Inside TFS

Agile Dev Planning with Urban Turtle

Mickey covers the basics of Urban Turtle, an Agile development planning tool for Team Foundation Server.

As you know, every once in a while I like to use the column to highlight a tool that I think Team Foundation Server (TFS) users will find helpful and should consider using. In this column, I want to highlight a great tool to help with Agile development planning, Urban Turtle.

As we've talked about in this column in the past, Agile development over the past couple of years has really started to come into its own. TFS has always been some part of the Agile movement, as it has always shipped with the MSF Agile Process Template, for use in creating team projects.

One of the more popular Agile methodologies that we have, again, talked about in previous versions of this column is Scrum. Scrum has developed a large following, and TFS has supported Scrum with various third-party process templates in the past. TFS 2010 even provides a Scrum template produced and supported by Microsoft.

One of the complaints that people have with TFS and Scrum, though, is that while there is a process template that supports Scrum, the general Scrum experience could be better. And that is where Urban Turtle steps in. Urban Turtle is an extension to Team Web Access (which we talked about in our previous column) that provides some nice tools for working with the Scrum process template in TFS. These tools allow you to more easily manage the product backlog, plan sprints and even manage sprint executions.

Installing Urban Turtle is easy, intuitive and very quick. Simply go to the Urban Turtle Web site, download the appropriate version for your environment, and run the install file. One important point: when you run the installation, it is considered a best practice to not change the default installation path. Once the installation is complete, two new tabs will be added to Team Web Access: Planning Board and Task Board.

The Task Board View allows team members to easily manage their work. The Task Board shows each story in the sprint, as well as a box (or "card") that represents the tasks for each story. The tasks for each story are divided into three different states: To Do, In Progress and Done. One nice feature of the Task Board is that a team member can change the status of a task simply by dragging a task from one state to another on the board. If a team member moves a work item from the To Do state to the In Progress state, the task is automatically assigned to the user. Once all the tasks for a story have been moved to the Done state, the status of the story can be changed from Active to Resolved.

The other main feature of the Urban Turtle tool is the Planning Board. The Planning Board shows User Stories and their associated Tasks. The Planning Board allows a team member to easily add tasks or other work items to a User Story by clicking the "plus" icon to the right of the user story. You can prioritize the user stories in the product backlog by dragging and dropping the user stories to change their order on the Planning Board. Any tasks associated with a user story automatically move with the user story, and the Planning Board automatically reorganizes the information.

Once you have finished prioritizing the backlog, a sprint can be planned by dragging and dropping the selected storied onto the appropriate Sprint. You can select a specific sprint to view the User Stories and Tasks associated with that sprint.

Another nice feature from the Planning Board are the dynamic statistics. Urban Turtle organizes iterations by release, with each release containing a collection of sprints. This allows Urban Turtle to provide live statistics on the iterations, including total number of work items, total remaining work, etc....

Finally, a feature that not everyone knows about is that Urban Turtle can be configured to work with any process template. Out of the box, Urban Turtle is configured to work with the three widely used templates: MSF Agile v5.0, Scrum for Team System v3.0 and Visual Studio Scrum v1.0. However, many TFS users customize their process templates to fit how their organization does development. Urban Turtle recognizes this, and provides a mapping feature, allowing you to map its features to the appropriate areas of your customized process template.

I think Urban Turtle is a really powerful tool that will help any Agile team. It's intuitive and easy-to-use planning tools integrate very well with TFS 2010. For more information about Urban Turtle, you can visit their Web site at http://www.urbanturtle.com.

About the Author

Mickey Gousset spends his days as a principal consultant for Infront Consulting Group. Gousset is lead author of "Professional Application Lifecycle Management with Visual Studio 2012" (Wrox, 2012) and frequents the speaker circuit singing the praises of ALM and DevOps. He also blogs at ALM Rocks!. Gousset is one of the original Team System/ALM MVPs and has held the award since 2005.

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