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Chicago ALM User Group – April is All About Effective TFS Management

by Angela 16. April 2014 09:07

So as an ALM consultant, I work with a LOT of customers to “clean up” their ALM implementation, and spend a lot of time talking about proper care and feeding of their TFS environment.

Installing TFS is relatively easy, but configuring it to support your organization structure over the long haul can be challenging. How many team project collections do you need? When do you create new team projects? Which process templates should you use? How much should you customize? These are important considerations, and making the wrong choice can cause major headaches down the road. At this installment of the Chicago ALM user group, I’ll be reviewing best practices, discussing the ins and outs of how to structure your TFS projects, and get your most burning questions about TFS configuration answered!

I hope to see you in Downers Grove next week. Please be sure to register soon so I can order the right amount of food and so that the security folks will let you in!

When: Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM
Where:  Microsoft-Downers Grove 3025 Highland Pkwy, Ste 300, Downers Grove

 

And don’t forget, VS Live is coming to Chicago in early May, and friends of the Chicago ALM user group get a $500 discount code! More details here: http://t.co/LdzaiCR6O9.

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Come Join Polaris at CCC 2014 on April 26th

by Angela 10. March 2014 14:53

So if you haven’t been to Chicago Code Camp yet, you should! I know, I know, there are SO MANY conferences in the Chicago area, how do you choose? It’s true, there are a lot of good ones but here are some benefits to CCC:

a) Because it is community- driven, there is some amazing sessions, including a few sessions on TFS and agile. Here are the ones I am hoping to attend (to be fair I am GIVING two of those talks):

 

Other great sessions cover a wide variety of topics like Windows 8, TypeScript, PowerShell, Unity 3D and Azure, JavaScript and Elixir.

b) it’s FREE for a full day of techie goodness, lunch included. Yeah, you read that correctly, FREE.

c) it’s super easy to get to. It’s right off of 294 and the parking is free.

d) it’s on a Saturday so you don’t even have to miss work! OK, so maybe you don’t see this as an advantage, but I do.

e) Polaris Solutions is a Platinum sponsor and will have a booth. So stop by, say hi, and pick up one of our sweet little booklets on Agile practices.

 

So register now before it sells out, and check out the full list of sessions here: http://www.chicagocodecamp.com/Public/Sessions

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An Upgrade is a Beautiful Thing, Especially When It’s TFS 2013 Update 2

by Angela 6. March 2014 18:09

This is one of my favorite dialogs :)

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Not RTM of course, I am not THAT cool. Hopefully that is coming soon because not everyone has the freedom to install pre-release software and this one is CHOCK FULL o’ goodness. I was hoping to upgrade my company’s server last weekend, but thanks to Comcast’s unreliability I ended up barely getting it downloaded, and then upgraded my personal on-premise TFS instance. And I’m loving all the new stuff! Here are just a few of my favorite things ::cue Julie Andrews!::

1) Tags.  Tags have always been a nifty way to add useful metadata to work items so they could be easily identified, sorted, and filtered on the backlog. But everyone, EVERYONE, wanted to be able to query on tags.  Also, they wanted to work with tags outside of the WebUI.  Now you can! (requires VS 2013.w2 as well)

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2) Charts. I *love* the work item charts as you may have figured out from my previous post on them.  Such a simple and easy to learn way to visually slice and dice your shared work item query results. My customers love them too! Another frequent request is “why can’t we pin these to our team dashboard?”  Well, guess what, that is an option too! So now that Team home page just got EVEN MORE useful :)  Keep in mind you can only pin charts based on the types of queries you can make a team favorite, so SHARED queries.  Also notice that now to pin something to the team homepage, you have a new option:

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3) Test Plan printing. I know right?! Before your only option was Test Scribe and while it was handy, and free, it was not really customizable. Now from a quick click from the Test Hub on the web, you can request a “hard copy” of Test Plan artifacts for sharing with others via email, or as HTML. Sweet huh? And notice all the links, so an active TFS user could jump right into MTM to see or edit the items he is reading about.

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There is a lot more than this, but it’s already a pretty long blog post.  So check out Brian’s blog post and the MSDN download page for the CTP to find out more about the new features available in TFS 2013 Update 2.

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Quick Tip on Debugging TFS30139 Issues

by Angela 12. December 2013 17:27

I’ve had a few people I know run into this recently, and there does not seem to be a lot of guidance out there about process template customization, in terms of troubleshooting or tips and tricks. While running through process template updates to move clients from TFS 2005/2008/2010 to TFS 2013 I would occasionally encounter one of the annoyances of working with XML by hand:

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Oh THAT is helpful.  And if you’ve ever seen the contents of a process template you know this could be one of about a million different problems in hundreds of files.

Now if you do a lot of template customizations, well just stop it, right now, please. The more you customize the more you need to maintain, the more you potentially have to upgrade by hand when you move to a new version of TFS.  There are times when heavy customization is necessary, but I often find people customize without understanding what the OOB template does in the first place. Unless you are checking your templates into source control, being very methodical about isolating changes and testing, and commenting your changes just like you do with your application code, you’re going to run into problems during upgrading. But chances are you’ve already gone down the path and here you are…

Enter TFS consultants. I prefer to do most of my process template editing directly against the XML using Notepad when I can. I know, it’s a bit old school, but there are a lot of us out there so I figured why not share? Inevitably, you misspell something, miss a closing bracket, enter an errant blank space where it does not belong, the common XML “bugs” that can be really difficult to track down.  And as you know, Notepad does not have a debugger.  So like me, I’m sure at some point you’ve tried to upload an updated process template using the TFS Process Template manager and seen the dreaded “TFS30139: The process template is not configured properly.” ::SIGH:: Now what? Well, if you followed my previous advice and were methodically checking in distinct changes, you know what you last changed. Kind of like CI for process templates :)

Enter the power tools. The TFS Power Tools contains a great process template editor that you can use in place of a lot of the command line tools for importing and exporting work item type definitions. You’ll need to install it on a machine running Visual Studio Professional or better, FYI.

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It gives you some great visualization tools, allowing you to edit fields, configure the forms, visualize and edit workflows, states, and transitions, and an easy way to open and dig through all the nitty gritty details of everything else that a process template entails too.  As an added bonus, it will give you MUCH better error diagnosis information if something is wrong. So for the previous error, I attempted to open the process template. But this time I got a much more friendly message, pointing me at the issue:

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Because I knew that the last thing I changed before my last successful upload of the template was the ProcessTemplate.xml file. I knew exactly where to look and lo and behold, I’d left off a closing bracket at the exact location specified by Visual Studio. So I made the quick fix, successfully imported the updated template to the collection, and checked in the updated template file to SCM. Much better!

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There are lots of potential tools and editors out there for process template editing, and everyone develops their own style. I often find myself leveraging several different tools in conjunction during a process template upgrade, it can be a lot of trial and error.  They all have advantages and disadvantages, I’ve tripped over a few myself (like this little quirk with the Team project Manager extension if you’re trying to compare 2008 and 2013 templates). I should blog about some of those adventures too :)

Hopefully this gave you some new options you may not have been aware of before.

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Trying Something new with the ALM User Group in December

by Angela 3. December 2013 13:50

So it’s time again for the annual Christmas Edition of the ALM user group. Normally we do the normal “dinner and a movie” approach, maybe having a special guest speaker or some kind of presentation contest. This month I wanted to do something different.  In December, we’ll be doing an Open Spaces concept. So Open Spaces is sort of an “unconference” thing, where you enter into it with no formal agenda and let the attendees decide what is important and/or interesting to talk about. So think of a topic you’d be willing to lead, or a topic you would like someone else to lead. A few I’d be interested in talking about are transforming organizations to Agile, upgrading legacy systems to TFS 2013, and agile testing.  We will write them on a board, pick some locations for people to gather, and then you vote with your feet, bouncing around if need be.

As an added bonus, if you’ve been attending the ALM user group for a while, you know that December is “Angela cleans out her SWAG closet” month.  So I’ll have lots of fun giveaways including pens, stickers, mouse pads and LOTS of books. I’ll even have special prizes for people who lead an Open Spaces discussion during the meeting (think XBox/Kinect games, Arc mouse, T-Shirts).

So I hope to see you in Downers Grove next week.  I always enjoy our December meetings, and not just because of the cookies :)

Be sure to register soon so I can order the right amount of food!

 

 

Join Us Wednesday, December 11, 2013 from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM
Location:  Microsoft-Downers Grove 3025 Highland Pkwy, Ste 300, Downers Grove

Speaker Bio: You, me, anyone who is interested in speaking!

Agenda:6:30pm dinner 7:00pm Open Spaces Kickoff

RSVP Now to Attend

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These are a few of my favorite things about TFs 2013: Part 2

by Angela 12. November 2013 07:53

So hopefully you already caught part 1 where I extolled the virtues of Work Item Reporting. This time, I have moved into new territory!  I am in the middle of a big, slightly nasty, TFS upgrade and TPC consolidation project.  First thing is first. Attaching a legacy Team Project (TP) to TFS 2013 “upgrades it” but only in the sense that it works on TFS 2013. So you get everything you had before, but not necessarily ALL of the new stuff in 2013.  You probably have very little of the new features in terms of the “agile planning tools”. There were changes made to the underlying TP Process Templates to support new features like, the “Feature” feature :)

I apparently had been taking the TFS Configure Features Wizard (CFW) for granted. “The what?” you say…  Yeah, the thing that gets launched when you upgrade to TFS 2013 and you try to open something like the Product Backlog while connected to a legacy (pre-2012) TP. So if you’ve seen this message, the link at the bottom launches the CFW:

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Often if you have an older, customized template (like modified CMMI 4.2), you can run into issues with the wizard.  You may be familiar with errors like this “[Error] TF400654: Unable to configure Planning Tools. The following element contains an error: RequirementBacklog” or “[Error] TF400654: Unable to configure Planning Tools. The following element contains an error: TypeFields/TypeField[type='Order']“. Makes sense, there are some HUGE deltas between older templates and those in 2013.

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So the CFW is super easy to use if you can upgrade with the OOB templates, especially if you’re just upgrading one version behind. And how often does THAT happen in the real world? Right. In our case we have TPs coming from TFS 2005, TFS 2008, AND TFS 2010 and all the templates are customized versions of CMMI. Oy. I decided to begin by upgrading the 2010 TPs since they were the most straight-forward and had the least amount of differences as compared to CMMI 2013. So, that is the main focus of THIS post.  I will share experiences IRT other template versions later.  So if you start with MSDN you’ll see a tangle of different articles when it comes to upgrading to new templates. A few important points about process templates:

  1. A) In case you did not know, you can’t just swap templates out once you have created a Team Project and started using it, you HAVE to upgrade the underlying template of a team project itself to make changes ::opens giant can of worms:: OR if it’s a major change, like going from CMMI to Agile, just trust me on this -- migrate to a new Team Project.
  2. B) Template upgrades can be scripted but at the end of the day it is very manual, and fairly time consuming because of all of the testing required.  XML can be tricky for even the saltiest of us developers.  In the old days it was ALL manual all the time and all command line, but over the years a host of helpful add-ons have become available like the process template editor in the TFS Power Tools, and the TFS Team Project manager tool.
  3. C) Changes to a base process template (so at the TFS Collection level) do not automatically filter down to TPs created with that template, wouldn’t that be awesome and terrible at the same time?!  You must manually apply any template changes to all TPs that used that template, if you want them to remain consistent.  I bet now you really regret spinning up new TPs for every single one-off project your IT group dreamed up huh?

 

But now there is another way, the Configure Features Wizard ::duh duh DUUHHHH:: I will admit, I did not thoroughly RTFM the first time through and missed out on the full power of this little tool myself. To be fair, the last time I had a massive mutli-version TFS consolidation this tool didn’t even exist.  Of course now that I know what to search for, I turned up this AMAZING post of Edwald’s on how the wizard works, as well as this MSDN article that details how it is working its beautiful magic under the covers.  To sum up why it is so awesome, it allows you to specify your template changes once, and then easily rinse and repeat with a click of a button. No scripting or command line necessary. Unless you like that sort of thing, or have a bajillion TPs, then have at it, but use this handy script to iterate through all of your projects.

So how does it work? I still contend there is some black magic involved, but more likely it was a lot of late nights by some wicked smart TFS dudes. Essentially, you need to create a new copy of the legacy template that was used to create the team projects that you wish to upgrade to 2013, and then retrofit some new shinies from both 2012 and 2013 into it. I first downloaded CMMI v5.0 (which they had customized and re-uploaded without renaming – ACK!). Next I had to do things like add in a handful of work item types (Code Review and Feedback for 2012, Features for 2013), update my WIT categories, as well as add the Process Configuration file specific to 2013.  For all other work items I was able to simply replace the 5.0 WIT definitions with the 2013 versions, and then retrofit the client’s customizations back in. I used the heck out of the Team Project Manager Tool to compare them and see exactly what was customized.  Be careful here and read both the 2012 changes AND the 2013 changes that need to be incorporated, so you don’t duplicate effort.  For instance, the 2012 changes have you add 2 configuration files, but then both of those files are replaced by the single Process Configuration file for 2013. When I was done, I had a new version of the process template (with a new name!) that I could use with the wizard to convert the old TFS 2010/CMMI 5.0 TPs to 2013. It also contained all of the customizations that were done on the template before the TPs were created.  Last, I uploaded that bad boy to the TFS Server, navigated to my legacy TPs one-by-one, and launched the Configure Features Wizard. I ignored the recommendation of CMMI 2013, and picked my updated CMMI 5.0 template:

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When the wizard runs, the super-simplified explanation is that it performs a DIFF on the team project and the modified process template, and applies the changes to the TP so it now matches the template. I KNOW!! So update the template once, run as many times as you need.

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Now, if after the team projects were created off of that old template, you had some template cowboys who went in customized the crap out of team projects in an inconsistent manner, or did not also make that change to the underlying base template as well, you may end up needing to upgrade those team projects by hand and/or resolve any issues encountered during the wizard to upgrade them to 2013 completely. No easy button there. And maybe start being more careful about who you let customize process templates and team projects going forward! ;)

Now you have a simple way to upgrade all of the team projects created off of that old, custom template up to 2013.  At least for 2010.  Next we tackle all of the 2008 TPs.  And my understanding is that if you have 2005 TPs, just play some Taps and migrate what you need to a fresh, new 2013 TP.

Tags:

Application Lifecycle Management | ALM | Power Tools | SDLC | Team Foundation Server | TFS | TFS 2013 | TFS 2012 | TFS Administration | TFS Power Tools | TFS Upgrade | Visual Studio 2013 | Work Item Tracking

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Visual Studio 2013 Launch Event Coming to Chicago

by Angela 4. November 2013 15:18

So in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, Microsoft released a new version of its Visual Studio ALM Tools including Team Foundation Server, Microsoft Test Manager, and Visual Studio. I know! Feels like 2012 just launched doesn’t it? With their new release cadence, if you blink you could miss a new version, or at least a few updates. It’s pretty amazing actually.

While there is an official BIG launch party happening on November 13th in NYC, you can also logon for the virtual launch that day if you can’t get away to the Big Apple on such short notice.  Although right now you don’t appear to be able to actually register for the virtual launch – DOH!  For now you can at least add it to your calendar, hopefully they will fix that soon.

I also just heard that there are also some smaller in-person launch events around the U.S, possibly hitting a city near you.  Sadly I will miss the Chicago launch event on November 20th, I’ll be at the MVP summit in Bellevue Washington. Not a bad trade-off though ;)  But if you’re in town, check out the Chicago event details and register quick before it fills up! And check back with the events site often because more cities will be opening up soon.

Agenda

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Location

Drury Lane Convention Center

100 Drury Ln
Oakbrook Terrace Illinois 60181
United States

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Some events are not listed on the events site yet, so here are some other cities coming on-line and a link to get registered:

12/3

Boston, MA

12/3

Nashville, TN

12/3

Bellevue, WA

12/4

Washington, DC

12/4

Philadelphia, PA

12/4

Miami, FL

12/5

Phoenix, AZ

12/10

Atlanta, GA

12/10

Denver, CO

12/11

Concord, CA

12/11

Harrisburg, PA

12/12

Sandy, UT

1/15

Los Angeles, CA

1/21

Mountain View, CA

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Say Hello to Chicago’s Newest ALM MVP

by Angela 3. October 2013 20:35

I’m totally stoked to be the latest Chicagoan to be named an ALM MVP. There are currently only 114 ALM MVPs worldwide (that I see on the site anyway), and I am proud to be counted amongst these awesome folks. Sadly, the site is not quite updated so you won’t see yours truly listed just yet.

Wait, “what the heck is an ALM MVP you say?” I know, that is a lot of acronyms there.  In case you’re not hip to Microsoft lingo, that’s an Application Lifecycle Management Most Valued Professional.  This essentially means that in the areas of ALM (TFS, Visual Studio, Microsoft Test Manager, SDLC, etc.), I’ve made significant enough contributions to the community at large to get some serious props. And it’s been a fun ride, and I certainly don’t plan to slow down :)

This is not to say I know EVERYTHING there is to know on the topic of ALM, oh how I wish there were enough hours in the day.  But on any given day you’re likely to find me Installing/upgrading/customizing TFS, scouring MSDN forums, leading a class through the ropes of agile development, or perhaps giving a talk at a local user group on adopting a new ALM strategy in the real world.  I’m definitely passionate about what I do.

Anyway, that’s it for now! Just a little update on the latest excitement in my professional life.  Hope to catch you at a conference or user group near you soon! And don’t forget to stop by the Chicago ALM User Group sometime.  We will be posting details on out October meeting soon!

 

And because I’m always striving to do thing my mom can brag about, here is a picture of me being all giddy about my award :)

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Tags:

ALM | Application Lifecycle Management | VS 2013 | VS 2012 | VS 2010 | Visual Studio 2013 | Visual Studio 2012 | Visual Studio | TFS Upgrade | TFS 2013 | TFS 2012 | TFS Administration | TFS 2010 | TFS 2008 | TFS | SDLC | Process Methodology | MSDN

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Receiving Random 403 Forbidden Errors on Your TFS SharePoint site? I Was.

by Angela 24. September 2013 16:57

So let’s start by explaining what was happening. I had just unraveled a mess of TFS/SharePoint/Reporting security that rivaled improperly-put-away-Christmas-lights levels of tangled.  All kinds of duplication, broken inheritance because of inexperienced admins adding individuals (instead of the AD groups I had setup) at every level of the SharePoint hierarchy, you name it!  So one day I get a head-scratcher of an issue from a business user who is customizing a TFS SharePoint portal for a project.

They were trying to edit the queries behind a couple of custom TFS web parts and were getting “403 Forbidden” errors at seemingly random times.  It would work on Monday but be broken on Tuesday and work again Wednesday.

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I was not getting that error, but of course I am god of everything as the TFS admin, so there is little I cannot do.  But I also noticed not many other folks were experiencing the issue, well, to be precise not one other person was receiving the error.  In the same AD groups, in different AD groups, nada.  I verified all of the groups this person belonged to, checked and rechecked his AD group membership, made sure SharePoint still had all the correct security inheritance in place. Nothing was out of place. And every once in a while the user would be able to complete that same action again without the error. Seemingly, whenever I went in and performed the action he was being denied. What the WHAT?!? Now I was *really* intrigued. 

Needless to say, we did fix the issue, but not without some serious internet scouring. I was about to post to MSDN forums when i stumbled upon the issue.  This obscure Microsoft Support post fixed our problem.  So I should note for background purposes that this TFS instance began as a 2008 installation running against a super old version of WSS.  It has been upgraded twice, by me, and we are now happily running on TFS 2012.3 with WSS 3.0, and hopefully soon to be TFS 2013 and the latest release of SharePoint Server. The server had SURELY gone through the security updates described in the Support post.  But since no one used the TFS SharePoint sites until I came along and fixed all of the security, no one had encountered this super old issue until very recently. Luckily I was on-site when it did, because while frustrating, it was also fun to troubleshoot.  I am weird that way :)

Tags:

Application Lifecycle Management | ALM | TFS 2012 | TFS 2010 | TFS 2008 | TFS 2013 | Team Foundation Server | TFS | TFS Administration | TFS Upgrade

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My Experiences Upgrading to TFS 2013 During “Upgrade Weekend”

by Angela 14. September 2013 13:56

So this weekend is officially TFS 2013 Upgrade Weekend.  What is that you ask? TFS evangelist extraordinaire Brian Keller blogged about it here, but in short it is a weekend where Microsoft is encouraging people to get on the TFS 2013 RC bits right away, and to incentivize us, product team people are on-line today to help us should we run into any issues. Sweet huh? :)

The TFS upgrade to 2013 was super fast and straightforward, I was literally done in under an hour including upgrading my build service. Unfortunately for me, I got up super early (had to get fresh flowers and donuts at the Oak Park farmers market!!) and kicked off my upgrade around 9:30am.  So by the time the upgrade support Lync meeting came on-line at 11:00am I was done with the install and had already started smoke testing. Not a bad problem to have right?

Well, at least I thought I was done. I did run into a few minor issues along the way, a few of my own doing and one bump related to my wireless being grumpy (OF ALL DAYS TO DO THAT!). But the only issue that was possibly related to the upgrade was corruption of my VS 2012 install bits.  When I smoke tested the upgrade, everything looked good until I started kicking off builds.  Some of my builds were no longer working ::sad trombone::  First, I had an issue with builds that ran automated UI tests:

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I’d certainly seen this issue before, and it was always because the VS bits necessary to run the build were not installed on the build server.  But in my case I KNEW they were there, I had put them there myself some time ago! So I went to the server and out of curiosity I launched VS, and good thing I did.

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::sad trombone #2::

I figured there must have been some kind of corruption after installing TFS 2013, or perhaps from upgrading the build service (they are on the same box), so I reinstalled VS 2012. No biggie…certainly fixed THAT issue.  However when I ran the build again, I encountered another error, this time around the data tools:

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This error was even nice enough to link me directly to the place where I could download what I needed for a fix (i.e. reinstalling SSDT tools). So, after re-installing the data tools, I rebooted the server for good measure and the builds ran perfectly, everything looked good.  Lastly I installed VS 2013 RC as well, we will certainly need it as our folks will soon be chomping at the bit to use all of the new tools.  All I need to do now is configure a few projects to take advantage of the new Agile Portfolio Management features

So not a bad morning for a TFS upgrade, and if you haven’t upgraded yours, now you know how fast and easy it is :)  If you;re still nervous about going it alone, you don’t have to! Microsoft offers a program called Deployment Planning Services that many customers qualify for.  You may be eligible for free services (free consulting funding) from people like me that can help you get up and running on TFS, regardless of what version you want to upgrade to or what you are on today!

 

Lastly, MAD, MAD props to Microsoft and the TFS product team for offering free support today. Even though it was so smooth that I barely needed them. They seriously deserve a special sparkle pony award for their hard work, and for giving up a weekend to make sure we had everything we needed to succeed!

Tags:

Application Lifecycle Management | ALM | Build Automation | DTDPS | MSDN | SDLC | Team Foundation Server | TFS 2012 | TFS Upgrade | Visual Studio | Visual Studio 2012 | VS 2013 | VS 2012 | TFS 2013

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