At this week’s TechEd, there were many announcements around the next version of the tools under the Visual Studio brand, which make up Microsoft Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) platform. As a Microsoft ALM partner, many of these were not surprises, as I had been working with the product teams over the past year to help vet some of these feature ideas. I can tell you that a LOT of though and good debate went into what you see, as well a fair bit of engineering as well. These guys take customer feedback very seriously, more than any major company I’ve ever seen. In particular, watch from 15:00 to 21:00 in this video from TechEd 2011 to see the new agile project management tools. I’m pleased to say that what they are producing is on par with what the many of the popular purpose-built agile tools are providing. It’s a seamless experience now – while you are ultimately updating work items, it doesn’t feel like you are just managing work items via work item queries. (If you don’t have time to watch the video, check out Jason Zanders’s post – key screenshots included)
Of the major scenarios and experiences that this vision will deliver on is collaboration. In my mind, this is the foundation of an ALM platform. If your ALM platform or tools do not let your teams collaborate, then you are doing it wrong. I don’t think anyone would disagree with me in saying that software development is a collaborative exercise – then why do we put up with tools that don’t allow it, or even discourage it? So many times we see organizations with very distinct silos between the groups involved in a large-scale ALM process. To me, this is an organizational issue first, but the tools aren’t helping. A common scenario I see is that developers have no visibility into the test cases QA is going to execute. It’s not because they aren’t allowed necessarily, it’s just that the tools aren’t enabling that instant visibility. Sometimes it’s hard-to-find Excel spreadsheets, or just organizations that have deployed HP Quality Center but didn’t buy licenses for anyone but testers. Regardless, if developers can’t see what testers will be testing, how can they write code well enough to make sure all the test cases are covered? This is one small example, and there are many others that compound the problem. A collaborative ALM platform, supporting a unified repository where everyone can see everything is the answer. Microsoft’s vision of ALM has been heading in that direction, and will keep doing so.