Adrian Jakeman | 2 September 2008
If you’re a project manager, or you have aspirations to fill that role in the next few months or years, you need to know about Visual Studio Team System.
Project managers typically face difficulties in five main areas:
- Insufficient and/or invalid information - this can lead to poor project planning, poor milestone tracking and poor project visibility
- Disparate information sources - this can make it difficult to capture project-related metrics
- Management of customer expectations - without careful management of this area projects suffer from poor cost estimating, poor measurements and poor quality control
- Poor communication - this often leads to issues in areas of change control, process management, project audit and task tracking
Sounds familiar? Don't worry - VSTS can help you here.
VSTS represents things to be done as work items. In an earlier blog I explained that work items are fully customisable and can be tailored to fit the process or processes that you want to use - it doesn't matter if you're running an agile project, or one that uses a more traditional waterfall approach or even if you are using more complex processes, your work items can be made to match your process. As a project manager, you can create and manage your work items using Excel, Project, directly in Visual Studio, or via the Team System web access application. Work items help address any lack of information in the project - they allow you to plan effectively, to understand your project progress and provide visibility into the project status.For example, tracking work items can help you avoid the dreaded scope creep (see below).
When it comes to understanding the strengths and needs of your project team, VSTS supports you too. Using the reporting functionality available from Team Foundation Server, you have tools available to let you be much more proactive than you have been in the past. Monitoring of your project health and where the pain points are going to be experienced is much more straightforward than ever in the past. VSTS and TFS provide a single source of project-related data that can be used to create meaningful reports using Excel or SQL Server Reporting Services. For example, you will want to know how much of the work to be done has been completed and by whom (see below).
VSTS eases communication within the project too. This might be communication between team members or it might be communication with external project stakeholders. Team projects are made visible through a project portal provisioned through WSS (see below). This allows the robust management of project documentation and reports which in turn provides scope for effective management of process, change, audit and tracking.
So, VSTS can help in four of the main areas in which project managers typically experience difficulty. What about our last area - funding? The key point here is that for IT to be effective, the business must change as well! VSTS is not a silver bullet. Many projects are funded using a traditional approach of "I'll give you the money when you tell me exactly what I'm going to get!". Unfortunately, buying into an iterative development process and ALM in general doesn't blend well with this type of funding model. As a project manager, you will need to address this organisational issue internally - after all, that's why you have the word manager in your job title!!