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Track Work and Manage Workflow

Related topics: Work Items and Workflow (Scrum) | Work Items and Workflow (Agile) | Work Items and Workflow (CMMI) | Work Item Field Reference for Visual Studio ALM

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 customer requirements, product bugs, and development tasks.

The work item type determines the workflow states and transitions. The work item types that are available in a project depend on the project template that the project uses. Also, you can customize the work item types that are available in your team project to track your work in the way that makes sense for your development environment.

Each work item represents an object that is stored in the Team Foundation database. Each work item is assigned a unique identifier, a work item ID, and type, the work item type. Work item IDs are unique across all work item types in all team projects in a project collection. The work item type determines the work item fields that are available for tracking information, defaults defined for each field, and rules and constraints positioned on these fields and other objects that specify the work item workflow. Every change made to a work item field is stored in the work item log, which maintains a historical record of changes.

Work items, attached files, and links are all stored in the database for tracking work items in Team Foundation

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

Each work item is assigned:

  • A unique ID

  • Work item type

  • State

  • Assigned To

You create and define work items by defining the fields present within the work item form. The following illustration shows a typical work item.

Sample work item form for defining a user story

Work Item Form for a User Story

All work items are associated with the following common elements:

  • Fields that contain information about the work item.

  • Rules for each field, such as the set of possible values.

  • A work item form that controls which fields appear and the controls associated with them.

  • A workflow that corresponds to a simple state-transition model which allows for tracking status updates for the life cycle of the work item from active to closed.

All work items also have the following common characteristics:

  • A set of common system fields.

  • Comprehensive record of changes to the work item.

  • Support for links to other work items, file attachments, or any other work product in Team Foundation.

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Related topics: Add, Find, and Modify a Work Item | Create and Modify Areas and Iterations | Illustrate a Story by Adding Rich Text and Images

You can create a work item by using the new work item form, copying an existing work item and modifying it, or creating a work item that is automatically linked from an existing work item. You can create a work item or modify an existing one using any supported Team Foundation client, such as Team Explorer, Team Web Access, Microsoft Excel, or Microsoft Project.

When you create a work item, the new work item form opens and might be populated with some default values. You can define or modify a work item by changing the value of one or more fields. In Team Foundation, different types of fields are used to store different types of data. The following list contains some of the field types that Team Foundation uses: 

  • Text field: Accepts any text. The project administrator can define a maximum number of characters. The formatting toolbar appears above each text box in which text formatting is available. The set of text boxes that support text formatting varies depending on the work item type.

  • Drop-down list: Accepts only the values that a project administrator defines in the drop-down list.

  • Date field: Accepts a specific Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) moment in time, for example 1/23/2009, 6:00:00 PM.

  • Long text: Accepts text of any length with limited text formatting.

  • History field: Records comments chronologically. You can add an entry to this field, but you cannot change previous entries.

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Related topics: Using Excel to Bulk Edit Work Items | Create your schedule, backlog, and tasks using Microsoft Project | Working in Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Project

You can make bulk updates to many work items at a time by using Team Web Access, Microsoft Excel, or Microsoft Project. Using Excel and Project, you can also add and update link relationships between work items.

Team Foundation Document Integration Image

When you import work items into a Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Project document, local copies of your work items are created. The data in the local document at first matches the data in the database, but you or other team members can change the data about work items and cause the two to differ. If you want to view the most recent changes from the database, you can refresh the document. If you want to write changes from the document to the database, you can publish the document. When you publish a document, the document, which includes your changes, is uploaded to the work item database. When you refresh a document, the document is updated to match the current values in the work item database.

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Related topics: Links Controls | Link work items and objects to support traceability | Choose a Link Type to Effectively Track Your Project | Add a Hyperlink in a Work Item

By creating relationships between work items and other resources, you can plan projects more effectively, track dependencies more accurately, view hierarchical relationships more clearly, and find relevant information more quickly. For example, you can create a relationship between two work items to show that one of the items must be completed first. In addition, you can create a relationship between a work item and a changeset to show how the code was changed to address a feature request.

When you create relationships between work items, you select the type of link that best supports your project planning and tracking efforts. Different types of links support different capabilities and are based on one of four topologies. You create relationships between user stories, tasks, test cases, and other work items through the Implementation, Links, All Links and Test Cases tabs on the forms for those work items. Each tab provides a toolbar, which contains the link control functions shown in the following illustration:

Work item form link toolbar controls

All tabs that support creating links between work items are implemented by using the LinksControl element on the work item form. This element controls filtering and restricting the types of work items to which you can link, the types of links that you can create, and whether you can link to work items in another team project. For more information about how to restrict links, see LinksControlOptions Elements.

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You can get a hyperlink to any work item when you work in Team Web Access or Team Explorer.

To get the hyperlink for a work item using Team Web Access

  1. In Team Web Access, access the backlog page for your team project and team.

    For example, Annie opens http://almsrv:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection/FabrikamFiber/My%20Team/_backlogs.

  2. Open the submenu (Context Menu Icon) of the work item whose hyperlink you want to copy, and then choose Open Selected Work Item.

  3. Open the browser shortcut menu of the link for the work item type and ID, and then choose Copy shortcut.

    Copy shortcut link to a work item
    NoteNote

    Shortcut menus may vary depending on the browser that you use.

To get the hyperlink for a work item using Team Explorer

  • From an open work item, open the shortcut menu for the tabbed item, and choose Copy Full Path.

    Email a hyperlink for a work item
    NoteNote

    The hyperlink opens the work item in Team Web Access.

Related topics: Find Bugs, Tasks, and Other Work Items | Share Work Items and Queries with Team Members | Creating Reports in Microsoft Excel by Using Work Item Queries

You and your team members can access predefined shared queries, as well as create, modify, and save queries. Queries that you save under Team Queries appear on the home page and provide a quick update on progress that the team is making.

You can use work item queries to generate a list that contains work items that you want to modify, create links to, or generate a report for. You can use the query editor in Team Web Access or Team Explorer to define filter criteria. The query results appear as a list or a tree view of work items.

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Related topics: Define Work Item Fields | Design the Workflow | Design the Layout of the Work Item Form | Add or Modify a Work Item Field to Support Reporting | Administer Objects for Tracking Work Items [witadmin]

You can customize the work items that are included with the product, add new types of work items, and also customize link types. You customize types of work items by adding or removing fields, changing a field attribute, and modifying the workflow or work item form. For example, you can customize a form to add more fields, add or remove tabs, and add or modify columns. The following illustration shows a form whose upper area displays eight fields that are arranged roughly into two columns. The lower portion displays two sets of three tabs that are arranged in a two-column layout.

Custom Form with Three Tabs in a Two Column Layout

Custom work item form

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Related topics: Permanently Removing Work Items [witadmin]

You can permanently remove one or more work items from the Team Foundation database for a team project collection by using the witadmin destroywi command. Work items whose state is set to Closed remain in the database and can be reactivated. Permanently removed work items are removed from the database and cannot be restored nor reactivated.

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