Visual Studio ALM vNext: Continuous feedback

In the next version of Visual Studio ALM, there is a big focus on gathering continuous feedback trough the complete lifecycle of a project by involving the Stakeholders in your project. In this article, I want to talk a little bit about the ‘Continuous Feedback’ thing and how Microsoft will support this in their new Visual Studio version.

Continuous feedback you say?

Let me ask you a question: How often have you built software that matched what your customer asked for, but after a demo or just before the release the customer tells you that this is not quite what they wanted? It’s hard to understand what customers really want. If you ask them what they were expecting, the most common answer is “I don’t know, definitely not this but something else”. Ok, but what exactly is the “something else”? No one is really able to explain it. To prevent situations like this, you can try to freeze the requirements in the early stage of a project. You can clarify this to your customer in a sense of “We need to know what we want to build before we start with the development”. No matter how hard you try this, you always have resistance from the customer and in the bad cases, you lose the customer from the beginning. This is definitely not something you want! So how can you prevent situations like this? Well, using an agile practice is the way to start. Let me give you an example of an agile software development approach where you see the flow starting with the requirements:

The emerge of a new application always starts with the requirements. If you don’t have some good, clear and approved requirements, your application/project will definitely fail. Continuous feedback  is also applicable in this part of the application lifecycle. In the next version of Visual Studio ALM you will have a new tool called ‘PowerPoint Storyboarding’

PowerPoint Storyboarding

This new feature will provide you a storyboarding plugin for PowerPoint. It will allow you to do some mocking using the tools you’re already familiar with. It’s really a nice feature because it will allow you to quickly create something you have in mind. It’s easy, and you don’t need to do a lot of magic to show something decent. It comes along with some basic template-slides like for a web application, a Windows Phone 7 and even a Windows application.  I also includes a bunch of standard shapes and you can also add your own shapes to the library. The cool thing is that you can link those storyboarding slides to a Product Backlog Item on TFS so they are available for everyone.

When you have good requirements, you can define your sprints, link the product backlog items to the sprint and start developing. As a developer you do not want to work completely on your own and be completely responsible for your own code, right? What I mean is that it’s really a good practice to use code reviewing. In the next version of Visual Studio ALM, you will have complete code review integration within Visual Studio.

Code Review

Visual Studio vNext includes integrated code review support. This lets team members provide feedback on new code, lifting the shared knowledge of the team. If desired, code reviews can be set as a quality gate in the development process. A developer can now ask a code review request to another developer. This developer will receive this request (using the new improved Team Explorer) and can view the request, linked to the piece of code that has to be reviewed. The developer can make some suggestions on the code, and add some comments to the response. There is a complete workflow behind this that I will explain in a later post. The nice thing is that this is all done within Visual Studio linked to Team Foundation Server.

Ok, at the end of a sprint, you should have a deliverable, which you can show in the Sprint Review meeting. Another nice feature for the Visual Studio ALM vNext version will be the ‘Feedback Manager’.

Feedback Manager

This is a tool based on the Microsoft Test Manager technology. You can see it as the ‘execution’ part of MTM. It uses the same technology and it allows you to let your stakeholders test your application like they will use it in ‘production’. The feedback manager tool keeps track of everything the -end user/stakeholder- is doing. It also lets the user add additional information about the things he/she encounters. This can for example be a screenshot. A cool thing is that a screenshot can automatically be edited using Microsoft Paint by double-clicking on it. What you can also do with this feedback tool is creating a bug work item in TFS. The ‘steps to reproduce’ field will automatically be completed with all steps the user followed. You can also reduce the steps (for example if a user has been clicking around for 30 minutes, you do not want to include all steps from this session).

Now you have anoverview about what Microsoft Visual Studio ALM Vnext will offer you regarding continuous feedback. In some next posts, I will take a little bit more in depth about each new feature. Thanks for reading!

Written by
Alexander Vanwynsberghe
Join the discussion


Alexander Vanwynsberghe

Belgium-based entrepreneur. Into technology, innovation and a bit of cycling and running too. Evangelist for everything related to smart-tech.