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Determining the Scope of Your Customization Requirements

Team members use work items to track work to be done. The types of work items that are available to members of your team depend on the installed methods, such as Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF) for CMMI Process Improvement or MSF for Agile Software Development. Examples of types of work items include bugs, requirements, risks, and tasks.

You might want to expand this selection so that Team Foundation better serves the processes that your team uses and the ways that you communicate. You can author new types of work items, which are templates from which work items are created. Depending on the processes that your team uses, it could find useful any one of the following work item types: task, bug, change request, quality of service requirement, issue, requirement, review, risk, and scenario.

After you create a work item, it contains the fields and behavior that were defined in the work item type from which you created it.


In addition to creating work item types, you can also modify existing work item types. For example, you might have installed a method that includes the task and requirement types of work items. To better support the processes that your team uses, you can add fields to the task work item type or change the workflow behavior of the requirement work item type.

Although you can view a work item type as an abstraction of the more concrete work item that is formed from it, a work item type is a set of XML definitions that you can author. You can also reference the XML schema, Work Item Type.xsd, in the Visual Studio Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) SDK on the Microsoft Web site

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Your customization work can have a broader or narrower effect, depending on what you customize. You can take either of the following approaches:

  • Customize for All New Team Projects   You can customize work item types in a process template by changing its plug-ins, work item types, and process guidance. In this case, your customizations appear in all projects that are created from that process template.

  • Customize an Existing Team Project   You can customize work item types on single project by using command-line tools. In this case, your changes affect the way people work in that project, but they do not affect existing or future projects.

To customize work item types on all new team projects, you should change the process template that your team project uses. By taking this approach, you can make changes in one location, and these changes will be reflected in all team projects made from the process template that you changed. For more information, see Modify an Existing MSF Process Template.


Instead of creating a process template for a new series of team projects, we recommend that you modify an existing process template to suit your needs. For example, you can modify templates for MSF for Agile Software Development or MSF for CMMI Process Improvement.

Process Template Plug-ins

Process template plug-ins set up required files or configure data when you create a team project. Visual Studio ALM includes plug-ins for work item tracking, classification, Windows SharePoint Services, version control, reports, and groups and permissions. You can modify each plug-in to customize a process template. For more information about how to modify the plug-in for tracking work items, see Defining and Customizing Objects for Tracking Work Items By Using the Work Item Tracking Plug-in.

Work Item Types

You might want to expand the selection of work items that Team Foundation provides to better serve the processes that your team uses and the ways in which you communicate. To create custom work items, you can author new work item types, which are templates from which work items are created. For more information about how to customize or create work item types for a process template, see Customizing Project Tracking Data, Forms, Workflow, and Other Objects or Create a Work Item Type.

Process Guidance

Process guidance documents the roles, work items, work products, activities, and reports for a specific software development process. Process guidance complements a specific process template.

Team Foundation includes two process templates: MSF for Agile Software Development and MSF for CMMI Process Improvement. You can customize each of these processes and use it to develop software in projects. As you add or customize work item types, you should update the corresponding process guidance to address any changes that you made. For more information, see the Microsoft Web site: Process Templates and Tools.

You change an existing team project in similar ways to how you change a process template, but the scope is much narrower. If you change an existing team project, you affect how team members conduct their day-to-day work. You do not change the nature of projects that will be created from a process template in the future.