Speaking the Azure DevOps Language

Last week, I kicked off a series that explains how we manage analytics assets with Microsoft Azure DevOps (ADO). I started by providing background information on our team structure, how we work, and the type of work we do. This week, I will explain ADO structure to provide context for how we use it, which will be the next post.

Azure DevOps Terminology & Structure

Now, I want to start with some basic ADO concepts so that my explanation of how we use ADO makes sense. And, it’s important to note that there is a lot of overlap in functionality in ADO. Microsoft did this intentionally so that you can fit the application to your own purpose.

The Big Stuff

  • Organization
    • First, organization is the highest level of hierarchy or organizational structure in ADO.
    • You create one or more organizations in ADO.
    • For reasons associated with cost, licensing, streamlining, etc, we have a single organization.


By default, ADO creates an organization with your user name. If you are trying to set up an organization for a team, create a new organization as shown below.

  • Project
    • Next, project is the second level of hierarchy or organization in ADO.
    • It’s up to you to determine what constitutes a project. But, know that processes are set for each project (see Process).

We have a LOT of projects under our single organization. For example, the BI team has one project for support, maintenance, and ad hoc work called AAET_BI_Work. But, we also create a project for each sprint, which may generate one or more analytics assets. The other AAET teams — RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and AI/ML (Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning) — create a project for each analytics asset they build because they are larger and more complex solutions.


It’s likely that you’ll wind up with a lot of projects. I recommend creating a naming structure so they are easy to organize and identify.

  • Process
    • The process dictates the work items available for use in a project.
    • A project uses one and only one process.
    • Different projects can use different processes.
    • The available processes are Basic, Agile, Scrum and CMMI.
    • To customize a process, you must clone it (copy it) or else you will impact every project using that process. Thus, you can only customize cloned processes.
Basic BI is a clones process.

The Details

  • Work Items
    • ADO uses work items to organize work.
    • Work items are hierarchical.
    • The process selected determined the work items available.
    • Examples of work items include Epic, Issue, Task, Feature, Bug, User Story.

The screenshot below gives you an idea of the hierarchy and various work items associated with each process.


Note, user stories are a critical component of the Agile methodology. If you are unfamiliar with them, read this link.

  • Teams
    • Next, teams are created from within each project.
    • A project can have one or more teams.
    • Teams have their own backlog.
    • A team represents whatever you want it to represent.
    • An administrator assigns individual members to teams. Members can only see work items they when they are part of a team.
  • Backlogs
    • Finally, each team has its own backlog.
    • Backlogs are a way to organize work that needs to be done.
These are my teams.
Example of a backlog

Tying Everything Together

  • Queries
    • Queries drive Dashboards (see below). You cannot create a Dashboard without a query.
    • Everything in ADO is queryable.
    • Queries must be shared to be use in Dashboards.
Example of a query
  • Dashboards
    • Dashboards summarize data and help you navigate ADO.
    • Build dashboards with different types of widgets. I like summary tiles.
    • Clicking on a widget will take you to a list of work items or a specific items so that you can get more details.

Wrap Up

Eventually, there will be more structure and terms to understand like Area Path and Iteration. For now, this is a good start to understanding Azure DevOps. Next week, I’ll get into how we use ADO structure to manage analytics assets.

Other Sweet Content

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.