Thursday, November 19, 2015

VSTS Extensions - new Era of extensibility

Today Microsoft launched the new Extensibility model and equally importantly, a new Marketplace for extensions and offers surrounding VS Team Services, yes the renamed it .   Extensibility and customization has always been things that I feel very passionate for, so Im proud to have two extensions I’ve been working on in early adopter’s programs - live in the new marketplace.

Back to Extensibility first Extensibility and customizations has traditionally been one of Microsoft stronghold. Then moving to providing a hosted service, Microsoft set out to build it extensible, but things doesn’t always play out as you expect, and during the last 2-3 years the extensibility platform was frozen unpublished. But today Microsoft is back on track again, not only providing an cross platform extensibility platform for 3:rd parties, but making it a key aspect of future development, as they utilize the extensions platform themselves for building and releasing new features, and even repacking parts of the current product as extensions.

Marketplace - A new echo system
Although Microsoft has had a strong community and a large gallery of extensions. But the one thing that’s been hurting the Microsoft Echo system is the absence of a simple one stop shop for acquiring the add-ons needed for your development team/project regardless of if its free or paid. The new marketplace attempts to fill that gap bringing everything together and enabling a commercial backend to enable easy the purchase and help developers monetize on their effort. Hopefully the new Marketplace will bring a new momentum and dynamic both users and developers of extensions and add-ons.

Marketplace  - Live in Preview
During Connect Microsoft launched the new Marketplace, although still in Preview – it already had a lot of extensions and partners present. While anyone can sign up for a free Extension developer account, build, upload and share extensions to other accounts, publishing and making the extension publicly available on the market place is still limited to trusted partners and the early adopters and who have been building extensions and dogfooding the extensibility story in private preview.

Building extensions in private preview
As an MVP and ALM partner, I’ve been constantly nagging about the missing extensibility story during the last couple of years. So then the offer came to join the Private preview and help dogfood and shape the extensibility story, it didn’t take me long to jump onboard.
As the new extensibility model is all based on web technologies, one challenge was to catch up and get up to speed on everything that’s happened on the web for the last 10 years. If that wasn’t challenging enough – building for a platform and SDK that’s constantly growing and moving, with new releases every 3 weeks is also a challenge. To summarize its been a challenging road but also a lot of fun.

Enhanced Export
The Enhanced Export extension is actually my second project I started. Its released as a “personal” project and I got lots of ideas on how to making it even better. The basic is to render data – like test plans or work item queries using templates that the team/project can manage themselves.

Test case Explorer The Test case Explorer is released as a Microsoft Labs extension, but developed by Mathias Olausson and me, with much cooperation and engagement from our Microsoft product owner Ravi.
Test Case Explorer lets users view, pivot and filter the “test case” repository without manually creating different quires.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Visual Studio Online getting Enterprise Ready

During the last 18 months I’ve noticed an increasing interest for Microsoft’s Hosted ALM solution Visual Studio Online (VSO) amongst our clients. Although the interest is strong also amongst larger enterprises, almost every time the outcome or conclusions of looking deeper into it has been the same – “Very interesting, but not for us at this time.” 
Well, with the announcements made at Build this week, it’s about to change.

Current blockers for the Enterprise
For the enterprise customers, there is mainly three things or blockers that quickly kills the interest in moving to move to the cloud:
  • Lack of process customization
  • Lack of reporting
  • Cost of moving to VSO 
In this post will look into those points and how it’s about to change with the announcements made at build.

Lack of process customization
The lack of work item customizations is a blocking factor for most of our enterprise customers. Although there is several ways to do lightweight customizations like using Kanban states and tags, most customer either have invested in customizations, and either depends on their customizations or fear the work and tradeoffs needed to move to VSO and loosing there customizations and needing to rethink their workflows..
VSO Process Customizations in Private Preview
With the announcements that VSO going to fully support work item customizations, this blocker will simply be removed. Not only will customers be able to customize the work items and processes, customers will be able to take their existing process templates and customizations and move/import them to VSO, making it possible/easier to move existing projects to VSO. It will probably take a couple of months to a year before we got everything done and sealed, but for those in a hurry, there is a private preview right now.
You can find the announcement at

Lack of reporting
While we don’t see the same existing investment and use of custom reporting (which in itself is a bit strange), the fact that VSO doesn’t have a reporting solution is a major issue (or rather fear) for larger enterprises. The fact that Microsoft has included “light” weight reporting capabilities in VSO doesn’t seems to be enough for many of the enterprise customers, who is faraid of moving to a solution without custom reporting  capabilities.

PowerBI adapter for VSO
At Build, Microsoft announced the PowerBI adapter for VSO. As a first step the adapter only enables source control data, but Microsoft plans to continue to add support for other ALM data aggressively. Starting with Work Item tracking data as soon as next couple of sprints, and build and test data is next inline.
So in a couple of months we will hopefully have the Reporting blocker not only resolved, but also turned to an enabler.  PowerBI is a very promising direction with a lot of capabilities that can enable and promote analytics and increase insights and understanding far better than the current reporting capabilities can.
Read more about the PowerBI adapter at

Cost of moving to VSO
Once the announced features are fully in production, and the corresponding blockers been removed, there is still one obstacle left for enterprises wanting to move to VSO – the COST of moving. Currently there is no good and easy way to move your TFS instance to VSO. While Microsoft done some work to support moving a project to VSO, it’s still a far from good solution to move a single project to the cloud. Moving projects or rather data for 100’ths of project will take both time and cost money.
With the current solutions for moving to VSO its’ hard to get short term return of investment of a move. Even comparing an upgrade to tfs 2015 with moving to VSO, will in most cases favor an upgrade in the short term. 

VSO – Long term feasible?Perhaps the most interesting question is, is VSO long term feasible for the enterprise. The answer to that is as you might suspect dependent on the enterprise, and a lot of question needs to be asked if you’re going to find a reasonable answer. But at least we will soon have a viable alternative to hosting TFS on-prem.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Renewed again !!!

Since I got the MVP reward, January the 1:st has got an extra twist, it is the day then I’m hoping on getting a Renewal email in the inbox. This year I'd ensured that it shouldn’t get stuck in the spam filter as last year.
This year I was bizzy packing for a 2 weeks’ vacation to Thailand, replacing the boring +2 C not really winter weather with sun and 30 C. Then the evening came I checked the email, I couldn’t just go without knowing, and sure it was there, the congratulation email.
For those wondering what you get as an MVP,
But for me, the best thing is being a part of the amazing ALM group, counting both the MVPs and MSFT product groups…
its mostly the title and the glory. But you also get an MVP Award kit, So after 2 weeks, actually perfectly timed to the first day back in Sweden, I got my award kit. I should also add that you get an MSDN Ultimate & Office 365 subscription and a couple of other benefits.