Azure DevOps: 3 tips to organise work items using standard functionality

This blog post was authored by Kelsey Dario - Senior Manager, Business Application Solutions on Protiviti's technology insights blog.

To effectively manage software development projects, it’s crucial to organise work items efficiently. Proper organisation not only boosts productivity but also enhances collaboration among team members. Microsoft Azure DevOps (ADO) is a powerful platform that allows teams to plan, develop, test and deliver software with efficiency and precision. Whether leveraging ADO for ongoing production support, optimisation and enhancements of the ERP environment or an implementation of Microsoft Dynamics 365 (D365), there are often many users working in the tool. Collaboration is one of the main drivers of leveraging ADO. Key benefits include elimination of lost communication via email, more advanced search features and ease of migrating tested and approved code. But like many technologies, the tool is only as good as the structure and discipline of the user base. Here are three features of the tool that support a well-organised ADO environment.


The tag feature is arguably the most underrated within the ADO tool. The benefit is high if the development team is leveraging tags appropriately. The Protiviti team leverages tags to find quick responses to questions from leadership on project progress within key areas. A tag in ADO is a short, key word phrase that can be created quickly and leveraged for anything unique to the development team’s needs. Good examples include a priority identifier for features that are required versus nice-to-have, release identifier or custom object identifier (report or integration).

If tags are consistently used, the SCRUM master or development team creates corresponding queries to see a list of work items that have been tagged in a certain way. The team can then quickly follow up on work items in a specific category or provide insight into counts of work items. Pro tip: Leverage the query tile on the ADO dashboard functionality to show a count of work items that are tagged in a certain way.


A team in ADO should represent a group of people focused on a specific product, feature or service. The granularity of the team will greatly depend on the purpose of an ADO project. For example, during ongoing production support, the team structure aligns with the IT team structure supporting the business users. In many organisations, this may be one team that supports the overall ERP environment corresponding to one team in ADO. During implementation projects, Protiviti leverages teams to align with the various workstreams of the larger project or program. The team structure may be as follows: Protiviti functional development team, client functional development team and data migration team. Functional teams include developers or functional leads responsible for configuration of the D365 environment and development of custom code. If the client is taking on any of this responsibility, creating a separate ADO team allows division of work into separate backlogs for status reporting.

The team structure in ADO is especially important when considering how standups, backlogs and status reporting should be represented. Several standard widgets within the dashboard reporting (sprint burndown, sprint velocity, sprint capacity) rely on team setup. Key ADO ‘boards’ such as the Kanban board and backlog also can be filtered by the ADO team rather than reviewed at the project level. This filtering allows SCRUM Masters to lead a more targeted standup for their individual SCRUM teams.

Area path

Area path functionality is designed to allow for more granular reporting on work effort within an ADO project. At a minimum, the area path setup should align with the defined team structure. To optimise the use of this feature, Protiviti recommends aligning area paths with products or business areas being supported. SCRUM masters may align ADO area path with a module in the D365 environment to better report on work items related to a particular process area or module. Alternatively, to track work effort on various Microsoft products (Power Automate, D365 and Power BI) use the area path to filter and report on progress by each product. Area path can be quickly leveraged in queries and dashboards, making for seamless reporting on work item progress at a more granular level than project. Effectively organising work items in Azure DevOps is essential for successful project management. By using standard functionality like iterations, area paths and customisation options, it is possible to streamline workflow, enhance collaboration and keep development projects on track. Whether managing a small team or a large enterprise project, these tips will help make the most of Azure DevOps for organising work items efficiently.

ADO is a very powerful tool when leveraged appropriately. There are a number of functions and capabilities that allow the tool to aggregate and separate information. The key here is understanding what the end looks like and the different ways to consolidate and disseminate information. When determining how to leverage the ADO features, it is important to think with the end in mind, knowing that “if it can’t be reported, it didn’t happen.”

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David Kissane
David is a managing director and Protiviti’s global enterprise cloud solution lead. His primary focus is driving the growth and implementation of our cloud services across the globe. David has over 22 years’ experience across a variety of industries and senior IT ...