Latest Gartner report confirms TFS as one of the best ALM systems available

[for my comments on the previous version of this report, and links to others, see here]

Not sure if you have been able to read the latest Gartner report on ALM, so here goes the link: http://www.gartner.com/technology/reprints.do?id=1-1N99LF3&ct=131120&st=sb

This current version is very precise in positioning both the strengths and perceived weaknesses of the Microsoft ALM platform, especially the “gap of relevance” in the mobile world.

However to me, although precise, this view is just perception. With the integration of Git into the toolset, in addition to the existing Eclipse integration with Team Explorer Everywhere, it now allows for developers across multiple platforms to use TFS (that includes developers of mobile apps for Apple products, for instance). Obviously the main benefit comes from the integrated reporting that it allows, and this should be made very clear to upper management when deciding whether to adopt yet another SCM/ALM tool.

As for the other perceived weaknesses:

  • “The vendor lacks a stand-alone requirements management approach; instead, it takes an enhance-and-integrate Office approach.”
    • This statement is a common misunderstanding between requirements elicitation and requirements management (I am using the SEI CMMI definitions): Microsoft has supported requirements management (even if bare-bones) since TFS 2005. However requirements elicitation is not properly there yet (although some could argue that it is a basic version). In my consulting experience the best way to handle this gap is to use something such as Blueprint with the business users. Microsoft has had out-of-the box requirements management that has been good enough for Agile teams since the inception of TFS, and has constantly improved on it. I would say that this category either has to be refined into the subcategories I mentioned, or that this statement should be fixed in the next report to acknowledge the actual state of affairs.
  • “Microsoft lacks the agile depth of pure-play vendors around project portfolio analysis, and management or support of Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).”
    • It seems that the evaluation was not done using the latest version (TFS 2013) as it has has Agile portfolio features, and more in the backlog for v.next.
    • As for the second part of the statement: if you examine the list of SAFe tooling partners up to October of 2013, they only mention three of the report leaders as supporting.  I read this page at the time that the report was released on November 19th, and it was still the same three: Rally, VersionOne, and AgileCraft. It is interesting that Gartner chose to single out Microsoft for not supporting it out-of-the-box, instead of also mentioning  that when writing about the other Leaders at the time (IBM, Atlassian and CollabNet).
    • The fact that most of the Leaders did not yet support SAFe, plus the lack of any Big-5 consulting companies in the Partner directory (it competes with their own offerings) tells me that Gartner elevated a niche-factor to a major-must have feature with yet no market justification. However this niche-factor is getting a lot of buzz so I would expect it to become more important for the market in general by the time of the next report iteration.
    • The list of SAFe partners is growing, with the addition of Hansoft, Sellegi and Usecase S.A., and the notable addition of a leader, IBM (to be more precise IBM DevOps – the Agile practice has not mentioned it much other than DAD).

So it is quite clear that after just a few years in the market that TFS not only now sets the pace as the best ALM system available, but it is also the one to catch, having done a maneuver similar to the ice speed skating ones that Viktor Ahn, a Russian/Korean gold medalist did in his impeccable career – a careful tour-de-force that has propelled it to the leadership in the market, and that builds on its own momentum.

I want to thank Richard Hundhausen and Brian Blackman for candid feedback on this post.

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