Planning an iteration

In modern development, a release is divided into a series of fixed-length development periods, typically ranging from two to six weeks, called iterations. Planning an iteration involves scheduling the work to be done during an iteration and assigning individual work items to members of the team.

This guidance is like the information that was available in Tool Mentors in the IBM® Practice Library.

About this task

In this task, you use the Scrum process template. If you are using a different or custom process template, you can follow the steps in this task to set up an iterative development model for your project.

This task provides instructions for performing the steps in the Eclipse client. You can also use the web client to perform this task. For guidance on performing the steps in the web client, see the Supporting tasks section in each step.

Before you begin

Iteration planning takes place in the context of a project area. Each project area has a development line that is divided into development phases or iterations. For each iteration, you can create an iteration plan.

Before you start this task, configure the project timeline with meaningful iterations. For information about creating iterations, see Creating iterations.


  1. Create an iteration plan.
  2. Prioritize work items.
  3. Define iteration objectives.
  4. Identify and review risks.
  5. Commit work to the iteration.

1: Create an iteration plan

Create an iteration plan to contain the work items to be completed within the iteration. Define the high-level objectives and the evaluation and assessment criteria for the iteration plan.
  1. In the Team Artifacts view, expand a project area. Right-click the Plans folder and select New > Plan.
  2. Enter the name of the plan.
  3. To specify the plan owner, click Browse, and select the project or team area.
  4. To specify the iteration that the plan belongs to, click Browse, and select an iteration.
  5. Expand Advanced Options, and for the plan type, select Iteration Plan.
  6. Click Finish. The plan is created, and opens on the Notes tab.
  7. On the toolbar, click the Edit page icon Edit page. Enter the following information:
    • High-level objectives
    • Evaluation criteria
    • Assessment criteria
    Tip: Use the text formatting syntax, or press Ctrl+Space to view and select the available formatting options anywhere on the page.

2: Prioritize work items

From the work items that are related to the project, identify which items have high priority. If you are a project manager, collaborate with the team and the project stakeholders to do this step.
  1. Display the open work items by running a work item query.
    • In the Team Artifacts view, right-click the Work Items folder and select New > Query.
    • Create a query to retrieve all work items that have the Open status, and click Run.
  2. From the query results list, double-click a work item to open it.
  3. Select the priority for the work item; for example, Low, Medium, or High.
    Note: The priority levels are defined in the process template, and can be customized for your project needs.
  4. Optional: See your process template documentation to review the work items that are recommended by the process for the particular iteration. Identify the work items or create work items for activities or tasks that you must complete in the iteration. To view the process documentation:
    • In the Team Artifacts view, right-click your project area, and click Open.
    • In the Process Description section, click the link to the process template.

3: Define iteration objectives

Depending on the results of a previous iteration assessment, the project manager might update the project plan and work definition. Based on the project plan, update the iteration objectives. From each documented objective, you can extract work items to trace between the iteration objectives and the work items that implement them.
  1. In the Plan editor, on the Notes tab, click the Edit page Notes icon Edit Plan Notes page on the toolbar.
  2. Enter or update the iteration objectives.
  3. Extract work items from the iteration objectives:
    • On the Notes tab, select the text for an objective. Right-click the selection and click Extract Work Item.
    • Select the work item type; for example, Task. A work item is created with the objective as the work item summary.
    • Enter the description, priority, and estimate for the work item. The Planned for field is set to the current iteration plan.
    • Click Save.
  4. Assign work items to iterations:
    • Run the Open work items query to see the list of open work items. Double-click a work item to open it.
    • Based on the work item priority, assign work items to iterations by selecting an iteration in the Planned for field.

4: Identify and review risks

Review the risks and the actions to contain them. If new risks are identified, record them, and create actions to mitigate or counter the risks. You can commit risk actions as work for the iteration.

5: Commit work to the iteration

Based on the team velocity and the results of previous iterations, review the priority and estimate of work items, and commit the work items for the iteration. Assign owners to the committed work items.
  1. In the Plan editor, click the Planned Items tab to see the list of work items planned for the iteration.
  2. Assign owners to the work items:
    • In the Work Breakdown view, the Planned Items are grouped by owner. Work items without owners are in the Unassigned group.
    • Drag the work item from the Unassigned group to the team member who will own the work item.
    • Click Save.
  3. Optional: Review and revise the priority and estimate values of the work items. To determine the estimated effort, use estimation techniques.
  4. Optional: Break large work items into smaller work items that have a duration of half a day to two days:
    • Right-click the work item to modify, and select Add Work Item > Task.
    • Enter the summary, description, estimate, and priority for the task.
    • Press Tab to nest the new task under the parent work item.
    • Click Save.


By completing this task, you created an iteration schedule and an iteration plan for a project. To plan the iteration, you completed these tasks:
  • Defined iteration objectives, and created and prioritized work items that map to those objectives
  • Evaluated and reviewed project risks, and created suitable work items to mitigate or counter the risks
  • Applied estimation techniques to estimate work items
  • Assigned work items to iterations and to team members

What to do next

When the iteration becomes current, you can follow the recommended practices to manage the iteration. For more information, see Managing iterations.


Getting started with iteration planning: