Still Running TFS 2010? It’s Aging Out of Support Next Month. Polaris Solutions Can Help You Upgrade Quickly

by Angela 4. June 2015 12:04

You heard me correctly, mainstream support for TFS 2010 ends on July 14th, less than 6 weeks from today! So if you’re thinking “it still WORKS, why should I upgrade?” Consider these points…

  • Any issues arising with your server will NOT be patched or serviced by Microsoft support, and it will be harder and harder to find experienced people to work on it (well, who WANT to work on it)
  • Your infrastructure team may be chomping at the bit to stop supporting the old operating systems and SQL Server versions that TFS is running on
  • You’re missing out on some amazing new capabilities that it would take me hours to cover and that I promise will revolutionize the way you develop and deliver software
  • You attract great new talent by offering robust and modern development environments, trust me on this
  • I can tell you from a LOT of personal experience, that the longer you wait to upgrade, the harder and more time consuming it is!

The good news is that you may qualify for up to $5,000 worth of free services to help you plan and prepare for your upgrade through the Microsoft Deployment Planning Services program (DTDPS)! Wondering what that is? Below is a quick FAQ that I created to explain the program:

Now what exactly IS DTDPS? Well first of all it’s a Microsoft offering, so expect MANY acronyms to follow. DTDPS stands for Developer Tools Deployment Planning Services. Specifically, the development tools that these services are meant to be used in conjunction with are the Microsoft Visual Studio ALM platform - Team Foundation Server, Visual Studio, and Microsoft Test Manager (TFS, VS, and MTM for good measure). 

So what does this really do for me? While most people are already very familiar with Visual Studio from a .NET development perspective, many people who own the other tools within the TFS platform are not taking full advantage of them. DTDPS is the solution to this problem, connecting customers with the right partners to make sure they are getting the full value of their ALM investment. Software that sits on the shelf is a huge waste of money.  And from Microsoft’s perspective is something you’re not likely to buy again, so it is of course in their interest to offer such a program.

What kinds of services are included in DTDPS? Currently there are 4 DTDPS offerings available: TFS deployment planning assessment, Visual Studio Quality Tools assessment, Visual Studio Agile Deployment Assessment, and Visual Studio DevOps Deployment Assessment. You’ll notice a theme here, the word “planning”. These engagements are not meant to be used to implement the tools. Instead, they are short, fixed-length (3 and 5 days) engagements for gathering data and analyzing your current environment and needs in order for us to help you build a plan for implementation and adoption of Visual Studio and TFS ALM tooling. It’s a great kickstart and will drastically accelerate your ALM initiatives.

But what if I don’t need one of those services, but need other assistance with TFS? Well, it depends. I know, I know, typical consulting answer. These programs can be expanded upon to assist customers with other ALM related concerns, so drop me a line at the email I provide below, and I’ll be happy to discuss it with you in more detail. 

Who delivers the engagement? DTDPS is a program delivered through certified and experienced ALM partners like Polaris Solutions to help customers with SA (Software Assurance) benefits to take full advantage of the tools they own.  We have delivered dozens of these engagements over the past few years and every customer we have worked with has been extremely happy with the valuable roadmaps that we delivered. You will benefit from a wealth of relevant experience and proven ALM practices that only comes from us having deployed and leveraged the tools in a large number of different environments and business verticals.

OK, I’m intrigued, but how expensive is it? It is FREE. Seriously, and absolutely.  This benefit is available to customers who purchase Microsoft products with SA, think of it as a rewards program. In fact, you may have DTDPS credits without knowing it!  Many of the customers I work with did not know they had DTDPS credits available until I turned them onto the program.

I want in! How do I sign up?  Start at the DTDPS site. Here you can peruse the various services available and see which ones are right for you and your organization.  Then check out the DTDPS QuickStart guide which walks you through the steps of accessing your benefits.  Then you just pick a partner to work with, like us, and you’re on your way to a better way of doing ALM!


If you are interested in learning more about DTDPS, or if you would like to find out more about getting a free quick assessment of the effort required to upgrade and the benefits that your team would enjoy, please contact me at Angela@PolarisSolutions.com. And if you know anyone still using an older version of TFS (anyone running TFS 2013 or earlier qualifies) help them out and point them to this blog!


Referencing and Copying Test Cases in MTM 2013, a Lesson in Patience

by Angela 22. August 2014 15:49

Recently, I’ve had some lengthy discussions about test case, suite, and plan copying in Microsoft Test Manager (MTM), and it something that a lot of people are struggling with. In some cases, people are not even aware that you can do all of these things, let alone the subtle differences around what they are doing behind the scenes. Either way, hope this sheds some light on another way that MTM helps you to manage your testing efforts. There are a handful of methods for reusing test cases across multiple test suites and plans.

1) Add existing test cases – also known as re-using a test case by referencing it. So, in MTM, test cases are by default REFERENCED when you add them to test plans/suites.  You do this through the Add button in the Plan tab of MTM.


The implication for using Add is that you need the EXACT SAME test case in multiple places, and if the test case changes it needs to change everywhere. So if I add a test case to 3 different test suites, any change to the test case is reflected in all 3 places automatically. Think of the test case instances that you see in the suites as pointers back to the original test case. Handy! Or annoying depending on your test versioning strategy. As an added bonus, with Add you can pull in test cases from any test plan in the team project collection by simply removing the @Project clause on the query!



2) Create test suites by referencing existing test cases performs a shallow copy of test suites from a different test plan within the current team project, allowing you to easily reference its test cases. There are 2 places where you will find this option, in the context menu of the Test Plan, as well as in the MTM menu bar of the Plan | Contents tab.



In MTM 2010, this option was called “Copy test suites from another plan” , which to most reasonable folks sounded like it copied everything. But it was not really a full copy of everything, it was actually a brand new test suite based on the original suite, and the suite contains REFERENCES back to the original test cases. As you can see, in MTM 2013, the menu option is now more explicit about what it is doing. The brand new suite has a new ID and the same name as the original test suite, it also includes all of the original test cases but is just referencing the test cases and their associated requirements. Changing the new test suite does not affect the original suite, but remember that changing the test cases in the new test suite would change the test cases in the original test suite. Also, note that this can only happen across different test plans in the same Team Project, so you cannot use this feature to duplicate test suites into the test plan you are currently in, or to duplicate test suites across Team Project boundaries. Maybe that is an edge case, but people have asked me if they could do it.

But what about the cases where you really do need to effectively BRANCH those test cases?  Say you have a new version of some functionality, but you still need to support the original functionality, and so you need to have two slightly different versions of the same test case. Well, you have yet another option – Copy. Technically you have a few more options yet.

3) Create copy and add to suite is a shallow clone operation on just a single test case. Accessible in the MTM client, you just right click on any test case, and use this tool to create a new copy of the test case, and save it into the test suite that you are currently in. All links, comments, steps, parameters (shared and otherwise), and properties are carried over - but new versions of all of these related items were not created. The new test case refers back to the same links, parameters, etc. of the original test case, and even links back to the original test case so you can see how it originated. Test run results associated to the test case are NOT copied over. Attachments are NOT copied in this case either. And again the scope is the current Team project, current test plan, and current test suite. I cannot cross Team project, test plan, or test suite boundaries with this command.


But we’re not done!

4) You might have noticed a Copy (CTRL + C) option in that context menu in the MTM desktop client as well. Don’t be fooled, this just creates another reference to the original test case wherever you paste.  So while it is similar to using the Add button, I can only Copy a test case using this command into another test suite within the same test plan. In other words, it does not work across Team Project or Test Plan boundaries, but it MUST be used across test suite boundaries. And in this case, Copy actually means reference, instead of you know, copy. I know, really? OK, one more option to cover in this blog post.

5) Create a copy of this work item (including links) is the Copy option available only on the web, and it is slightly different than the options available in the desktop version of MTM. This appears to just be the standard Copy Work Item context menu option that you can access anywhere on the web, and nothing specific to the test tools. Clear as mud, right?

Honestly, I’m also having a hard time understanding how it is SUPPOSED to work because it has some odd behavior in my opinion (on VSOnline anyway). It allows you to specify a “Project” in the creation dialog, which I assume means TEAM PROJECT, like it does when you are creating copies of any other work item type from the web. The new test case work item is created in the specified project, with the same references as the original work item, but also adds it to the existing test suite in the current project. I assumed it would only create the new test case in the team project specified. Apparently not. So it does the same type of copy that Create copy and add to suite does, but allows you to do it across team project boundaries. image


Frustrated yet? I know I am and I’ve been using these tools for years. It’s a lot to keep straight, and even I sometimes forget which options bring over which links and artifacts so I have to refer back to the handy tables available on MSDN.  Definitely talk to your team and decide which options to use and when.

Oh, yeah, and cloning is also an option now, but that is another larger discussion so stay tuned for another blog post on that one.


A few more little nuggets of goodness in TFS 2013.2

by Angela 22. May 2014 13:59

Are you still hedging on installing update 2 for TFS 2013? OK, c’mon now, we’ve installed it for a number of clients and are running it ourselves.  It’s stable, it’s OK, just install it.  Not convinced?  Well on top of the great features I mentioned in my initial post about TFS 2013.2 RC, here are some additional features that might just push you over the edge to install the RTM version. None of the are mind-blowing, but honestly, they made a big impact on me personally.  Any less click I have to do to finish a daily task equates to a lot less annoyance in my life.  So here we go…

Team Days Off

So hopefully you’re not looking at this wondering “what the heck is THAT for?”. Because capacity planning is a must for any team, but entering time off could be a pain when you were looking at large teams with upcoming holidays. But if you look closely you might notice a new button at the bottom of the capacity planning tab called “Team Days Off”.


Loved this for Memorial Day! Small change, but big impact for people managing teams in TFS.


Sure maybe it’s only happening once per iteration, but what if you have weekly sprints? Even a small team of say 7 people equates to setting up days off 7 times a week as opposed to once. That’s like 30 clicks they just saved me, for just this one team! I have many teams on many projects. MATH.

Shared Parameters

OK, so this is a pretty big one. Something I hear a LOT is that parameter management can be really daunting for large teams where a lot of the same parameters get used across multiple test cases that are not leveraging common shared steps. How on earth do you keep track of them, update them consistently, and coordinate across teams to prevent duplication? Well, now you don’t have to! So in the client tools you’ll notice when working with parameters, that there is a new link to manage shared parameters on the web. Why only on the web? Because agile, and this is what you have NOW, which is better than 3 weeks ago which was NO shared parameters anywhere. My hope* is that it gets into the client in a future sprint, but right now it’s only on the web.


So once you click the client link you’ll be redirected to the TFS web tools, where you will find it in the Test tab. Don’t see the Test tab? Well you need to be licensed for Visual Studio Premium or Test professional AND you have to be in the right Access Level.


From here you can manage parameter sets to be reused across multiple test cases. 


Any changes you make to these parameters effect every test case using them. HUZZAH!  It might not be entirely intuitive how to use them though. So in each test case work item, you now have the opportunity to not only use shared parameters, but to create shared parameters from existing ones. Simply open a test case work item and scroll down the the bottome where the parameter section is.  Here you’ll see both options:


Lets create a shared parameter so we can reuse the set of usernames:



It works much the same way that reverse engineering shared steps did. Pretty easy! And now I have another set of shared parameters I can leverage across my test cases:


And here is the icing on top, there’s traceability, yes, traceability.  So you can even find out what test cases are using the shared parameters that you create, and vice versa.  Just switch to the properties view of the shared parameter in question.


Did you hear that? I think it is a chorus of cherubs singing :)  If you don’t do a lot of QA like me, this may not seem earth-shattering, but trust me. This is going to save me a lot of time, and a lot of clicks. Hey, I have carpal tunnel, saving clicks is a big deal to me, and not just because I’m lazy.

So there you go, 2 more very compelling features to hopefully convince you to upgrade your TFS instance to TFS 2013.2. Stay tuned for more TFS goodness…


*seriously, I don’t know for sure and even if I did I wouldn’t tell you.


I’m Talking TFS ALM at the Chicago SharePoint Developer Group May 15th

by Angela 13. May 2014 07:51

So often people hear that I focus on TFS for ALM and think I can’t possibly help them because they’re not doing traditional .NET WinForms or WebForms development. Not true! TFS ALM is cross platform and technology agnostic.  Well, within reason, if you’re using a tool with embedded and proprietary SCM you might not be able to use TFS VC, but the rest of TFS’ capabilities certainly still apply.

This month I’m talking to the local SharePoint developer meetup group to talk about TFS for SharePoint ALM, how TFS 2013 can help them reach a higher level of agility, and where it can streamline their processes with build, test, and deployment automation.  During this meeting I’ll be doing a lap around TFS, pointing out what’s new and cool for SharePoint, and doing some demos of my favorite tools. If you’re a SharePoint developer, come join us this Thursday and learn more! I’m nice, and usually pretty entertaining :)

Learn more and sign up here: http://www.meetup.com/Chicago-SharePoint-Developers-User-Group/


The Sometimes Funky Forecasting Math on the TFS Backlog Tool

by Angela 4. April 2014 11:05

Ever been setting up a project in TFS 2012+, started adding user stories (or PBIs, or Requirements) with estimates to the Product Backlog, turned on the forecasting tool, and started questioning your basic math skills? I have… The first time this happened in a live demo with a customer was really fun. I took a guess at what I thought was going on behind the scenes and luckily I guessed right :) Recently I got confirmation on what’s happening when another fellow TFS user asked the same question in the forums.

So, what on earth am I talking about? Check out the backlog below:


See it yet? If not, check out sprint 2. And yes, I know, it’s really odd that they use lines to separate sprints/iteration but the TITLE of the sprint is *above* the line. So Sprint 2 in this particular instance includes user stories D, E, and F. But notice that add up to 12 points and the forecasting tool is set to 10. WHAT?! But, but, that doesn’t add up! You’re right, but the theory is that you don’t have enough story points assigned to the first sprint (note that user stories A, B, and C only add up to 8 points), and so the ASSUMPTION is that you’d pull in the first user story in sprint 2 at some point and start working on it during the end of Sprint 1, even though it’s not slated to be FINISHED in Sprint 1. Otherwise your team sits and twiddles their thumbs waiting for the next Sprint to start.  Well, they DON’T really, but you get the point. So you get no credit for the item you started working on early in the Velocity chart, unless you actually drag it into Sprint 1, but now you’ve over-allocated yourself in Sprint 1 and will likely end up finishing that item in Sprint 2 anyway. That’s a whole different set of issues you’re bringing on yourself.

Note the same thing happens in Sprints 3 and 4, below. Yes, marvel at my AMAZING Paint skills ::snorts:: There are 20 story points between them, so basic math suggests that you can finish all of the items in 2 sprints, even if one of the user stories ends up straddling the line a bit. Whether or not you accept this is as a good practice is well, irrelevant for now since you can’t actually do anything about it. The tool works how it works. It doesn’t make the tool useless by any means, but it is something to definitely be aware of.


Hope that makes sense. Cleared up an annoying little mystery for me. Something else to consider is that the forecasting tool is not meant to be the only way to plan your work, maybe instead you’d rather use slack in your sprints to work on bug fixes, or refactoring, rather than pulling in work for the next sprint. I know, OMG agile purists heads are exploding. They’ll get over it. It largely depends on your process as to how you handle those situations in reality. So use the forecast tool as a GUIDE, not the hard and fast rule for planning work.


ALM | Application Lifecycle Management | Agile | Requirements Management | SDLC | Team Foundation Server | TFS 2013 | Visual Studio 2013 | Visual Studio | VS 2013 | Work Item Tracking


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 :)


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)




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:



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.





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.


March 27th - Chicago VS ALM User Group Talks About VS 2012 Updates Released So Far

by Angela 11. March 2013 12:21


In case you missed it, the Visual Studio ALM product team has been BUSY.  While they release cool, new goodies to TFS Service on a weekly basis, releases to on-premise TFS happen about once a quarter these days. In the last 5 months, they have made available 2 major updates to Visual Studio and TFS 2012; specifically VS 2012 Update 1 and recently, CTP 4 of Update 2.  Just a few of my favorite new features that we plan to demo on March 27th include a web client for Microsoft Test Manager, customizable Kanban columns, support for Git, and work item tagging.  And there is a LOT more that we probably won’t even have time to talk about in depth.  Can’t make it to the user group meeting? Be sure to download and install Update 1, and Update 2 CTP 4 and see the new features for yourself! It is even a “go-live”, which you can read more about on Brian’s blog.


Join Us Wednesday, March 27, 2013 from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM

Description:  As you probably know, the Microsoft Team Foundation Server team has moved to a more regular cadence of pushing out updates to Team Foundation Server (TFS) and Visual Studio. In the last few months we've seen 2 major updates released to on-premise TFS 2012 and Visual Studio 2012 (Update 1, and Update 2 CTP 4), and many smaller and more frequent releases to TFS Service. There are far too many to cover in just one meeting so on March 27th we will be talking about the updates specific to the web-based Agile Planning tools, MTM and the TFS-Git integration.

Agenda:6:30PM - Dinner and networking, 7:00PM - Presentation and demos

Speaker Bios:  Edward Thomson is a Software Development Engineer at Microsoft, where he works on cross-platform version control tools for Team Foundation Server. Before joining Microsoft, Edward worked on numerous source code control tools for Microsoft and Unix platforms.  Angela Dugan is the ALM Practice manager for Polaris Solutions and spends most of her time migrating customers to TFS and streamlining their software delivery processes. She has over 14 years of experience in the software industry including 5.5 years as a Microsoft ALM Tools evangelist and over a year as Polaris Solution’s practice manager focusing specifically on Visual Studio and TFS.

Bonus speaker: Martin Hinshelwood is going to be in town and is going to tag-team with Ed and I to cover even MORE great Update 1 & 2 features! Martin is a Senior ALM Consultant at Northwest Cadence, is a Microsoft Visual Studio ALM MVP and a certified Professional Scrum trainer.


Location: Microsoft-Chicago 200 E Randolph, 2nd Floor, Chicago – you can park in the Aon center for a discounted rate after 6pm, but your best bet may be SpotHero if you choose to drive. I’ve seen $8 parking ½ block away using their service.

As always, please be sure to register as Aon Center security will NOT allow individuals to access the building without being pre-registered. http://chicagoalmug.org/


Making TFS 2012 Work Item Types Read-Only Based on User Roles

by Angela 14. January 2013 09:35

Warning: this is most certainly NOT the most elegant solution to the problem. It’s a known shortcoming, or maybe it’s a feature, that you cannot limit access to an entire work item based on a user’s role in TFS.  I can limit transitions, and access to individual fields, but for very large and complex work item types, this is cumbersome and fragile. In a nutshell, I am trying to limit access to specific work item types, so that they are only editable by specific groups of people, and I had posted it to the forums to no avail.  So here is my ugly solution which for now, is sufficient. 

I started with Gregg’s post from 2009 that provided a workaround to my issue, but the error message thrown has changed in such a way as to make it even less intuitive as to what is going on. Below is the implementation of his suggestion and the resulting user experience:



The other issue with the above solution, is that it only prevents a user from CREATING that work item type, I need the user to also not be able to edit the item.


So I decided to try something a little different. I created a custom field, that is never displayed on any form, specifically for the use of locking down work items since we have several scenarios where we have to enforce read-only access to a work item type for certain users. I called it “UserAccessDenied”, since that is at least indicative of the issue when displayed to a user.


Like I said, the field is never displayed to a user, so it should never be populated.  We make that field required for any user that should NOT be editing the work item as below, which prevents them from saving it since it will always be empty:



Still not an awesome solution but at least now the provided error is a BIT more helpful, and the client was happy which is all that matters right? Smile 




You can provide a better experience to the user if you have the ability to create custom controls or write listeners that capture work item events to handle this. Where I am, they want something easy to maintain that does not require any kind of code to be written or maintained. So it is what it is.  If you, like me, would find the ability to set access permissions at the work item level, vote on my suggestion here.


And as always, if YOU have come up with a better way to do this, I’d love to hear about it!


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


Chicago Visual Studio ALM User Group - Holiday Party on Dec 12th 2012

by Angela 1. December 2012 12:48

Are you a regular attendee? Someone who hasn’t been to a meeting in a while? Someone who has never been and has been looking for the perfect topic? Well, c’mon down! Next week is our annual holiday meeting. In the past few months there has been a release of Visual Studio as well as an update, and not just any update but a MASSIVE update with lots of good new functionality. So go download it today!

We'll have fun giveaways for everyone who attends, but some particularly awesome giveaways for people who are willing to get up and demo their favorite VS 2012 (so anything related to VS, MTM or TFS) feature! It doesn't have to be a long or complicated demo, but it does need to highlight something about the latest release or the update that you find particularly useful or cool. Shoot me an email at Angela.Dugan@PolarisSolutions.com with the feature you want to highlight so I can ensure we don't end up with duplicates. Everyone that does a demo gets an additional gift, but we will also vote for one or two big winners to receive something extra cool! More details to come...  We will have many speakers that night, hopefully including you!

So far we have the following presenters and topics:


When: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Location: Microsoft-Downers Grove 3025 Highland Pkwy, Ste 300, Downers Grove

Agenda:6:00PM Food, drinks and prizes. 7:00PM VS 2012 Demo contest. 8:00PM Grand prizes awarded

Register here: http://chicagoalmug.org/

Application Quality Enablement with TFS 2012 and MTM 2012 at SDC Tomorrow

by Angela 14. November 2012 05:00

Not sure if you’ve been to any of the sessions held by the Software Development Community in Chicago but they are always good. This month I get the opportunity to speak there myself and wanted to let folks know.  If you cannot make it to my session tomorrow, I will be presenting the information again at the Visual Studio launch event in Chicago (“The New Era of Work”) later this month as well.  Be sure to sign up for notifications of future SDC meetups, it’s a great group! 

In the meantime, here is the info for my session tomorrow:

When: Thursday, November 15, 2012 -- 5:45

Where:  i.c.s -- 415 N Dearborn, Chicago, IL (map) -- 3rd Floor, Sign will be posted at the door.

Session: Application Quality Enablement with TFS 2012 and MTM 2012 - With the rise of modern apps and the modern data center, we require a modern lifecycle approach that supports the need to increase velocity, deliver continuous value and manage change while enabling quality. See a unique and full lifecycle perspective on quality enablement with rich demos infused along the way to illustrate our the software testing/QA story. Demos will include:
• Product Backlog
• Storyboarding
• Exploratory testing
• Client Feedback

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