I’m in the process of migrating our TFS Instances to 2013. During my research I’d seen demos with the “Features” feature. In TFS 2013, there is now a Work Item Type named Feature which is meant to be a parent to several Product Backlog Items. I was able to easily create features but I also knew there is supposed to be a Features Backlog. On my TFS cloud instance it works fine but there was no sign of the Features backlog on the web interface for my On Premise instance of TFS 2013. The screenshot shows what I was hoping to find. Continue below to find out how to enable it.


It turns out that getting this to show up was really quite simple but not exactly intuitive. Features needs to be enabled as part of the Access Levels portion of TFS.

On the top right side of the TFS web app, click the “gear” to go to the control panel.


You may see this menu. If not, skip the next step! If you do, just click the Control Panel link to go to the main control panel page.


Hopefully you will see a menu like this:


From here, click on “Access Levels” and you’ll see something like this:



You will see that there are 3 choices for access levels. We’ve got “Standard” set as the default. I’m not positive we’ll keep it this way and every team should decide for themselves what they want to do about the default. However, you must have “Full” Access to see the “Features” backlog. So add some users to that level or set it as the default. Once you do, users with Full Access will see the Features Backlog (similar to the first screenshot in this post).

I’m not exactly sure why the access levels are set up like this. I’m new to TFS2013 so it may be possible to set this visibility in other ways. But it seems odd that enabling the Features backlog is tied to other features like “Team Rooms” and “Test Case Management”. Those are great features but I am not sure why they are all lumped together.

9 thoughts on “Enable the Features Backlog in TFS 2013

  1. Regarding access levels, it is dependent on licensing.

    • Any user with a TFS client-access license (CAL) can have standard access.
    • Full access is available to users who have one of these MSDN subscriptions: Visual Studio Ultimate with MSDN, Visual Studio Premium with MSDN, or Visual Studio Test Professional with MSDN. With full access, you get the more advanced agile project management tools, and you can send feedback requests.

    See https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj159364%28v=vs.110%29.aspx.

    • I have figured this fact out as well but I really can’t understand why such heavy licenses are required for managing the portfolio. In my experience this is the primary task for business and requirements analysts, and they rarely do any of the tasks that require Visual Studio or Test Manager – testing and coding. If anyone can find something written about the reasoning behind this I would very much appreciate a link to that resource!

  2. I like the features backlog from a strategic planning perspective, but my issue with it is that (as far as I can tell) its almost useless when it comes to actually prioritising a backlog. That’s why I’ve proposed this change on the Visual Studio Uservoice site: Highlight PBIs in the backlog when selecting their associated feature in the feature mapping pane.


  3. I searched high and low for this setting and could not find it referenced anywhere. Thank you so much for finding this for the community. They should have this set for site admins at least to begin with so they don’t have to go digging for it! Thanks Schwammy!

  4. I’ve managed to have the ‘Features’ link after setting the ‘Full’ access level, but how do I get the ‘Backlog Items’ to appear?


    • Dave,

      I had the same question. You were here a while ago so maybe this is irrelevant but in case someone finds this post and has the same question I figured it out from this other post.


      I had features enabled but was not seeing my PBIs under them. It made the Feature page useless (although I am still struggling with its usefulness). Anywa, in the upper right of the view there is a “View” that tells you the mode. Features can be in 3 it seems by default
      Plain Features
      Features to Backlog
      Features to Task

      Each level increases the child layers. The first layer has none (just features), the second has Features with their child backlog, and the third has features with their backlog with their tasks.


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