Agile development with TFS – Process Templates

Team Foundation Server (TFS) supports several process templates for managing work on your project including a few built in the box and 3rd party templates. The question is which one do you select for your project? MSDN states the following:

Scrum
Choose Visual Studio Scrum if your team manages bugs along with product backlog items during sprint planning

The SCRUM process template tracks Bugs at the same level as Product Backlog items and tracks estimates using an Effort field. Tasks contain fields to track Remaining work only which is automatically zeroed out when the task is set to Done.

Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF) for Agile
Choose Agile if you want to triage bugs separately from the product backlog and resolves work items before closing them. Also, choose Agile if your team allocates time for bugs with each sprint.

The Agile template is designed to support Agile development for teams that don’t want to be restricted by Scrum. It supports estimating User Stories using Story Points. Tasks contain fields to track Original Estimate, Remaining, and Completed work fields. Bugs aren’t tracked on any backlog page.

I hope this helps as it took me some time to find an authoritative answer.

(Source: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms400752.aspx)

Finally a rewards program that is easy and useful

Bing Rewards

I don’t need anymore reward programs that require me to carry a membership card or attach something to my key ring. Reward programs need to be easier and reward me for things I use or do on a regular basis. A program that I enjoy quite a bit is Bing rewards. It is easy and intersects with something I do all the time, and that is search the web. I search the web multiple times a day as part of my everyday professional and personal life.

A few of the Bing reward benefits include Amazon gift cards, Dominos Pizza, Burger King, iHop, Hulu subscriptions, GameStop, ProFlowers (ahem, Mothers day is coming up), Starbucks gift cards, Xbox points just to name few of the benefits that help me save money on practical to services many of us use everyday.  Just register or create a Microsoft account and search the web like you normally do (of course using bing.com) and you will get points in your account. You do NOT have to buy anything or supply a credit card to participate in Bing Rewards.

Bing rewards is a non intrusive, non email spamming program that gives back rewards for things that I actually use. I don’t have to do anything special to earn points and redeem points making this a program anyone can use and benefit from!

Donate Bing RewardsMaybe you have everything you need and you are not interested in any of the partner programs offered here. There is another benefit you may be interested in donating your points to help your local school or a non profit. Bing rewards enables you to donate credits from you account to schools so they can get access to modern computers equipped with Microsoft Office for classrooms or non profit organizations like the Boys and Girls club of America and TechForAmerica. The point here is Bing makes this easy for anyone to participate without carrying membership cards, getting email spam or doing something out of your everyday routine.

There is no commitment, you are not locked into a program or a subscription program, there is no down side to at least giving this a try. I think you will find the overall experience rewarding by itself. Find out more about Bing Rewards

I find slides distracting during presentations…

There is always the exception to a posting like this where someone has attended a session and the slide deck that made a lasting impression on the audience. Now let’s take the same presentation and ask the question; have you ever been held hostage when another presenter uses the same slide deck and ends up pointing at the slides failing to deliver the point? The presenter has a great message to deliver, yet somehow the slides become an unnecessary distraction. The other extreme is attending a session where the presenter doesn’t have a presentation, instead they have a slide deck from the marketing team. The marketing deck example follows the same basic formula for holding an audiences prisoner

Your Name Best slide in the whole deck
Agenda Rarely followed and we spend far too much time going over this slide
Industry or Market trends – Lots of people/companies have this problem

– Everyone is doing it and you’re not (or you are doing it, just the wrong way)

(these are things you generally know except this deck has percentages and surveys)

Why Us? Analysts said we’re magic!

The Solution
Insert the thing you are being sold (you can have a stomach ache, but presenter is sure it can be solved by their new mobile cloud solution and big data), often expressed in far too many slides. There is some belief the number of slides are an indication of the deck’s value (hence we have the distraction of trying to get thru too many slides).
Conclusion Q&A, Call to Action, Ta-da!

Table 1-Marketing deck outline

Showing up with a slide deck doesn’t mean you have a presentation. If we can deal with that level of thinking we are closer to solving this problem of creating 60 minute hostage crisis. There is plenty of material on being a great presenter and building great presentations, I want to share a few observations I’ve found to be helpful over the years.

Companies could do more to identify and invest in people who are passionate about the message. These people are fantastic brand ambassadors for the company. This is different from finding subject matter experts to deliver the presentation. There are lots of subject matter experts take for example many of the judges on reality TV singing competitions. They are subject matter experts, and at the same time most of them couldn’t sing a single note.

Investing speakers passionate about the company message could be the key to help your company break away from the competition in your market.

It is ok to say no to a request for a presentation (especially with slides). You can offer to talk to the audience instead. Take a seat and be the subject matter you already are! In my observations customer really appreciate having access to you as a subject matter expert. The alternative was a pre-determined slide deck that may or may not connect with audience. This happens even when have agreement on the agenda up front.

I recall an executive briefing with a customer where it is generally death by slide deck for 60 minutes at a time all day. One presenter came sat down with a napkin ask the customer a few questions, jotted a few notes and just talked with the customer for 45 minutes. The customer couldn’t stop talking about the session the entire night and by far had the best presenter during the 2 day slide marathon.

Online presentations is a great where it makes sense to use more slides to drive the presentation. The ability to connect with the audience online varies from the method used for an in person presentation (even with a webcam this can be a tall order).

People can pull it off great presentation online both live and pre-recorded. Scott Hanselman would be one of the greats, along with many of the presenters in TED talks.

This is a great place to use slides to make the point. (See I am not all anti slides)

A few other good resources that provide an alternative to the dreaded slide deck. Check out Dan Roam’s materials on Amazon.

Sorry for the mini Dan Roam infomercial but I am sure Dan or Amazon won’t mind.

I found this material useful in freeing me from slide purgatory when I just need to convey to the customer I understand the problem and gain consensus on an approach.

There have been many times people have asked me for my slide deck on a given topic and they are often disappointed when I send a deck with ten or fewer slides containing only a few bullet points. I realize the requestor wants the message captured in a slide deck, when I rarely use slides simply because I don’t want the slides to distract the audience from the presentation.

Visual Studio 2013 – The little things go a long way

I am big on developer productivity and features that save me time from managing the development environment allowing me to focus on the task at hand like reviewing code are excellent examples great developer productivity.

I am currently reviewing a demo for Single Page Applications (SPA) using Web API 2 and Angular.js from github (https://github.com/MarlabsInc/webapi-angularjs-spa) where I am exploring the project and realized this feature that I never really paid any attention too.

The ability to preview files in Visual Studio 2013 is great when browsing threw source code. In older versions of Visual Studio I would have to double click open the file and then close it again.

Screenshot (40)

Today I just click the file browse and move to the next one without having to explicitly open it.

Salesforce + Visual Studio = Increased Customer Value

Why is the former Microsoft guy so excited about the Salesforce announcement? There is wealth of Visual Studio experience out there combined with virtual treasure chest of value locked in their Salesforce applications. This is an exciting time to create new modernized applications in the enterprise.

Visual Studio developers can now bring you real time data from enterprise systems into line of business (LOB) applications instead of building “after the fact” reports. This ability to build applications that break down data silos in the cloud provides a world of opportunity for Visual Studio developers.

In addition to being able to reach into Salesforce enabled applications the opportunity to build social enabled applications on Chatter create yet another opportunity for developers to create new business value. Granted some Visual Studio developers have caught on to building social enabled applications with Yammer, it is great news to now have access to both major platforms. Social enabled LOB applications increase employee and customer engagement allowing companies to capture real time feedback, respond quickly to change and leverage the best ideas across the organization. Building applications that enable companies to respond to the market faster places pressure on the competition instead pressure on IT to build complex data marts and integration schemes.

http://blogs.developerforce.com/developer-relations/2014/01/announcing-the-salesforce-toolkits-for-net.html

Salesforce launched their own platform enabling other tools and applications to access API’s at Dreamforce 13 so it is good to see the support in Visual Studio as well. I am looking forward to engaging Salesforce customers and unlocking business data in the cloud.

 

Rest in Peace SharePoint – A place where documents go to die

SharePoint Memorial service for the team site that has looked like this since 2009 back when it was created. You can see there are no contacts filled in and if there are they are old. Announcements? Who comes here for announcements? Tasks don’t we have Project Server, Team Foundation Server, Outlook, OneNote and a handful of other tools to manage our tasks?

No One Notices You

Rest in peace dear team site, no one will ever find the documents shared here, this is truly the place where documents have come to die. The question is, if SharePoint is so popular and so widely deployed why is it a document graveyard in so many organizations? OK, so there are number of readers who can relate to this site and a dozen reasons why your site still looks like the one pictured here. There are also several companies using various parts of SharePoint successfully and they are very happy with the product overall. SharePoint is very easy to use for collaboration so it begs the question what is the problem here?

The issue with the site pictured here is some one imagined that SharePoint would all of sudden become the authority for the content being requested, or didn’t think thru the question who wants to maintain all this stuff here when other systems are already in place for this? SharePoint provides a great platform to integrate into the authoritative sources where much of the information lives and is already maintained. Instead of treating SharePoint like another application silo this is the perfect opportunity to bring together the other information repositories where information is generally stored.

In the team site pictured here I would work to do make the following changes

  • Contacts – Come from the CRM instance or the company directory
  • Tasks – Come from the time entry system or project repository for the projects I am currently active on
  • Announcements – Come from an external feed with relative industry news or from an automated feed inside the company that gives me business insight

You probably get the point by now in reference to pulling the information into one place from a the system in place that already manage this information is better than expecting someone to manage it here gives me a reason to make the team site a destination. There is value is not being forced to navigate multiple applications when SharePoint can act as a content aggregator across the applications for me.

Folder-Mania

What is Folder-Mania you may ask? This is the idea that someone has to take large portions of a file share and dump it into a document library create a horrible user experience of nest folders in a browser. You have seen this a time or two on your SharePoint server?

 

 

 

 

 

We know that many customers will quickly learn to only dump files out here as place holder and miss out on much of the value SharePoint has to offer here. So how we do we address Folder-Mania from running wild? There are couple of key things you can do quickly to help address folder-mania.

  • More Document libraries – Use document libraries for grouping document instead of folders. The key here is you do not have to place everything in a hierarchy. There are documents in sales with the appropriate permissions of course that plenty of applicability in other lines of business areas. Document libraries allow you to surface these documents easily in other areas of the site. In addition document libraries have the ability to create views over larger documents sets and contain powerful features for sorting and filtering.
  • Search – Just get it working to start so it is not throwing errors. I am always surprised at how many customers don’t even have it turned on. Search can do a lot even before you have a world class information architecture, taxonomy and managed metadata tuned to perfection.
  • Social – All valuable content does not end up in documents, they are often found in the discussions that takes place across your organization. This becomes more valuable when the discussion happens in context or in the same workspace as the supporting documents. Now that there are active discussions going on your documents become active references versus archived information.
  • SkyDrive Pro – Share documents from SkyDrive Pro! The documents often shared using sync utilities like SkyDrive Pro are the most active documents because they are generally the ones you are working on.
  • Governance – There are plenty of blog entries about SharePoint governance, managed metadata and the like so I will not repeat the guidance here. Note these are important and will only help to improve the value you get out of your SharePoint deployment and teaming experiences.

A great resource to see some of these features in action is the discoversharepoint.com site. Where the SharePoint team has created customer references and videos of a number of these recommendations in action. – http://www.discoversharepoint.com/

Hopefully this helps you get the most out of SharePoint and reduces the number of application silos, and inactive document repositories in your organization!

A tale of two OneNote applications

Just at a glance I tried going with only version of the OneNote app and found a few differences summarized below which keep me using both apps as I move across devices.

OneNote 2013

(Desktop App)

OneNote

(Windows Store App)

  • Optimized for keyboard, mouse and pen
  • Optimized for touch
  • It has a touch mode (not optimal use case)
  • Ink capabilities (not optimal use case)
  • Send to OneNote utility great for screenshots and sending content from other apps to OneNote on the desktop
  • Participates in the Windows Share functionality
  • Full featured client (Outlook/Excel integration)
  • Great preview pane for notes

 

I did not include the iOS and Android apps which I use on occasion, which may force me to add a 3rd or 4th column to the list. Each OneNote app seems to work to take advantage of the capabilities of the device (touch, pen, mouse, keyboard etc.) All the core functionality for taking, sharing consuming notes exist in each app. My experiment simply demonstrated to me in a Windows 8 environment I am generally going to find myself with both apps installed instead of being able to get away with one version of OneNote.

Bing Food and Drink App on Windows 8

Here is a quick tip for sharing your shopping list across devices on the Bing Food and Drink app for Windows 8. I did not want to carry my tablet around in the grocery store, yet I needed my shopping list from the Food and Drink app for a new dish I was making on my phone.

Windows 8 Share Charm to the rescue!
While my shopping list was open on my tablet

Share MenuI swiped from the right to bring up the Share command
Select share to OneNote
This generated a nicely formatted to do list in OneNote

 

 

 

Food and Drink to OneNoteOneNote is setup to sync to my phone solving the problem of getting the content for my shopping list from the Food and Drink app to my phone (and all my other devices for that matter)

 
Perfect solution!

Share your ideas with the world!

So you are a creative type and you want capture your idea by building a computer application that your friends, family, and future customers can download from the Windows Store. Your idea may be the next great business application, mobile app, PC game or even Xbox One game! The only thing holding you back is you are not a programmer, or not really into being technical.

You still have a great idea and Microsoft has released several programs to help you create your application or game without being over technical. Try these programs for free from Microsoft that let you build business apps for Windows PC’s and tablets, games for XBOX One or mobile apps for Windows Phone. Unleash your creativity and ideas to the world, it is easier than you could ever imagine!

Build a powerful business applications in minutes with Project Sienahttp://www.microsoft.com/en-us/projectsiena/default.aspx

Have an idea? Add Content, Choose style and Use It! Just that easy to create a mobile app for Windows Phone with App StudioWindows Phone Apps with App Studio

Create a game for the computer or Windows tablet in no time at all with Kodu Game Labhttp://www.kodugamelab.com/

Create your own world on XBOX One with Project Sparkhttp://www.xbox.com/en-US/xbox-one/games/project-spark

Enterprise Social – Not an email replacement

  1. Here is another tool to talk to my co-workers and staff. Yet another tool to go and check or keep up to date. Email, IM, VoIP, Intranet, team sites, on top of the multiple meeting we have face to face. All of these work fine, what problem is enterprise social solving?
  2. Too much noise in the system, too many people are over social at work (lots of cat videos, and hey read this link I found on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter. This may or may not have anything to do with getting work done.
  3. Do I really want Facebook for the workplace? You are the only person who post on the site.

These are just some of the major complaints I hear when it comes to introducing Enterprise social tools in the workplace, including the challenges I lived while at Microsoft after the Yammer acquisition. The question quickly becomes if “Social” is one of the four IT megatrends, how do you make sure you get the most out of the investment of enterprise social?

Enterprise social is not email replacement! Working socially or as I like to call it, “out in the open”, can help reduce the number of email messages in your inbox depending on your communication preferences, and at the same time I would not look to working in the open as a replacement for email communication. There are some communication that may not be appropriate in a social setting, like employe one on one’s, or questions that have nothing to do with helping the team meet their goals or generate new ideas.

(1)  Provide guidance to help people to understand that the platform is not Facebook for the enterprise, instead a tool that can help your company or group think social, in effort to accomplish a goal or task. Lead by example by allowing more visibility into some of your projects, ideas and work efforts. Give the community something they can provide feedback on early in your processes in an open forum.

(2) Enforcing good behavior by acknowledging post that are helpful is easy to do by simply clicking like, especially if you are a leader in the organization. This simple technique will train others to post similar content that is designed to help the group. Showing your approval for content that helps the group complete a task, or generate new ideas allows great content and interaction to rise to the top of the feed.

Social lurkers are out there and they love enterprise social, yet they never participate. I cannot tell you the number of times I have run into someone at a company meeting or cross team function where the identify me from my profile and tell me how much they read my post. There are many instances where I don’t have clue who the person is or that they even read my stuff at all. They NEVER click like or respond with a comment. I call them social lurkers. They benefit from the ideas and posting both formally and informally yet only acknowledge that read the feeds when in person.

The point that I learned here is that you are helping others even when you do not realize it. It will take time for a few of the social lurkers to contribute or become more active, while others will only ever want to read. That is fine, you will soon find out like I have enterprise social is having a positing impact.

Everyone in your group or team will not get it, and a few people will opt out all together. These are often the same people for the most part opt out of external social media as well. I would recommend that you consider creating policies that are inclusive and at the same time not solely designed for the exceptions in the group.  There are plenty of methods implemented in enterprise social platforms that allow people to stay in the tool they are most comfortable, in most cases email. Many enterprise social tools allow you to subscribe, respond and create content from the comfort of your email client.

Enterprise social and email are not at odds, they are both tools that participate in the ecosystem of how we communicate to get work done.