VSTS - It's Not Your Mother's SDLC Management Tool
August 24, 2014
VSTS - It's Not Your Mother's SDLC Management Tool
Score 10 out of 10
Version 10.0.40219.1 SP1Rel
- Team Explorer, SharePoint, Reports, TFS Database
Overall Satisfaction with Microsoft Visual Studio Team
Visual Studio Team System (VSTS) is used as a software development lifecycle (SDLC) management tool for our entire company. All projects use VSTS/TFS version 2010 at this point and we are looking at upgrading to 2012, too. As a Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) Level 3 company, VSTS/TFS provides the MSF structure for Process (which also allows tailoring of our processes) and VSTS allows us to create work items to track our requirements, change requests, tasks, test cases, burn down of work, conduct meetings, and capture artifacts related to following our processes as well as providing proof that we follow those processes. We can create queries to help us find data/information related to requirements and their area paths, bug rates and resolution time periods, build status, etc. VSTS/TFS has a SharePoint module that allows us to store/link documents to work items as well, which makes it an excellent tool for SDLC management as it helps us plan, execute, monitor, track, and deliver our products consistently and with quality.
- The Excel reports provided within VSTS 2010 help provide visual information in the form of Excel pivot tables and charts that are easily tailored and modified to provide valuable feedback on burn-down slope for development, bug rates that tie to milestones, build status and quality, and other Project Management activities such as unplanned work, requirements development/progress, and backlog development.
- We use Work Item Templates within the SharePoint server, so that we create consistent/correct work items such as Requirements, Change Requests, or Bugs that take our process requirements into account and ensure that the work items meet quality standards. We embed the text of our process within these Templates to help me (and others on the Team) make sure that our Work Items aren't missing any information, that artifacts are correctly captured, and there is accuracy in the information captured, presented, and used by the Team when reviewing, validating, baselining (with our customer), and then triaging work into an iteration.
- The Team Project Portal allows a Project Manager (or any other Team Member) the ability to create customizable dashboards using the Excel Reports and the charts created when pulling in VSTS/TFS data related to an iteration, a build, the issues or risks associated with a project. These dashboards are fairly easy to create and provide a wide variety of widgets that can be used to present pictures, charts, lists, links, whatever you need to help the team establish a focal point for finding status, learning about milestones, sharing issues, etc. I particularly found this module useful when I was a Project Manager for several Teams and could use the dashboard to present information on our burn-down, bugs, and risks to management just by creating a useful dashboard.
- Creating SQL Queries is very easy too, once you learn how to structure a SQL query. VSTS/TFS is essentially a database of work items that document the work planned, work in progress, what was delivered and when. You can filter the data by dates, by who the work item was assigned to, who created it, the state changes that occurred and when, and on and on. I have found the query ability enormously useful when combing through the data to find answers I need related to creating requirements, tracking tasks, determining when bugs were resolved and fixed, etc.
- Lastly, I really like being able to export the information (in the form of Work Items) provided within a TFS database query to MS Project or MS Excel where I can filter the information, view hours assigned to each developer (to help with capacity/velocity planning), create other excel reports/charts, or plan an iteration using MS project using the tasks and hours to determine the timebox of a particular iteration.
- I don't have any recommendations for improvement myself as I use the tool for specific reasons and for all my own uses, it works very well. However, I AM looking forward to the upgrade to the 2012 version because I'm excited about improved graphics tools and improvements in reports, etc.
- For us, as a software development company, MS VSTS has served us well by providing the ability to plan and execute that plan with more efficiency and less risk.
- VSTS provides a central point of communication for Team members with the use of Work Items, Reports, Document Storage, the Team Portal/Dashboard, which has aided us greatly during scrum.
- We can also provide better information and status to our customers on whether we will meet our agreed-upon milestone dates for code freeze, testing, and delivery. Using the burn-down reports (based on the hours within Tasks and Bugs that are assigned to a particular iteration), we can look at the burn-down trend and know well in advance whether we will meet that deadline or not.
- VSTS/TFS provides a good way tracking and monitoring risks and issues within a project and capturing mitigation and contingency plans related to those risks and issues. As a former PJM who used risk and issue work items quite a lot, I found that using the right field settings and queries, I could determine just how many risks have high impact to a plan or what work items were being blocked and preventing the plan from moving forward.
I haven't used any other products, so I can't say how VSTS/TFS would stack against any competitors, but I know that for an SDLC management tool, VSTS/TFS has everything you need to help an organization meet the requirements needed to adhere to the specific/general practices related to CMMI.
If you're part of a project that needs the ability manage tasks, requirements, or change requests as well as provide reports, then Visual Studio Team System (VSTS) is well suited to that environment. It is an excellent SDLC management tool as it provides a database to house work items, a SharePoint interface to store documents, and a reports function to gain reports and information based on the database of work items. It also has source control, the ability to monitor builds, and manage the team members security settings very easily. You can also set up iterations and area paths for a product, and the various work items can be linked to show their relationships - this is especially useful when proving bidirectional requirements traceability!
Using Microsoft Visual Studio Team
I don't think our organization will stray from using VSTS/TFS as we are now looking to upgrade to the 2012 version. Since our business is software development and we want to meet the requirements of CMMI to deliver consistent and high quality software, this SDLC management tool is here to stay. In addition, our company uses a lot of Microsoft products, such as Office 365, Asp.net, etc, and since VSTS/TFS has proved itself invaluable to our own processes and is within the Microsoft family of products, we will continue to use VSTS/TFS for a long, long time.