Everything you want to know about Visual Studio ALM and Farming
Brian Harry is a Microsoft Technical Fellow working as the Product Unit Manager for Team Foundation Server. Learn more about Brian.
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In November I started a series about “TFS as an open platform” and, as part of that I’m writing about some of the top tier 3rd party enhancements to TFS. I wrote about Tasktop/Mylyn and Team Companion. Today, I want to tell you about Urban Turtle.
Unless you’ve been in a cave for the past 5 or 10 years, you’ve probably noticed the growth in popularity of Agile development practices. Of the various Agile development practices, the most popular is the SCRUM project management process. TFS has many native capabilities that support Scrum but not a great, fine tuned, Scrum focused user experience. Urban Turtle is a TFS add-on built by Pyxis Technologies and provides an awesome Scrum experience for TFS. For 10 years, Pyxis has been at the forefront of the evolving Agile development practices and has been helping companies transform their development process to be more Agile and more effective. We were thrilled when they decided to take that expertise and create a top notch Scrum experience for TFS.
Urban Turtle is an extension to Team Web Access that provides tools for managing your backlog, planning your sprints and then managing sprint execution. It provides a very nice and intuitive drag and drop task board interface to TFS. The irony here is the TWA is not one of our poster children for extensibility and yet Pyxis worked with us and found a way and the result is a clean and fully integrated Scrum experience.
With the task board view, team members select or close a task in a second using drag-and-drop. Team members can easily find their closed work items, the one they are currently working on, etc. It Increases the efficiency by being transparent with your team. A brand new feature lets you highlight your work items during your standup meeting. At any time, the team will have, at a glance, a global view of the completed, ongoing and remaining work.
With the planning board view, to change the priority of a user story, you simply need to drag it on to another work item, similar to moving real cards on a board. When the user story is moved, all the child tasks will automatically follow and the other work items are automatically reorganized. Urban Turtle enables you to easily plan a sprint using drag-and-drop interface. The planning board will display your entire sprint as droppable boxes. Dropping a card into the desired box will automatically associate the work item with this sprint.
Using TFS’s iteration paths, Urban Turtle allows organizing iterations by release, with each release containing a collection of sprints. It provides live iteration statistics with rollup for an adequate balance of work assignment and release planning.
One of my favorite things about Urban Turtle is how easy filtering and pivoting is. It makes it really easy to focus on the task at hand, whether it is backlog maintenance, sprint planning or sprint review. This screenshot demonstrate a view for backlog prioritization where the tasks are hidden.
When managing a sprint interactively, it’s important to have absolutely up to the second data or it can be confusing and even the few minute delay of the TFS warehouse can be a problem. Urban Turtle solved this by creating a Sprint Burndown chart based on the operational data making sure that it is always 100% up to date as you make changes in the UI.
And, of course, because so many people need to customize their process template to meet their precise needs, Urban Turtle can work with almost anything, whether it is a widely available template or a custom template built specifically for your organization. Out of the box, it comes configured to work with these three widely available templates: Visual Studio Scrum v1.0, MSF Agile v5.0 and Scrum for Team System v3.0. But there is a mapping configuration that enables to you map Urban Turtle’s features to the appropriate fields and values in your process template.
One of the cool things about Urban Turtle is that they, themselves, are a very Agile team. They have produced one release a month for the past 8 months and every month brings cool new features. In the near future they’ll be adding Kanban support and improvements for decomposing user stories. If your team has adopted Scrum and TFS, I strongly encourage you to visit http://urbanturtle.com/ and try out Urban Turtle – they have a free 30 day, no risk trial.
As always let me know what you think,