TFS 11 – Finally, An Agile Shovel From Microsoft.

Most people think the most feared weapon of World War 1 was the machine gun – and of course it was. But, in the trenches themselves, what you needed was a shovel. It could handle all kinds of tasks, and in a pinch was better than any bayonet. Multipurpose, flexible, adaptable – it was the true frontline weapon of choice.

Being programmers, we tend to obsess a little too much about what tool we use to administer/manage agile projects. To a certain point, it doesn’t matter… we’ve all seen well-managed projects run using whiteboards/pen and paper, and poorly managed and run projects using advanced software tools. However, because of the critical importance of displaying a list of backlog items (pending work) and a sprint velocity (see, we’re doing stuff!), as well as vocalizing blockers, a good software tool – like a shovel – makes all the difference.

Too bad the TFS Scrum Template 1.0 2010 was such a dog. We’ve been very open in our criticism of this tool – if we’re going to call it that – and I’ve been a vocal proponent of Rally Software’s awesome (and the free Community Edition in particular) in the past.

And Visual Studio 11 is great by itself, but if its hooked up to TFS 2010, ack, it’s just the same old, AWFUL, web interface. Clumsy, terrible Excel integration, and simple drag and drop operations in Rally become tedious item by item dropdown changes. That all changes when you hook it up to TFS11.

In Team Foundation Server 11, we’re up to Microsoft Visual Studio Scrum 2.0 – Provider 3 (up from 1.0) on the templates, and MSF for Agile Development 6.0 – v3.0. It’s a sea change in terms of handling agile and will be our tool of choice in three weeks. Microsoft continues the trend of producing a gawd-awful v1.0, and then knocking it out of the park with the following version.

There’s some great videos on using TFS here at this site. Everyone uses the web settings, and its super intuitive – including velocity, on the top right.

Note how easy it is to create work items, the sprints are already pre-built, drag them onto sprints and add tasks. Use the “View Board” link to drag your tasks from state to state. And we can change priorities as we did in Rally – by click and dragging. Managing the backlog is now effortless.

More web features: managing the backlog – quick adding new product backlog/requirement work items by pressing “add” button, re-ordering the list by priority drag&drop, and setting the iteration, just by drag&drop. We have a list of iterations, divided to Past/Recent/Future (We set the date range for the iterations).

Clicking on the “work items” tab yields an all-in-one view.

Clicking back on “HOME” gives me administration options. Note the burndown chart isn’t displaying, I still need to set the start/end dates for this iteration.

Changing some settings there on the iteration / sprint dates got that fixed. Of the two templates, I actually – and this was a surprise to me – liked the Scrum template better.

TFS 11 also supports the concept of team Work Areas. It could be the beginnings of a combined backlog – something many management teams have identified as a future want-to-have. I’ll talk about using the TFS API to create a combined backlog later –and why that’s really an anti-scrum concept in reality (just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you should!)

Links of interest….


Decent video overviews here – – great article on upgrading pros/cons.

Step by step upgrade instructions –

TFS upgrade guide on codeplex from the ALM rangers –

TFS Power Tools links –

A VERY detailed description of why the GUI was designed as it was, and the Code Review look/feel. I REALLY like the code review options. You specify a reviewer via email… and fire and forget.

A good overview as well of the TFS reviewer functionality –

And for those of you that actually read this far… there’s always the  joke on Assassin’s Creed for Kinect.
TFS Signup – I really like the Team Foundation Service from Microsoft, even though you have to apply for a trial invitation. Microsoft’s reasons on why a move to the cloud is a good thing…

  • No Server to support – Microsoft will do all of the management for you
  • Automatic Team Project Upgrades – As Microsoft update the product your process template will be upgraded gracefully (NOTE this means no custom templates!)
  • Awesome UI improvements – There are no words to describe how fantastic the new UI is. And not just compared to the 2010 version, I think the competition is a little worried.
  • More to Come – The cloud team has managed to get its update frequency down for one every 3 months to about once a month so expect to see the features as soon as they are ready.

And as a last bit of candy there’s the Ruck guide from the ALM rangers. Note that this is supposed to be a simplified form of Agile. Glad to hear that other people are hearing the call for a rebuilt Agile methodology… but this is garbage. Not simple enough!!!

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