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Posted: 3/9/2011
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Microsoft Information Technology Group (MSIT) Microsoft Team Cuts Status Meeting Time by 90 Percent and Improves Information Access

MSCom Grid, part of the IT team at Microsoft, wanted to improve collaboration between project managers and developers, who were using different tools to manage workflow. It wanted better and more objective insight into progress and quality, and how changes would affect scheduling. MSCom Grid implemented the Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 and Project Server Integration Feature Pack, which connects Team Foundation Server with Microsoft Project Server 2010. By sharing data more efficiently, the team was able to reduce weekly time spent in status meetings from 20 hours to 2 hours. Now developers and project managers can focus on their work instead of spending hours each week in status report meetings, and managers can make better, data-driven decisions. Also, they have streamlined access to information they need and have better insight into the entire ALM process.

Situation

MSCom Grid is an IT division within Microsoft Corporation, which has operations in 89 countries and approximately 97,770 employees. Located near corporate headquarters in Redmond, Washington, MSCom Grid has a team of 15 employees responsible for developing and maintaining reusable templates and components for the content management system used across Microsoft.com. The company’s marketing groups rely on MSCom Grid to develop and deploy new applications, software components, and business intelligence analytics.

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* When we talk with developers and testers, we can easily correlate that schedule to the details in Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010. As a result, everyone has better insight.  *

Michael Lucas
Senior Program Management Lead
Microsoft

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The team typically completed projects in six-week development iterations or sprints. While developers and testers focused on work items, project managers struggled to balance tight deadlines with frequent design changes from internal clients. The groups used different tools to manage workflow. Managers were using Microsoft Office Project Server 2007 to maintain the schedule, track milestones, and assign tasks, while application developers were using Microsoft Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Foundation Server to manage code and work items.

Although these tools offered valuable insights, it could be difficult to synchronize development activities with project goals. “Estimating how long a project would take required a lot of meetings and a lot of discussion,” says Michael Lucas, Senior Program Management Lead at Microsoft. “There was no way to directly correlate how the developers and testers perceived their workload in relation to the schedule.”

Meeting deadlines and allocating resources could be a problem, but that wasn’t the biggest hurdle. “The biggest challenge of all was having objective data on which to base business decisions,” says Lucas. “Instead, we spent a lot of time listening to subjective opinions and updating our schedule accordingly.”

Collecting updates and communicating project status was time-consuming, and the team also had to design custom report views for business managers and other stakeholders outside the IT environment. Lucas estimates that his team spent more than 20 hours each week in meetings and other management activities. Projects with tight deadlines required even more management time to stay on track. He wanted to improve application lifecycle management (ALM) by helping project managers and development groups share information more easily with development groups.

Solution

MSCom Grid made several attempts using customization to link its management tools and merge data, but with limited success. So when Lucas learned that the Visual Studio Team Foundation Server development group planned to build a connector for sharing information with Project Server, he wanted to participate. “I began meeting with the group early on to talk about my requirements and business problems,” he says. “I’ve been involved since the beginning.”

The connector, which would be offered as a feature pack, would link data stored in Team Foundation Server with Project Server. Managers would then use Project Server to automatically share project status and other information with development teams working in Team Foundation Server. Developers could continue to use familiar tools and development methodologies.

In October 2009, MSCom Grid began testing an early version of the connector. The group began working with the next iteration after upgrading to Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 with Service Pack 1 and Microsoft Project Server 2010. Project Server 2010 is built on Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and includes Microsoft Project Professional 2010 client software. In December 2010, MSCom Grid started using the connector, now called the Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 and Project Server Integration Feature Pack, on production servers.

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* We no longer spend more than 20 hours a week in status meetings. By sharing information with the feature pack solution, the team can focus on the discipline they’re good at.  *

Michael Lucas
Program Management Lead
Microsoft

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Projects kick off when managers begin defining and logging user scenarios as work items in Team Foundation Server. Requirements are entered, linked to the user scenarios, and then entered into the sprint backlog. A preliminary schedule and software features to be delivered are recorded in Project Server 2010 and are linked with the work items and requirements stored in Team Foundation Server. The testers then decompose or break down the features into tasks, and provide an estimate of how much time it will take to complete the work. The data entries and any subsequent changes automatically update the schedule created in Project Server 2010.

MSCom Grid developers work with the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate development system, and use Microsoft Test Manager 2010 to write and execute test cases that are linked to code checked into Team Foundation Server. In Project Server 2010, Lucas can look at the schedule to see if feature development is on target. Any design change requests can be tracked through the schedule down to the version of code checked into Team Foundation Server. “Everything is very tightly coupled, says Lucas. “If you look at any of my projects and check on a specific sprint, you not only see the base code, you can also see what the specifications and requirements looked like at that time.”

Benefits

With the Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 and Project Server Integration Feature Pack, MSCom Grid is delivering products faster and improving communication. The solution gives both project managers and developers better insight into the application lifecycle.

Speeds Product Delivery with Better ALM Insight

By improving visibility into the relationship between scheduling and development tasks, Lucas expects to significantly speed product delivery. With better insight into the ALM process, he can both save time and improve agility. “I know that each day I’m going to have a clear picture of everything that’s happening,” he says. “As a result, there is much less risk in tightening our delivery schedule.”

In fact, Lucas plans to create and track multiple sprints with one project schedule. “We used to deliver in six-week sprints, but we’re going to reduce that to two weeks with the Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 and Project Server Integration Feature Pack,” says Lucas. “I have that level of confidence now because I’m supported by real data.”

Enhances Communication

The ALM solution has improved efficiency, which can be measured in both time savings and enhanced productivity. “We no longer spend more than 20 hours a week in status meetings,” says Lucas. “By sharing information with the feature pack solution, the team can focus on the discipline they’re good at, instead of sitting in meetings talking about it.”

But for Lucas, the biggest benefit isn’t reflected in metrics. “It’s also about improving job satisfaction,” he says. “Developers don’t have to spend time getting status updates, because it’s all there in Team Foundation Server. And they also know that project managers are using real data to make business decisions.”

Improves Visibility

The improved flexibility and level of detail help both developers and project managers, who track information that is most relevant to their role in the project. For example, developers can manage work items and see their effect on the schedule in Team Foundation Server, and Lucas uses Project Server 2010 to report his team’s progress to others in the enterprise. “When we talk with business managers, we can use Project Server 2010 to focus on the schedule,” says Lucas. “When we talk with developers and testers, we can easily correlate that schedule to the details in Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010. As a result, everyone has better insight.”

Microsoft Project Server 2010

Microsoft Project Server 2010 brings together the business collaboration platform services of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 with structured execution capabilities to provide flexible work management solutions. Project Server 2010 unifies project and portfolio management to help organizations align resources and investments with business priorities, gain control across all types of work, and visualize performance through powerful dashboards.

For more information about Microsoft Project Server 2010, go to:
www.microsoft.com/project/2010

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
www.microsoft.com

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview




Organization Profile

MSCom Grid is an IT division within Microsoft, a global leader in software, services, and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. Microsoft has 97,770 employees worldwide.


Business Situation

At MSCom Grid, developers and project managers used different tools to manage workflow. The group wanted to improve visibility and share information more easily.


Solution

MSCom Grid implemented the Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 and Project Server Integration Feature Pack, which connects data in Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 with Microsoft Project Server 2010.


Benefits

  • Speeds product delivery with better ALM insight
  • Enhances communication
  • Improves visibility


Software and Services
  • Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010
  • Microsoft Project Server 2010
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Microsoft Project Professional 2010
  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate
  • Microsoft Test Manager 2010

Vertical Industries
High Tech & Electronics

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
  • Collaboration
  • Enterprise Project Management

Languages
English

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