Visual Studio Online Process Customization

Aaron Bjork

It’s been a long time coming, but I’m excited to let you know that process customization for Visual Studio Online (VSO) is right around the corner. In this post I want to take a few minutes to explain our roadmap and what you can expect over the next few months.
Private Preview
We’ve heard loud and clear that customers desire the ability to customize the work items they use on VSO. This is an important scenario for large organizations wanting to manage a custom process, and it’s equally important for teams of all sizes wanting flexibility to add a few extra fields to track additional metadata about their work. Our first step in enabling customization is to allow organizations who have already invested in customized process templates in their on-premises instance of TFS to bring these templates to VSO. We’re already working with a handful of customers in this space, and early in June we plan to onboard even more. When you bring a customer process template to VSO, we will validate the process changes you make to ensure experiences, such as backlog and sprint planning, continue to work well with your customizations. If you’re interested in using your custom template on VSO and joining our private preview, please reach out to us at with your account details and a description of your custom process.
Shared Process
One of the first advances that will come with our private preview is the notion of a “shared process”. If you’re familiar with process templates in TFS you know that each team project in your collection has a copy of the process template that you started from. This can lead to maintenance challenges/nightmares when trying to manage updates to the process. Going forward we’re snapping to a model where team projects inherit process, rather than storing a copy. This will enable process owners to make changes in a single location and have those changes applied to all team projects using the process.
Inherited Process
For those of you not interested in a completely customized process, shortly after our private preview we will enable inheritance from one of our “out of the box” templates (Agile, Scrum, CMMI). This will enable you to use our templates as a base, while augmenting them with your own customizations. As we move our templates forward with updates and enhancements, you can expect to inherit all new changes while preserving your own customizations. The goal here is to enable very “lightweight customization” without having to learn all intricacies of full process template customization.
Simplified Customization
And regardless of if you want full customization or just to add a few fields, process customization needs to be simple and approachable. We are building a replacement for the Process Template Editor power tool that will support customization directly through the web.This new experience will allow you to manage your process directly through VSO without the need for hand-editing XML files or any additional tools.
New and Improved Work Item
And finally, coupled with all of this work will be a new and fresh work item form. Our current work item form is a bit “old and clunky” in places and we’re ready to replace it with something fresh and modern. This new form is not just about a new look however, instead it’s a building block to allow:
  • Work item customizations built as Visual Studio Online extensions. See Will’s post for more details 
  • Interactive experiences within the work item including discussion, code viewing, etc.
  • Improved readability and usability
Here’s an early sneak peek at what the work item could look like.  No promises on the exact UI, but I thought I’d at least tease you something visual.
We’re excited about this work and anxious to get it into your hands so you can start customizing your processes on VSO. We expect to deliver new functionality every 2-3 sprints that include end-to-end experiences for managing customizations as well as REST APIs for extensibility. We’ll start with simple scenarios like giving you the ability to add custom fields to your existing work items, followed by additional functionality including the creation of new work item types and more advanced customizations.
Stay tuned for more updates on our progress here.


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