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Microsoft Readies Visual Studio Process Editor

Power Tools for Visual Studio Team System will include a graphical process editor for Microsoft Solution Framework (MSF) templates.

Microsoft's latest version of Power Tools for Visual Studio Team System ships this month and will include a graphical process editor for Microsoft Solution Framework (MSF) templates, according to company officials.

The previous Power Tools release was named PowerToys.

When creating a new team project in Team Foundation Server (TFS), the developer chooses a process template, which provides a set of work item types, queries, reports, source control, narrative process guidance and a SharePoint team portal. Pre-defined MSF process templates can be customized to fit each organization's processes and goals.

That's where the TFS Power Tools Process Editor comes in. It's meant to provide a convenient method of viewing and customizing these MSF process templates, according to Microsoft documents.

Microsoft provides two solution framework templates in Visual Studio Team System -- MSF for Agile Development and MSF for CMMI for Process Improvement. (CMMI is short for Capability Model Maturity Integration.)

As its name implies, the MSF for Agile Development template is designed to be used in TFS projects that have "short lifecycles and delivery-oriented teams that can work without lots of intermediate documentation," according to Microsoft documents.

"[The Agile template] is for smaller teams working on smaller projects," Steve Elston, group product manager for MSF, said in an interview. "Agility addresses the ability to handle changes in the system during construction," he added.

The MSF CMMI template, on the other hand, is intended for use by midsized to large development teams with more policies and procedures and extensive compliance requirements. The CMMI approach to improving processes within development projects originated from the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

The CMMI template provides built-in features to help teams manage change in a formal, regimented manner, according to Elston.

"Choose MSF CMMI for Process Improvement over MSF for Agile Software Development if your organization is undertaking a broad quality assurance and process improvement initiative, or your team needs the assistance of explicit process guidance, rather than relying on tacit knowledge and experience," company documents reiterate.

Meanwhile, the templates themselves integrate with Visual Studio projects to help teams develop, manage and deliver higher-quality code. That provides what Elston calls "trustworthy transparency" -- the ability to track progress on quality, auditability and risk management, right along with other development metrics within Visual Studio.

For instance, when a developer checks in a piece of code, Visual Studio may automatically run a unit test. The results of that operation could be flagged for quality tracking purposes using a template.

"The data that you're using to manage the health status [of a project] is based on the actual activities [going on in the development process] ... everything is being tracked in the same back-end," Elston said.

TFS Process Editor is installed as a menu item under Visual Studio's Team menu. It requires Visual Studio 2005 Standard Edition or higher and the .NET Framework 2.0. Users also need Team Explorer -- the Team Foundation client -- and access to a Team Foundation server.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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