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.