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We have a small team, and most of us are part-time. We have been managing the project using JIRA's simplified software template. We have started using Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) for continuous integration and we like it. I would like to attempt to use VSTS to replace JIRA, but I am struggling with the differences between the tools.

Here is the workflow which has worked well for our small (non-full-time) team:

  1. I pull a handful of stories out of the backlog, which we want to deliver.
  2. Assign them.
  3. Optionally break some into subtasks
  4. Developers work on them and move them to todo/done
  5. Tag each task with prod-fix or next-release (JIRA releases feature)
  6. I may pull a few more tasks onto the board as needed.
  7. We do a deployment/release.
  8. By marking a 'release' as done, they automatically get removed from the board. I actually do 2 releases in JIRA: one for fixes and one for the new release. This helps keep track of what was done where.
  9. Repeat.

I would like to duplicate something like this in VSTS. But it seems that it is built around rigid Scrum practice, rather than our semi ad-hoc approach.

I created a new 'Agile' project in VSTS to try and duplicate our process. I have the following questions:

  • I see Features and Stories have separate backlogs.... why? Is there a way to see them together?
  • I can see how I would use Iterations similarly to how I am using Releases in JIRA. But why do iterations have a backlog?
  • I figured out how to rename board columns on Features/Stories, but how do I rename the columns on the Iterations boards?
  • Is the 'Work Items' just a flat list of tasks?
  • Why do I need to go into Backlogs to a see the Current iteration? I have to explain to the Team that to see the board, they have to go under Work -> Backlogs -> Click the current Iteration -> Click Board? That is not going to go over well. Is there a quick way to get to the board for the current iteration? 99% of the team will only ever need that. It seems that Work -> Backlogs defaults to the board view of the current iteration. The the main issue is the odd naming, telling them to Backlogs to see their 'Current' tasks

  • If I want to simplify things and Make Epics and Issues go away, can I do that? I foresee wasted time on people debating the difference between an epic and feature, and issue and bug, etc.

  • Is there a way to get rid of the Capacity tab?
  • Can I rename priorities low/normal/high? I don't want debates of when 1 is a higher priority than 4.
  • In some of the forms certain letters of words are underlined, such as the 'e' in State, and 'A' in Area, and 'r' in Iteration. What is the point of that? I can't find mention of it in shortcuts help.
  • How do you log work against task? Or do the Effort (hours) have to be manually recorded? (we rarely use this features, so not a big deal)
  • Are areas equivalent to components in JIRA?
  • How do I complete an iteration? Start another?
  • How do you mark a task as Resolved? It only lets me set it to New/Active/Closed? What is the diff between resolved and closed?

Any answers and thoughts appreciated.

  • Far too broad. Ask one question per Question, please. – Sarov Jun 13 '18 at 16:33
  • Why do you feel the need to switch tools? Your description of using Jira sounded perfectly fine. – Venture2099 Jun 12 at 9:08
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There are couple of docs I'd recommend you read:


Answers to most of your questions. The basic answer is: This is a different tool and it has its own quirks. I've never been able to fully appreciate Jira, probably cause I've lived with the quirks of TFS/Azure DevOps since 2005 and have gotten used to it.

  • I see Features and Stories have separate backlogs.... why? Is there a way to see them together?

You can turn on "see hierarchy" to see them as a tree view. The reasoning behind seeing them "at their own level", is to allow people to focus on that level of detail. You're making major ordering decisions at the Epic level, why would you rank an Epic with a Story, for example. It focuses the discussions. There is a Mapping View to easily map Stories to Features and Features to Epics. Once an Epic is broken into one or more features, the some features of one epic may be above some features of another epic. The tree view can't visualize this.

  • I can see how I would use Iterations similarly to how I am using Releases in JIRA. But why do iterations have a backlog?

Iterations are time based buckets. Best compared to Sprints. In Jira you have a similar feature. You can group multiple sprint iterations together in a parent iteration (release), but that tends to only work if you're doing pure release based delivery. And tends to get in the way of how most teams actually work.

  • I figured out how to rename board columns on Features/Stories, but how do I rename the columns on the Iterations boards?

You can't.

  • Is the 'Work Items' just a flat list of tasks?

The Work Items hub is a free format query hub where you can query any kind of work item as a list, tree or over a relation.

  • Why do I need to go into Backlogs to a see the Current iteration? I have to explain to the Team that to see the board, they have to go under Work -> Backlogs -> Click the current Iteration -> Click Board? That is not going to go over well. Is there a quick way to get to the board for the current iteration? 99% of the team will only ever need that. It seems that Work -> Backlogs defaults to the board view of the current iteration. The the main issue is the odd naming, telling them to Backlogs to see their 'Current' tasks

This grew from how the product was setup ever since 2005 and has had a couple of changes over the years. I've always wondered why Jira was such a mess in its navigation. I suppose it just takes time to get used to it. You can create a Dashboard with the links to the locations you want people to easily get to.

  • If I want to simplify things and Make Epics and Issues go away, can I do that? I foresee wasted time on people debating the difference between an epic and feature, and issue and bug, etc.

Yes, you can disable the higher levels in the Process configuration or you can hide them in the Team's configuration of their board.

  • Is there a way to get rid of the Capacity tab?

No

  • Can I rename priorities low/normal/high? I don't want debates of when 1 is a higher priority than 4.

You can change the contents of some of the pick lists in the Process configuration at the account level.

  • In some of the forms certain letters of words are underlined, such as the 'e' in State, and 'A' in Area, and 'r' in Iteration. What is the point of that? I can't find mention of it in shortcuts help.

These are the alt+letter shortcuts to move the cursor directly to that field.

  • How do you log work against task? Or do the Effort (hours) have to be manually recorded? (we rarely use this features, so not a big deal)

Manually recorded. The general recommendation is to not track actual hours in Azure DevOps, but capture that in another tool. There are 3rd party extensions that offer better time tracking features.

Most Agile development frameworks/methods frown on detailed hour tracking anyway.

  • Are areas equivalent to components in JIRA?

Could be. Area is a way to break down the project. You could put components in there, or teams, or workstreams or whatever. Just remember that areas in Azure DevOps define how work is allocated to teams. If you have multiple teams, you assign one or more areas to each team.

  • How do I complete an iteration? Start another?

Just set the end-date. When you pass the end-date, the iteration stops.

  • How do you mark a task as Resolved? It only lets me set it to New/Active/Closed? What is the diff between resolved and closed?

Tasks have a very simple state model. Story/Bug has a more complex state model. A story can be Resolved, meaning the work is done, but the change hasn't been accepted yet. Once whoever does the acceptance is happy, they move the item to closed. State model is explained in the docs.

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