Visual Studio Online agile options are opening up

VSORecently, Aaron Bjork wrote about some of the goodies coming down the pipe for Visual Studio Online (VSO) agile project management options. I still remember my first forays into TFS 2010, trying desperately to use it to manage my agile projects.

Needless to say, I was frustrated at the time, but today is a new day!

There are a lot of things coming like Kanban board improvements, hierarchical backlog management, and task customizations. Fun goodies to play with for all 🙂

Life on the boards

Visual Studio Online promises to get us closer and closer to that ideal agile project management tool, and catch up with some of the small features that allow their competitors to stay in the game with them. I am particularly happy with the decision to finally allow us to live on the boards and move away from the old ‘list’ management views that have traditionally been at the core of TFS, and then Visual Studio Online. Lists are great for prioritization and quick data entry, but the team members generally live on the board. Switching back and forth between views adds needless extra effort, so it’s great to see this going away.

Bugs are bugs? Or tasks? Or backlog items?

I’ve never understood this in TFS/VSO. Why were bugs only as top-level Product Backlog Items (PBI), and not available as tasks? It forced a way of working that didn’t necessarily function for all scenarios. The fact that new options will be coming soon to allow bugs as task-like objects within a story, or as full-on PBIs, is definitely going to improve the usability of the tool.

Competitors like Atlassian’s JIRA OnDemand already allow project teams to define new item types, which allows you to define bug types for different scenarios and give each item type a different workflow. We’ve used this extensively to allow our teams the flexibility to add story-blocking bugs directly as tasks on a story, or create top-level bugs on the backlog. This allows the sprint team to see issues that directly affect the current sprint while also enabling the planning team to prioritize lower-severity defects alongside stories in the backlog.

I hope that the changes coming in VSO will give us this same level of flexibility. As Aaron mentions in his blog, flexibility is important as teams use different approaches, especially our teams that are working with new clients, new project schedules, and new budgets all the time.

 Juicy lead time metrics

Of the other items highlighted, the lead time tracking is pretty awesome. This is something I haven’t really been able to leverage well in other tools, so if the reporting side of this is done well perhaps I’ll be able to finally see where issues are stagnating for a team, or across teams. Right now, for most of our teams, we trust in anecdotal reporting based around someone on the team keeping a daily vision of where all items are at. Gaining the ability to have this reported on reliably will allow for better dissemination of the information across the team.

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One thought on “Visual Studio Online agile options are opening up”

  1. The option to have bugs only as top-level Product Backlog Items (PBI) is a choice in Scrum template provided by Microsoft. You can (nowadays only in TFS) customize or even create a template as you wish.

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