Break Down Stories

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You can create parent-child relationships between your user stories. This is useful if a single user story cannot be completed in an iteration or release. In such a scenario, break up the user story into several child user stories, which act as milestones towards completing the larger feature or initiative. Use parent and child user stories when your team needs to complete a large feature or project that will span multiple timeboxes.

A parent story is also known as an epic story. Parent stories can have single or multiple levels.

parent levels

Break down stories includes the following:

Story Hierarchy app

We recommend using the Story Hierarchy app to provide you with a quick way to view and edit your parent and children user stories.

From the app you can:

  • View parents and their associated children
  • Create new relationships by dragging-and-dropping
  • Re-parent children
  • Copy stories
  • Create tasks

Watch the video below to see the Story Hierarchy app in action:

The Story Hierarchy App
6 min

You can add multiple copies of this app to a custom page, and drag-and-drop between them. This lets you manage and edit story hierarchies that may exist in separate projects.

Manage parent-child story hierarchies

You can create new child user stories from an existing story to create a parent, or you can associate existing user stories together to form this relationship.

Create new child user stories

Create a child user story from any of the following locations:

Associate existing user stories as children

To create a parent-child relationship between two existing user stories:

  1. Locate the user story that you want to designate as the child.
  2. Open an editor window for the user story.
  3. In the editor, click the magnifying glass icon next to the Parent field.
    Parent chooser
  4. On the chooser popup, you may search or sort the ID, Name, and Project fields to locate the story you want to set as the parent. You may also filter by the ID and Project fields.
  5. Once the story you want to assign is found, select the radio button to the left of the story ID.
  6. Select Choose. The story name displays next to the Parent field.
  7. Select Save & Close, Save & New, or Save to confirm the edit.

Associate multiple stories as children

Story Hierarchy app

Use drag-and-drop in the Story Hierarchy app to associate multiple child stories to a parent story.

Story Hierarchy Multiple Children

Backlog page

Using the Backlog page, you may set several user stories as children of a common parent story in one action. To associate multiple stories:

  1. Navigate to the Backlog page.
  2. Select more than one work item by placing a check mark in the check box on each row. The gear menu will switch to bulk edit mode bulk icon.
  3. Click the bulk edit mode gear menu and select Choose Parent.
  4. On the chooser popup, you may search or sort the ID, Name, and Project fields to locate the story you want to set as the parent. You may also filter by the ID and Project fields.
  5. Parent chooser
  6. Select the work item and click Choose.
  7. A confirmation message displays at the top of the Backlog page.

Note: Parent-child associations cannot be removed using this method.

Remove parent-child associations

To remove the parent-child link between two user stories:

  1. Locate the child user story from the pair you want to disassociate.
  2. Open an editor window for the user story.
  3. In the editor window, click the red X icon, next to magnifying glass icon by the Parent field. The parent story name no longer displays next to the field.
  4. Select Save & Close, Save & New, or Save to confirm the edit.

The child story is now independent of the former parent.

Delete user story hierarchies

When you no longer need a parent story and its children, deleting the top parent story will remove the entire hierarchy from your workspace.

To delete a parent story:

  • From the Story Hierarchy app, click the gear icon, then select Delete.
  • From the User Stories summary page, use the Trash can row action icon.
  • From a user story detail page, click Actions then select Delete.

Note:
  • When a story hierarchy is deleted, only the top parent story appears in the recycle bin.
  • To restore a deleted child story, you must restore the parent user story and remove the association.
  • If you attempt to delete a parent with children, a pop-up will display asking if you're sure you want to delete the parent story and all associated children.
  • If you attempt to delete a parent which has children that are in projects you do not have permissions to, you will receive an error message.

View parent-child hierarchies

You can use multiple pages and views to see the relationships between parent and child user stories.

Story Hierarchy app

You can use the Story Hierarchy app to view parent-child hierarchies at a glance.

Story Hierarchy Multiple Children

Children user stories summary page

You can use the children summary page to see all child stories for a given parent. This is useful for tracking the progress of a single large feature or initiative.

Children summary

To access the children summary page, click the Children link from the sidebar on the detail page of a parent story.

Hierarchy view on User Stories page

You can use the hierarchy view setting on the User Stories page under the Plan tab to see multiple story hierarchies in the same view. This is useful for viewing multiple features or initiatives at once.

The hierarchy view is enabled by default on the User Stories page. Click the left-most icon next to the Views drop-down to enable hierarchy view on the page.

Hierarchy view

Track hierarchy completion

The following charts can be used to track hierarchy completion.

Story Burnup chart

The Story Burnup chart is useful for showing the completed work for a large feature or initiative in chart form. Unlike standard burnup charts, this view can span across multiple releases.

story burnup

Story Burndown chart

The Story Burndown chart is useful for showing the remaining work for a large feature or initiative in chart form. Unlike standard burndown charts, this view can span across multiple releases.

story burndown

Epic Progress app

You can use the Epic Progress app to view the distribution of child user stories across iterations.

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