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Choose Link Types to Effectively Track Your Project

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, as described in Link Type Element Reference.

NoteNote

You can modify the link type after you add a link from one work item to another. For more information, see Create or Delete Relationships between Work Items.

To create the simplest relationship between work items, add a Related link to a work item. This type of link has no inherent hierarchy and is based on the network link topology. You can use the related link type to relate work items that are at the same level, such as two user stories that define features that overlap one another. Or, you may want to create a related link relationship between two different work item types that are defined in two different team projects and managed by different teams.

With related links you can meet the following goals:

You create Parent-Child links between work items in order to view multi-tiered, hierarchical relationships between the work items. This link type is most often used to break down user stories into features and to divide tasks into subtasks. Parent-child links are based on the tree topology, support a one-to-many relationship set, and prohibit circular definitions, that is, a child node can only have one parent. Working in Team Explorer, you can outdent, indent, and drag work items. See Work with linked hierarchies (Tree of Work Items).

You can use the following methods to structure hierarchical link relationships:

When you define parent-child links, note the following restrictions and recommendations:

  • A work item can have only one parent, although a parent work item can have many children.

  • Work items joined by parent-child links must be defined for the same team project. This action is recommended if you plan to use Excel or Project to modify or update work item data.

    NoteNote

    You can create parent-child links between work items that are defined in different projects. However, if you export a query to Excel or Project, only those work items that are defined for the team project for which the query is defined are imported into the Team Foundation client.

If you use Office Project to plan and track projects, and you link two tasks that represent work items, when you publish the data, Team Foundation automatically creates predecessor-successor links between the work items.  Predecessor-Successor links are used to track tasks that must be completed before others can be started. Predecessor-successor links are based on a dependency topology, support one-to-many relationships, and do not allow circular definitions.

You can perform one or more of the following tasks when you connect work items using predecessor-successor links:

When you define predecessor-successor links, note the following restrictions and recommendations:

  • Do not create links that define circular relationships. If you attempt to create or publish work items that form cyclical links, you will receive an error that directs you to resolve them before you can publish.

  • Create predecessor-successor links only to work items that are within the same team project (recommended).

    NoteNote

    You can create predecessor-successor links between work items that are defined in different projects. However, if you export a query to Excel or Project, only those work items that are defined for the team project for which the query is defined are imported into the Team Foundation client.

You create links to work items by using a dependent link type in order to track work items that impact the ability to complete a requirement, feature, or task. Also, you can create links to work items that cross project boundaries. For example, the default process templates TFS provides support the following additional dependent link types: Tested By/Tests and Test Case/Shared Steps. These link types are used to create relationships among work items that track bugs, issues, test cases, and shared steps. For more information see Creating and Managing Tests in Microsoft Test Manager.

Dependent links are based on a dependency topology, support one-to-many relationships, and prohibit circular definitions. You can perform any of the following tasks by using dependent links:

  • Find and view top-level work items and their dependent work items in a two-tiered view. For more information, see Work with linked dependencies (Direct Links).

  • Manage risks and dependencies and collaborate more effectively across project teams. For example, you can reach the following goals by defining dependent links between work items in your team project and those defined in another team project:

    • Create a dependent relationship to a feature or set of tasks that are under development by another team.

    • Request that another team accept a work item dependency.

    • Manage your commitments and cross-group dependencies to other teams.

When you define dependent links, note the following restrictions and recommendations:

  • Use dependent links when work items share dependencies. For example, use them when a user story has many features and some of the features fulfill two or more user stories.

  • Use dependent links rather than other link types to associate work items that are defined in another team project.

  • You cannot view hierarchical relationships created with dependent link types using Excel or Project except for those instances noted earlier in this topic for parent-child links and predecessor-successor links. 

    NoteNote

    You can create dependent links between work items that are defined in different projects and view the dependencies within a two-tiered or tree view in Team Web Access or Team Explorer. However, if you export a query to Excel or Project, only those work items that are defined for the team project for which the query is defined are imported into the Team Foundation client.

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