It won’t be officially part of any product for some time, but Microsoft has begun the process of directly integrating its application lifecycle offering, Visual Studio Team System (VSTS), with Microsoft Project Server. The actual release is being trickled out as source code and binaries to the community.
To recap, VSTS is Microsoft’s communication engine and repository for shared assets in the software development lifecycle, with Team Foundation Server (TFS) being the server on which VSTS assets are stored. While VSTS is not an application life cycle management suite, it provides an integration framework for Microsoft and third party tools to share artifacts from design through development and testing.
The link to Project Server is a natural fit, as it provides a way for work items that pop up on the VSTS side to populate tasks or trigger projects on the Project Server side. Until now, project managers using Microsoft Project could import work items from VSTS. The new feature automates the link, so that Project Server can be populated without the need for manual intervention on the project manager’s part.
For now, this is not an official Microsoft product feature. It’s the result of third party and customer integration work in the community that was subsequently cleaned up by Microsoft and now release in the form of source code for those that want to add their own extensions, or as binaries for those who simply want to install the executable.
But, said Prashant Sridharan, product manager for Visual Studio, Microsoft is dead serious on putting this functionality in the follow-up to Visual Studio 2008. This, and other Microsoft server integrations, is planned for Rosario, the code name for what will probably become Visual Studio 2010. The idea is that software development lifecycle events have import, not only to project management, but change management of the IT infrastructure as well.
The link between Team System and Project Server is logical, but also easier said than done, and the issues reflect the difficulty that vendors have had in integrating the application life cycle. The main issue here is that you are dealing with different audiences: developers and project management. Each has their own vocabularies and works at different paces.
In this case, it is that that development organizations (which are the prime audience for VSTS), think in terms of serial tasks. Project managers, or more importantly, program managers, deal with much more. They balance all IT efforts whether they are infrastructure upgrades, training programs, or software development upgrades (or new development) and then manage those efforts as complex hierarchies that include, not only tasks, but milestones and deliverables. So it’s a difference of scope, vocabularies, and mindsets.
So it’s not surprising that Microsoft is taking its time wading in here. But it is following in the footsteps of rivals that have Project Portfolio Management, which are tackling the same problem.