Visual Studio Team Services Primer

What is VSTS and why should I care?

Warning, Visual Studio Team Services is coming and consulting best practices are changing. VSTS is a cool suite of tools for Agile Development and Project Management by Microsoft.  Officially, this is what Microsoft says VSTS is: 

*https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/vsts/user-guide/what-is-vsts

The two tools that we’re most interested to adopt first are:

  • Git repositories for source control
  • Agile tools to support planning and tracking work

What’s Git and why is it important?

Hopefully, you’re a modern-day developer who at least knows what source control is. For anyone else, who need an introduction Atlassian has a pretty good primer here. Git is a source code repository where the code is saved, versioned, and backed up; similar to a Google Doc, SharePoint, or Dropbox. In the event of a catastrophe, the code can be retrieved.

Most days, things go according to plan. Sense Corp has really talented Scorpions, but the occasional all-nighter or the pressures of a looming deadline and incidents are bound to happen. Implementing source control provides insurance against having a bad day. It gives us the superpower to turn back time and undo costly mistakes.

Historically at Sense Corp, source control is a practice that most of our projects have not implemented or actively used. Superpower aside, we generate a lot of valuable experiences that are represented as code. Having this repository of knowledge will continue to provide a valuable reference for projects to come. And frankly, this is a base skill to software development & consulting that our developers should know, and a practice our PM’s should encourage.

Okay, cool, I get it, we can do better and with VSTS we will. What else can it do besides save some files and turn back time? 

They say it takes two to tango, and Agile tools will be Source Controls plus one. To give an analogy, VSTS is like Jira but for Microsoft. Saving source code is only half the battle; planning work and organizing tasks are just as important.

Some of the cool widgets in VSTS include various work items like Features, User Stories, and Tasks as well as three different backlogs and two different boards for tracking work via Kanban. Having various scopes via these boards provides Management, Project Owners, and Stakeholders insight and overview at a high level but more importantly, keep’s them out of the day-to-day work the developers are doing.

Other widgets include customizable dashboards, unlimited personalized reports and queries, and the ability to predict the future. These concepts and more will be explored in a future multipart series.

  • Epics vs Features
  • User Story & Task Deep Dive
  • User Stories & Sprints: Understanding Capacity
  • Story Points vs Estimation (hours)
  • Charts: Cumulative Flow, Velocity, Forecasting, & Burndown
  • Project Dashboard vs Personal Dashboard
  • Custom Work Items

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