Inside VSTS

TFS Work Item Web Access

A key feature in SP1 of Team System Web Access, WIWA lets users enter and query items directly into Team System.

Last month, Microsoft released Service Pack 1 for the Team System Web Access (TSWA) 2008 Power Tool. While there are a host of improvements, there's one very helpful new feature: the Work Item Only View. This was formerly named Work Item Web Access (WIWA) and you still need this abbreviation to get to the feature.

What does this feature provide? It allows users to enter work items directly into Team System and to query those work items without needing a TFS Client Access License (CAL). This is a big deal in terms of cost savings and user involvement.

In this article, I'll show you how it works and how you can start getting users involved in the development process now.

Once you install SP1, the WIWA portion of TSWA will be available. To get to it, navigate to http://[server name]:[port]/wiwa (where the default port is 8090). This brings up the list of work items created by the user logging into the site (Figure 1).

(As an aside, the way the licensing reads for this is that anyone can create work items and query work items that they've created, but they're not permitted to view other individuals' work items. WIWA enforces this by only showing you the work items you've created. This is not configurable. In using this tool, you can be pretty sure that you aren't violating any licensing requirements!)

Now, back to the main topic. This interface is a simplified view of what's in the full TSWA. It's designed so that users can quickly and easily see the state of work items that they've entered and who the work item is assigned to. The most obvious use for this interface is the user creation of bugs and change requests. Typically, bugs are filed by sending an e-mail to the project manager or calling the help desk, and the help desk sends an e-mail to the project manager. The project manager then has to enter the bug and update the user who filed the bug manually (via e-mail, phone or some other method).

The ability to allow users direct access to Team System alleviates a great deal of overhead from the project manager. In addition, the users can now get constant updates simply by navigating to this page. They're more involved in the process and have a better relationship with the development team -- which can never be a bad thing!

WIWA provides an easy-to-use interface to enter new work items that mimics the Team Explorer environment. Figure 2 shows the work item editing page. This particular item, a Change Request, is part of the MSF for the CMMI/Process Improvement template. One advantage to this is that any item a user enters is in the Proposed state so it can be easily identified and triaged by the team.

One very nice feature of the Team Explorer is that the History tab allows for rich HTML (fonts, font size, bold/italics/underline, numbering, etc.), which is unavailable in Team Explorer in TFS 2008. However, entries made in WIWA are visible as written in Team Explorer.

There are some limits to the WIWA work item detail interface, the biggest one being the links tab. Users can only create links based on hyperlinks. They have no access to the TFS Version Control repository and so cannot create links to changesets or versioned items. However, users shouldn't need this functionality. This limitation doesn't exist on the normal TSWA interface.

If you're not already using TSWA, I would highly doing so. Not only does it ease the burden on project managers, but also gives users better insight and transparency into the development projects then they likely have now. There's one thing that no one can argue: Microsoft is working hard to integrate end users into the development process. And this, I think, makes all the difference when choosing a tool.

About the Author

Jeff Levinson is the Application Lifecycle Management practice lead for Northwest Cadence specializing in process and methodology. He is the co-author of "Pro Visual Studio Team System with Database Professionals" (Apress 2007), the author of "Building Client/Server Applications with VB.NET" (Apress 2003) and has written numerous articles. He is an MCAD, MCSD, MCDBA, MCT and is a Team System MVP. He has a Masters in Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and is a former Solutions Design and Integration Architect for The Boeing Company. You can reach him at Jeff.Levinson@nwcadence.com.

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