.

For more information about using witadmin, see Import and export process configuration [witadmin] and Import and export categories [witadmin].

Customize the Kanban board (TFS on-premises)

The Kanban board supports two levels of customization. You configure the first level through the user interface and the second level by changing the workflow.

The first and simplest level includes the ability to specify as many swim lane columns as you want as described here. A swim lane is a pseudo state or interim state within a workflow state.

Each team can generate their custom view of swim lanes. One drawback, however, is that you cannot query for work items based on the swim lane status. You can only query for work items based on their assigned State.

By changing the workflow to support the swim lanes you want, you support queries based on all States/swim lanes. This customization requires changing the workflow for those WITs assigned to the Requirement Category, such as Product Backlog Item or User Story. The default swim lanes correspond to the workflow states of these WITs that have been mapped to metastates. If you want your swim lanes to correspond to a custom workflow, you must perform these two modifications:

  1. Modify the workflow of the WITs in the Requirement Category.

  2. Modify the process configuration to ensure all workflow states are mapped to metastates.

Q & A

Q: What customizations should I avoid to allow automatic updates when upgrading TFS?

A: If you make no customizations, you can use the Configure Features Wizard to update your team projects after you have upgraded TFS. To learn about which customizations you can safely make and which you should avoid, see Customize the work tracking experience: Before you customize, understand the maintenance and upgrade implications.

Q: How do I work with tags?

A: To learn how to add tags and filter lists, go here.

Q: Can I increase the number of work items that show up in the first or last column on a Kanban board?

A: For Visual Studio Online and with TFS 2013.4 update, you can. See Work from the Kanban board. For on-premises TFS deployment prior to TFS 2013.4, you can’t. The first and last columns are preset to display a maximum of 20 items.

For all versions, you can set the number of items in each of the intermediate columns, referred to as the work-in-progress number, to whatever you want. This number is for display purposes only. It doesn’t limit the number of items within the column. It only alerts you when the number of items exceeds the number you set.

Q: What is the maximum number of work items that can display on the task board?

A: To limit the display load time to acceptable parameters, the task board is restricted to a maximum of 500 work items.

For TFS on-premises deployments, you can increase this value up to a maximum of 1500 by specifying a value for the workItemCountLimit attribute of the TaskBacklog element.

<TaskBacklog category="Microsoft.TaskCategory" pluralName="Tasks" singularName="Task" workItemCountLimit="800" >
. . .

Q: Why don’t I see the Feature portfolio backlog?

A: To view and work with portfolio backlogs requires that you have Advanced access. However, the system doesn’t restrict you from creating and modifying Feature work items.

Q: Can I organize work by teams using a field instead of the area path?

A: Yes, for TFS on-premises deployments. If your organization has several teams that work from a common backlog and across many product areas, you might want to customize the team project to support team fields. This configuration will still allow teams to work independently, but work can be assigned to teams instead of by product area path.

Q: What can I configure for my team?

A: See Collaborate using team resources.

Q: How do I change the start date for the CFD (Visual Studio Online and TFS 2013 Update 2)

A: Open the Edit Chart dialog from the CFD and choose the start date. To learn more about the CFD, go here.

Edit chart start date

Q: How do I change the default working days (Visual Studio Online and TFS 2013 Update 2)

A: Open Settings from the team’s administration page. If you’re not a team administrator, get added as one.

Team settings page for default working days

For TFS on-premises deployments that don’t include the updates provided in TFS 2013 Update 2, you change the default working days by editing the process configuration file for the team project.

Q: What data store does the Agile planning tools reference?

A: Agile pages and charts displayed through Team Web Access reference the WIT data store in real time. That means there is no time delay from when data is entered or updated and data displayed in the Agile planning tool pages and charts.

In the following illustration, work item fields are displayed in a blue box to emphasize that their definitions apply across all team projects within a team project collection. The yellow-colored boxes indicate WIT objects that are defined for a team project. The Agile pages and charts, shown in purple, are defined for a team.

Process configuration dependencies

Q: Where can I post a question?

A: You might find additional answers to questions you have or you can post a question in one of the following TFS forums: Team Foundation Server - Work Item Tracking or Team Web Access.