Avanade Spain wanted to deliver greater value to its customers by making its development processes quicker and more efficient. It needed to improve collaboration across offices in several territories and develop ways to automate coding and documentation tasks. Its management team rolled out Microsoft® Visual Studio® 2008 Professional Edition and Microsoft Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Foundation Server. The company’s developers have used the new applications to create a global working environment, reduce the time taken to write and manage application code, and automate routine tasks. Avanade Spain is now taking on more complex, higher value projects, and using the full capacity of its offices around the world. As a result, it has been awarded the Microsoft Gold Certified Partner of the Year Award 2008.
Avanade is a technical consultancy that creates strategic software solutions using Microsoft® technologies. Represented in 22 countries, it employs thousands of people across the world, the majority of them developers. Avanade Spain opened for business in 2000 and currently employs more than 450 people across offices in Barcelona, Madrid, and Malaga.
The Spanish part of the business focuses on software production and consultancy. At its heart is the Avanade Service Delivery Centre, which offers cost-effective, accelerated application development. With on-site, nearshore, and offshore development scenarios available, customers can choose their level of involvement with the production process. The busy centre serves a range of clients from sectors such as the civil service, banking, insurance, and telecommunications.
Avanade works with its customers to improve efficiency through IT. Its consultants work in three main areas:
- Evolving customers’ applications towards a standard Microsoft .NET Framework environment
- Developing Web portals for managing and sharing internal information
- Improving customers’ IT infrastructures
The company uses cutting-edge Microsoft technologies in its global network, including the Windows Vista® operating system, the 2007 Microsoft Office system, and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. But most crucial to the business are the tools with which its developers work. Until recently, they used the Microsoft Visual Studio® 2005 development system and Microsoft Visual Studio Team System to create software for customers, but they wanted more advanced functionality.
Ramon Miranda, Chief Technology Officer, Avanade Spain, says: “Our customers demand that we use the latest technologies to develop their solutions. We also wanted to take on more complex, higher value projects, but we couldn’t provision project roles accurately enough using Visual Studio 2005. It was taking too long to divide up work between our employees, particularly on projects where we wanted to make use of our software factories in Canada, Europe, India, the Philippines, and the United States. The ideal situation is to have a single, unified development environment around the world.”
Miranda also wanted to improve the working practices of developers at Avanade Spain by giving them the simplest, most efficient tools. He says: “Our solutions developers complained that the software they were using did not have intuitive, visual editing tools. They were also keen to automate routine tasks so they could focus their attention on the more complex parts of each project.”
Miranda and his team began looking for solutions to these challenges, and, in early 2008, the company rolled out Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition and Microsoft Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Foundation Server. Miranda says: “There’s such close integration between Microsoft technologies that it makes sense to upgrade.”
The company’s developers used the highly customisable features in Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Foundation Server to build a new version of the Avanade Software Lifecycle Platform (ASLP), based on the company’s own methodology, Avanade Connected Methods. This is a collection of production workflows that aligns the company’s internal tools with best practices.
At the same time, they began using Visual Studio 2008 on the company’s latest
projects, taking advantage of new features such as Language-Integrated Query (LINQ), which anticipates in real time what a developer is trying to code and makes suggestions in a drop down menu. They’re also making use of the tighter integration with Windows® Presentation Foundation and Windows Communication Foundation.
Using Visual Studio 2008, project teams at Avanade have automated many routine tasks, cutting down on management and coding time and improving the efficiency of the production process. The company’s developers enjoy intuitive new tools for programming and visual editing, while Visual Studio Team System helps link up personnel around the world. All these improvements mean that Avanade now offers its customers higher quality products and a more flexible service.
Collaboration Tools Create Global Development Environment
Using the powerful features of Team Foundation Server as a basis, the new version of the ASLP has made it possible to establish a network of connected developers from 30 centres around the world, which means the company can offer its clients multi-site development models. Miranda says: “In one case, a work team was set up at the client’s headquarters in South Africa, with others working remotely from Spain and India.
“Using Visual Studio Team System meant that all communications on the project were efficient and there was no duplication in work environments. We’ve increased our productivity and have greater control and flexibility across different territories than before. For our clients, this work model provides shorter production times and cost optimisation of projects without any loss of control.”
Clearly Defined Roles Cut Project Management Time by 14 Per Cent
The company’s software projects involve many individuals with different roles and responsibilities at various stages of the development cycle. To aid in the distribution of work, Visual Studio Team System includes a series of roles out-of-the-box, such as architect, engineer, developer, tester, and project head, with a set of tools specific to each position. Another part of the software, Team Foundation Server, monitors and integrates these roles. “With Visual Studio Team System we can create a single work environment, so our people work with each other more effectively. We’ve cut code management time by more than 14 per cent,” says Miranda.
Predictive Tool Cuts Code Needed for Queries by 90 Per Cent
With LINQ, developers at Avanade have eliminated a large quantity of code they used to write when handling information in XML or another data structure. This means that instead of using 100 lines of code for a search inside an information structure in XML, it’s now possible to get the same result with just ten lines of code.
Miranda says: “It saves time and reduces complexity for the people working on the code. This makes our developers faster, which has a direct effect on the cost of projects. It also makes the code easier to understand, and it increases programming consistency, because everyone is working with the same tool.”
Automation Reduces Time Spent Producing Documentation
Improvements in the new software make automating tasks easier. Avanade Spain has built the latest version of the ASLP on the basis of Visual Studio Team System, a highly customisable application. As part of the methodology, the team at Avanade uses domain-specific language to automate a large part of the document production necessary in developing applications. “Working with Visual Studio 2008 means we can automate crucial tasks such as statistical documentation. It’s reduced the amount of time our developers spend on this by more than 50 per cent,” says Miranda.
Intuitive Editing Tools Help Create Better User Interfaces for Clients
Among the improvements in Visual Studio 2008, one of the most important is the upgrade to the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0. “The version of the .NET Framework within Visual Studio 2005 was good, but not entirely satisfactory, because doing certain things could be very time consuming. With Visual Studio 2008, the more cumbersome processes have been eliminated, and processes are now more natural and integrated within the tool itself,” says Miranda.
He points out the two additions that have the biggest impact on developers at Avanade. The first is Windows Communications Foundation. “Communication Foundation helps us to create applications that are interoperable in every sense of the word. This increases the value of what we produce for our clients,” he says.
The second major addition Miranda highlights is the integration of Windows Presentation Foundation, a unified programming model, in which developers and designers work together on the development of Windows and Web applications.
Miranda says: “Windows Presentation Foundation changes the user experience, because it helps to create more intuitive interfaces. In future, all applications will be built with Presentation Foundation, and we’re even considering introducing a new job profile within the company—that of graphic designer. Before, we used third-party companies to work on the Web and visual aspects of application design, but now we’re bringing that work in-house, and realising more value from our projects.”
“Using Presentation Foundation in Visual Studio 2005 meant working without the help of a graphics editor, modifying XML files by hand. It was a time consuming process. Visual Studio 2008 includes a what-you-see-is-what-you-get tool for painting and designing visuals, which not only improves the work experience for our developers, but it means our clients get better results.”
More Powerful Tools, Awards Success
Using Visual Studio 2008 and Visual Studio Team System, Avanade can take on more complex solutions based on collaboration, mobility, workstation productivity, and integration. Miranda says: “The projects we carry out are nothing like those we were working on three years ago, which were mostly enterprise resource planners and intranets. Now, our projects are much more complex. Integration between applications—such as exporting data automatically from Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheet software to your SAP system—is much more important. New methods of interaction such as voice-controlled interfaces are challenging us to be more innovative in the ways we think about development. Tools such as Visual Studio 2008 make it much easier to test new ideas and turn them into reality.”
The company’s continuing success using Microsoft products was rewarded with the Microsoft Gold Certified Partner of the Year Award 2008. Miranda says: “We’re thrilled to win the award. It highlights all the improvements we’ve made to the business using Microsoft technologies.”
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For more information about Avanade Spain products and services, call +1 206 239-5600 or visit the Web site at: www.avanade.com/es/
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