Thursday, December 18, 2008

Important Work Item Fields for Task Management

In managing tasks using Team Explorer its important to know the most useful queries and the most useful fields for tracking work. I'll break down the fields by three types - basic, information and tracking.

The basic fields are:

Rank - 1 and 2 means high priority and 5 means lowest priority
Assigned To - each work item should be assigned to a specific person (or a "bucket" userid)
State - In CMMi3 its Proposed by default; and in Agile its Active. Most reporting on active work is on those of Active state. Eventually the goal is to have a work item closed.

The information fields are:

Title - A brief summary of 40-70 characters that describes the work item and answers 90% of the questions on what its about so a viewer of work items won't usually need to drill down deeper into the work item to understand the scope.
Description - Paragraph(s) describing in detail the scope of the task. Oftentimes this field will be empty as TFS provides the ability to related attachments or links that help self-describe work items within the scope of a project.
History - Anytime a modification is made to a work item its sometimes necessary to add comments explaining the modifications. These comments should go in the History field.

The tracking fields are:

Discipline - categorize a work item on whether its analysis, project management, development, architecture, testing, admin, etc.
Area - good for categorizing work by functional area hierarchy; and allowing for different security/visibility rules for users viewing work items
Iteration - timeline cycles in the project; key for breaking up work for cutoff to later stages/phases
Exit Criteria - mark YES if you want this work item tracked on the project checklist; keep NO if its only needed for internal team consumption. Its basically all about identifying the tasks that are "iteration backlog"
Issue - mark YES if you want this work item tracked for review with the customers and stakeholders; keep NO if its not needed for customer review.

For Team Projects created using the Agile or CMMI process template you should see /Process%20Guidance/Supporting%20Files/AboutWorkItems.htm on the Team Project's Sharepoint portal site for more information on Agile work item types. Example:

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