Azure DevOps and Cross-Repo Branch Policies

Azure DevOps and cross-repo branch policies

In a previous webcast we had for Microsoft Western Europe about using Azure DevOps for managing Dynamics 365 Business Central projects, when talking about the best practice to set policies for your branches, there was an interesting question: can I create cross-repositories branch policies? Also programmatically? I’ve partially answered the question and this post aims to be a more complete answer.

In an Azure DevOps repository you can create different branches and for every branch you can set a branch policy. This is extremely recommended for protecting your branches and in my opinion it’s a must to do always.

To create a policy for a particular branch, select your branch and then go to the Branch policies menu:

Azure DevOps and cross-repo branch policies

Here you can set different policies that will be applied to the branch, like reviewers, approvers, build policy and so on:

Azure DevOps and cross-repo branch policies

I’ve to admit that this is my preferred way of work 🙂

But what about creating a cross-repo policy, that will be automatically applied to all branches for your project?

You can do that by going to Project settings in Azure DevOps and then select Cross-repo policies (under Repos):

Azure DevOps and cross-repo branch policies

Here you can add a branch protection. You can select to protect the default branch of each repository or to protect current and future branches matching a specified pattern. For example, by inserting * I’m creating a policy for all the branches in my project:

Azure DevOps and cross-repo branch policies

By applying a name-based pattern you can for example create a branch protections for all master branches in the project, anotherpolicy for all develop branches in the project and another one for all release/* branches. Quite useful isn’t it?

But what about setting Azure DevOps policies programmatically? Here it was my missing response. I’ve suggested using the Azure DevOps APIs but after a bit of consulting with the Azure community now I know that there’s a more easy way: using the Azure CLI.

With the Azure CLI you can use the az repos policy command (and its options) to create branch policies. How to do that?

First, I’ve installed (or updated) the Azure CLI with this Powershell command:

Invoke-WebRequest -Uri -OutFile .\AzureCLI.msi; Start-Process msiexec.exe -Wait -ArgumentList '/I AzureCLI.msi /quiet'

Then I’ve added the azure-devops extension:

az extension add --name azure-devops

Then, I’ve select the organization and the project where I want to work (setted as default):

az devops configure --defaults organization=
az devops configure --defaults project=D365BCDevOps

Now I list the IDs and names of the repositories that I have in my project:

az repos list --query [].[name,id]

As you can see, I have two repos here:

Azure DevOps and cross-repo branch policies

Then, for each repos ID I set the policy by using the az repos policy command. For the various option to set, please refer to this link. As an example, here I’m creating a policy for requiring a minimum of 1 approver in the master branch of each repo:

az repos policy approver-count create --blocking true --branch master --creator-vote-counts false --enabled true --minimum-approver-count 1 --reset-on-source-push false --allow-downvotes false --repository-id 4ed3b4e3-c387-4797-9ffa-256223bfe768

The policy is created:

Azure DevOps and cross-repo branch policies

In this way you can programmatically create policies for each repo in your organization very quickly. New thing learned 😉

About the Author:

Microsoft MVP, Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD), Microsoft Certified DevOps Engineer, MCSA on Azure Development and Administration, MCAD, MCTS on Microsoft Dynamics NAV/Dynamis 365 Business Central, MCTS on Sharepoint, MCTS on SQL Server, and a long-time expert on other Microsoft-related technologies.


Demiliani, S. (2020). Azure DevOps and Cross-Repo Branch Policies. Available at: [Accessed: 19th May 2020].

Check out more great Azure content here

Share this on...

Rate this Post: