Microsoft is a big place with a huge number of software products in development and a number of those products have dependencies between each other.  We've got a pretty rich & consistent process for managing bug across divisions -- but managing software product dependencies (e.g. The Office team needs a component from Windows in order to ship) is a different story.  Some teams have built custom tools, some teams use Word documents and yet others use Excel.  The common theme about the process and the tool is that two teams are essentially creating a "contract" between them. It is certainly from the task-level dependencies that you'd often see in a Microsoft Project plan.

We've recently started managing dependencies more formally within Team System, so that the different product units (e.g. TFS, Team Test, Team Architect etc.) have a way of creating, managing and tracking the dependencies between each other.  Here's what a "Dependency" looks like:


Some of the interesting fields:

  • Risk: To indicate a High,Medium,Low risk level for the dependency
  • Short status summary: For a human to take everything the system is saying and boil it down -- great for presentation in a table 
  • Iterations and dates: To mark out the delivery data from the producer and the expected use date from the consumer
  • Producers and Consumers links: To have the traceability to what features the dependency is delivered by and what it is consumed by
  • Producer and Consumer section: To have space for both sides to sit down and work out the details of the dependency

 The state flow is pretty simple:

  • The dependency starts off in Proposed and only needs Title to be filled out.  It can go to the Active state from there.
  • When it is in Active state, the producer product unit and description and consumer product unit and descriptions need to be filled out (the assumption is that if the dependency is active, at-least that information should be known)
  • From the Active state, it can to to a Closed state or back to Proposed or get Cut

Please share your feedback and I'd love to hear you are managing your dependencies and what additional support you'd like to see there.