Insight

Insight from Agora Consultants

Never update a project plan again!

OK, maybe not never, but a lot less often.  Here’s why.  On March 8, 2011 Microsoft released the Team Foundation Server Project Server Integration Pack (TFSPSIP) for general download (Brian Harry’s blog).

In my opinion TFSPSIP is the most significant non-developer feature release for TFS 2010.  Why?  Teams will drastically reduce the amount of effort required to manage project status gathering using the product integration.

How Does it Work?

To start let’s look at how it usually works.  A project manager and maybe a technical lead estimates an entire project or a subset of a project.  Tasks are assigned to team members and then the project manager emails the developers every few days and asks for status updates.  The developers are busy writing their code or are in the middle of a build and ignore the email.  After a few more reminders the developers email back a percentage complete number.  Does that mean the estimate was correct?  If the task was 8 hours long and the developer is 50% done is there really 4 hours remaining?

Does this sound familiar?

TFSPSIP changes all of that.  Once you have the integration pack installed Team Foundation Server and Project Server will update each other when either side is modified.  The integration pack is a server side synchronization/workflow tool that enables project managers who use Project Server to share up to date project status and resource availability with development teams who use Team Foundation Server whether they use formal or Agile development processes.

The Brave New World

This is the way it can work going forward.  The project manager and business analyst can define the high-level requirements in what ever tool they prefer.  The requirements are entered into Project Professional and assigned to the technical lead.

The technical lead can then break down the requirement into tasks and provide estimates.  This can be done in Visual Studio.  The estimates for the tasks are automatically rolled up to the requirement and become visible to the project manager.

During the development phase developers work in Visual Studio and update the tasks (work items) in TFS just the way they always have.  Now when the developers update the remaining work on a task it automatically updates TFS and Project Server.

No more time wasted on collecting status updates!  Your project plan is updated for you.

Wrap-Up

The integration pack is not a magic bullet.  If developers are not updating the time on tasks or are entering incorrect values then then all you get is automatic garbage out.

The beauty of this integration is that project managers can now focus on issues and not on data collection.  This equals a drastic reduction in the administration overhead of project management.

More Stuff

Another one of Brian’s blog with more details.


 
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