With Azure Boards you can plan, track, and discuss work across your teams, connecting everything from idea to release.
Let’s see how we can get started with it.
In this article I will cover some general topics around it, but let me know in the comments section below if you want me to go deeper into any of the different areas of Azure Boards because I’m thinking of dedicating a series to this awesome service.
I also want to mention that Azure Boards is part of Azure DevOps, therefore it of course works in combination with all the other services in Azure DevOps, but it can work just as well with other systems like for example GitHub, and also in a standalone way.
If you want to see how to integrate Azure Boards with GitHub, check out the video I made about this when you are done with this article.
As usual, if you are a visual learner, or simply prefer to watch and listen instead of reading, here you have the video with the whole explanation and demo, which to be fair is much more complete than this post.
Link to the video: https://youtu.be/Ft1JESBVFX8
If you rather prefer reading, well... let's just continue :)
What is Azure Boards
So, what is Azure Boards? In simple words, Azure Boards is a tool that allows you to plan, organize, and track the work of your team and your organization in a simple, easy way.
Azure Boards is interactive and customizable, and provides a rich set of capabilities including native support for Agile, Scrum, and Kanban processes, calendar views, configurable dashboards, and integrated reporting.
And all of this using a simple drag-and-drop interface, directly in the browser.
And on top of that, Azure Boards allows you to filter individual users, export data into calendars, plan sprints and even will let you query for your work items.
Create a new Project
Alright, let’s see how we can get started and create a new project.
Once you login into Azure DevOps, if you don’t have any other project, you’ll have a prompt that says "Create a project to get started".
If instead other projects are present, you can click on the "New Project" button in the top right and the Create New Project dialog will open.
In either case, here you can specify a name for your project and provide a brief description for it.
You’ll then be given two options on the type of project you can create.
- Public visibility permits users anywhere on the internet to see your board. That word public means exactly that! This is ideal for open-source projects that may need collaborators that are not part of a unified group that requires authentication.
- Private visibility is just that, it allows you to lock your Azure DevOps and only permit those you choose to have access. This is great for your personal projects or smaller projects that do not have a large team within your team.
Please note that Public projects are disabled by default for security reasons, and can be enabled in the organization's settings.
Clicking on Advanced, you can select the type of Source Control you want your project to use, but I will leave this for another time since it is not relevant to Azure Boards.
What is very relevant tho is the selection of the process type. As mentioned before, Azure Boards supports a variety of processes out of the box: Agile, Basic, CMMI, and Scrum.
In this example you can also see another process, called Custom Scrum. As the name says, this is a custom process type. Azure Boards in fact allows you to fully customize your processes based on your needs.
Once you have picked the process type that is right for you and your team, click on Create and in a few seconds the project will be ready.
If you want to discover more about the different process templates and how to pick the right one for you, I’d recommend you to check out this video where I explain exactly that.
Check out this section of the video for the full demo
Regardless of the process template you’ve selected, the main sections are the same: Work items, Boards, Backlogs, Sprints, and Queries.
And everything we will see is configurable and customizable!
Work Items is just a flat list of all the work items you have created, regardless of the type, status, area, etc. In fact, you can see I have Tasks, Product Backlog Items, Features and even Bugs in here.
You can of course filter the list by keywords or by the different fields.
Backlogs and Boards
Backlogs and Boards are strictly correlated, in the sense that they show the same work items but in a different representation.
Boards show Epics, Features, and Backlog Items (in Scrum, or Users Stories if you are using the Agile template) in a Kanban-stye view.
While Backlogs show the same but in a hierarchical list view that allows you to navigate the dependencies between the work items, even down to tasks and bugs.
Sprints, on the other side, let you visualize and plan your iterations in a Kanban-like view, for tasks and bugs, still keeping the relationship with their parent backlog items visible (as you can see on the left).
Here you can move the items via drag-and-drop to track the work done by your team.
Finally, the Queries tab allows you to navigate the data about the work items using either predefined queries or custom ones. You can specify conditions and clauses, and manipulate the data for your own use.
Check out this section of the video for the full demo
Create a Work Item
The quick way to create any work item is to go to the Work Items list, click on "New Work Item", and select the type of the Work Item we want to create.
This is the easiest, but it is not the most efficient. You want in fact to create hierarchy between work items so to track the work properly.
Let’s say for example you want to assign a new task to a developer. That task for sure will be related to a backlog item, which in turn relates to a Feature.
In a scenario like this, what you probably want to do is going to the Backlogs tab, locate and expand the Feature and the Backlog Item your new task will be part of, and here click on the create work item button, the one with the Plus at the left of the list. This will give you the selection of only the work item types you can create at that level.
If I were to click on the plus button near a feature, you would see that it would create a Backlog Item because it is the only work item type that is allowed in a feature.
When creating our task, we will need to insert all the information the person will need to execute it, and then we can assign the task to a specific person or leave the team free to pick it up. Finally, we should assign that work item to an iteration, so the team knows when to execute it.
Since I’ve assigned it to the current sprint, I can go to the sprints tab and under my Backlog Item I will now see the new task.
And as for the lists and Kanban boards, Teams can customize these fields to ensure specific data is captured.
Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions about what we have covered in this video, and if you want me to go deeper into any of the sections of Azure Boards. And remember to go to coderdave.io/newsletter and join.
Also, check out this video in which I explain how to integrate Azure Boards and GitHub to track the work.
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Top comments (2)
Nice post! I use azure boards daily to track sprint tasks.
It's the main tool within my company to track daily activities, development, QA Test, and even planning.
It is very useful when you connect it with the rest of the azure devops platform, you can automate the change of state of work items, when a build is ready/deployed, when a PR is finished, etc. You can also create extensions of whatever you want in a relatively simple way. I would love if you could go deeper into the subject, especially regarding the assignment of Processes, fields and state changes, I would appreciate it very much.
As always an excellent article, thank you very much!
Thanks! Yes, I truly think it's an excellent tool. I will try and go deeper into it for a next article(s)