Visual Studio Updates Provide Greater Visibility into Application Development Projects

New features in Microsoft's Visual Studio 2008 Team System enhance managers' view of software projects, the company says. More to the point: automating status reports means you don't need as many project update meetings.

By Esther Schindler
Wed, November 07, 2007

CIO — No CIO wants to know the hairy details of every component under development on every programmer's desktop. IT managers only want to know project status: what's in trouble, what needs attention, what a delay means to the budget. One flavor of the Visual Studio 2008—which Microsoft says it will release to manufacturing by the end of November—gives IT managers exactly that view, the company claims. Assuming, that is, that your development team knows how to take advantage of the features in Visual Studio Team System (VSTS).

According to Dave Mendlen, Microsoft Director of Developer Tools Marketing, VSTS gives IT managers and CIOs visibility into the application development cycle, the development process, and at least some project predictability.

"It has all kinds of analytics at the business decision-maker level," Mendlen said during this week’s DevConnections conference in Las Vegas. The source code repository for Visual Studio Team System and its reporting manager help an IT manager see everything that goes on in the system, across geographies and virtual boundaries, he says. VSTS lets the manager examine measurable results, from requirements-gathering to unit testing. Mendlen said his team used the system for Visual Studio itself, and came within three months of its ship schedule.

As a result, managers can do a better job of estimating when the application will really be ready, and whether it will come in under budget. Managers appreciate the ability to get an overview of project status, certainly, but it's not too hard to sell developers on the benefits too. Stewart Armbrecht, associate director of design and development at Protiviti, an independent risk consulting firm, wants to automate status reports because, he says, "We want to eliminate meetings." Using Agile methods, the 20 people working for Armbrecht go into 15-minute huddles, and everyone would rather spend the time on what the team needs than on giving verbal status reports.

Protiviti has been using VSTS but is just now starting to deal with the reporting functions. Until now, his team has focused on getting the automated build process in place, and working on data collection and task tracking. Now they're ready to use the VSTS reporting tools both to support the individual team members and, says Armbrecht, "to establish metrics to gauge team progress and individual contribution rates."

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