Example on how to handle IT support communications

Microsoft's VSO support blog provides a nice example on how to handle IT support communications:



Notice how redundancy is accounted for: if for any reason the Microsoft web properties are down, the Visual Studio team will continue to update users through Twitter.

Updated information for fixing issue with max number of items in task board



When using a TFS 2013 task backlog with more than 500 items, the following message is displayed:

You have exceeded the number of items allowed on your task board. The number of items to be displayed on the task board is: 578. This exceeds the allowed maximum of: 500. This maximum limit is configurable.

To resolve this issue, you can perform one of the following tasks:

·        Reduce the number of items included in the current sprint.

·        Your project administrator must increase the maximum number of allowed items.

You follow the second link, and you are taken to the following page which has outdated information:





Refer to the updated information  for TFS 2013:


A workaround for issue "TF201072: A user or group could not be found"



Although a user is already part of a TFS group, he can't access TFS work items (source code is fine), and TFS Web client/Visual Studio display the following message:  

TF201072: A user or group could not be found. Verify that the users and groups used in your work item type defiition have been added to Team foundation server.




The cause is related to some snag in the TFS identity synch service, and it is usually related to a specific collection. There are many articles on the web which help determine the root cause, so here we are only focusing on a fast workaround.

Attaching and re-attaching the collection will force a refresh of the identity synch data, and will usually resolve the issue.

Tips on editing process templates

  • Use an XML editor with syntax highlight (such as Notepad++)
  • Process Editor (PE) is behind in editing modern features, so edit raw XML to access all features
    • PE was created by the TFS process team, and it does not leverage the same code as Process Template Manager when exporting XML, therefore the two generate different formats, both in attributes and node order.
    • PE does not handle bool data type, nor the new XML definitions for backlogs.
  • Use an XML diff tool (such as Microsoft's XMLDiff)





Before Agile, there were agile ideas–the Backlog part 1

Backlogs have long been used to organize work. I could go back as early as Benjamin Franklin writings on how he dealt with practicing a list of mental virtues in an iterative, incremental fashion.

However I would like to point out two more recent examples, the first one in this post, followed by another post on the second one.

Not many are aware of how Steven Spielberg operated when developing his first block buster, Duel. It was shot in a relentless pace, just sixteen days, at a total cost of $425,000 – after all it was originally a TV movie. Its quality though attracted enough audience that allowed it to be released in Europe and Latin America as a theatrical release, and two years later it also came to movie theaters in the United States as well. Brode’s description of Spielberg’s approach is fascinating as anyone who practices Agile today would recognize what he was doing (my inline comments between []s):

[Spielberg] became involved during the time period when Matheson [the original story author] was writing the script, though Spielberg did not consult with him during the writing process. Methodically he blocked out the entire film on IBM cards [the backlog], the first time he tried what would become his regular approach. Each card contained the gist of the scene, the angle he would take on it, and how many camera setups he needed. While filming in Lancaster, he assembled those cards on a huge bulletin board in his motel room [the task board]. Rather than opening the script to the day’s page, he would instead take down several cards. They constituted the day’s work [daily iterations – after all it was sixteen day project], and when each scene was finished, he would tear the card up and throw it away, knowing every night, by glancing at the bulletin board, how much was left to complete.

In addition to cards, he had his art director sketch the entire film on one long mural that arced around the motel room, an aerial view portraying every moment in the movie [the user story map], including chases. Never a great reader, Spielberg liked to avoid referring to his script and memorizing blocks of words, preferring to study this visual panorama, locking himself into it before filming any one day.

The films of Steven Spielberg, by Douglas Brode 

I brought this extract to show that using backlogs has always been a way of working in the minds not only of software developers under a delivery pressure, but also of the general public. Well, at least for smaller projects – the DOD distortion field that swept the 70’s leading to Waterfall stems from the need of extra planning big projects under extreme risk pressure.

Hopefully this example shows how people while thinking create new ideas, which are eventually formalized as a best practice (I will bring that up on the next post related to backlogs), and finally automated in a tool such as Team Foundation Server 2013.

Where did Spielberg have the idea of using IBM punch cards? Maybe by interacting with friends at the university Computer Science department? If you happen to have a chance, please ask Spielberg for me. Smile

Presentation on Accessing a TFS Git Repo Programmatically

I will be presenting on how to access a TFS Git repository programmatically on April 11th, from 11:30 to 1 PM.

If you are in Austin and would like to attend, please register at:  http://tfsaustinaprilmeeting2014.eventbrite.com


Now that TFS 2013 supports Git there is a need to replicate on top of this new storage infrastructure the same kind automation that has been well known to TFS users for the past 8 years, for instance, build scripts and other administrative operations so that you can transparently access the repos, the same you can do with TFS Source Control. This talk explores some of the existing options, plus how-tos with code samples, and gotchas.

We intend to record the presentation and make it available online afterwards, so even if you can’t attend in person, check this post a few weeks from now.

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.

libGit2Sharp “buddy build” leads to error when trying to access TFS


When trying to use the Microsoft.TeamFoundation.Build.Activities.Git library I got the error

The located assembly's manifest definition does not match the assembly reference. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80131040)


The detailed error message said it was looking for version of libGit2Sharp.dll. I noticed that through Nuget I had installed I uninstalled it and reinstalled the proper version using Nuget. However the error persisted. 

Given that this should work under TFS since it is used by the build system, I looked for, and found the version installed by TFS (at C:\Program Files\Microsoft Team Foundation Server 12.0\Tools).  By using ILSpy I discovered that although it has the same version ID (, it is in fact different as it has a newer dependency on file git2-msvstfs.dll.

Apparently Microsoft had a “buddy build” of libGit2Sharp.dll added to TFS 2013 with the same version number, instead of using the official download at https://github.com/libgit2/libgit2sharp. I later found out what the differences are, and will report that in another post.


When doing operations against TFS repos you should use the version of libGit2Sharp.dll shipped with TFS (installed under C:\Program Files\Microsoft Team Foundation Server 12.0\Tools), as Microsoft did private changes but did not change the version number.

Presentations now available on YouTube

Neudesic posted some of my presentations to YouTube:

ALM Series: Scrum and Agile Management with Visual Studio and

ALM Series: Scrum and Agile Management with Visual Studio

Find out how Visual Studio has become the tool of choice to manage your Scrum projects, and how it stands out of the way allowing you to do Agile in your own terms instead of forcing you to adapt your development process to a tool. We will take a tour on how you can enact Scrum best practices and cycles, allowing the team to always have a clear picture of Done should look like at the end of a sprint through using Team Foundation Server as a team communication hub.

ALM Series: Improving Small Team Productivity with Team Foundation Server and

ALM Series: Improving Small Team Productivity with Team Foundation Server

Team members in smaller teams have always had to wear multiple hats: talk to customer, develop, test, talk to customer, fix bugs, retest, talk to customer, deploy… did I forget to mention you also have to plan your releases?  No way can you do this without some automation. Visual Studio 2012 is the suite that will boost your productivity to the max by augmenting your skills with powerful tools that will help you trace your way out of a development cycle labyrinth.

ALM Series: Creating a Branch Strategy: What It Is, Why You Need One, and How You Get Started

Do you know for sure which code base snapshot in your source control system matches what is in production? What is the best strategy to manage source code for team members working in parallel in different features? In this talk we will take a look at creating branching strategies that answer these and other questions, and allow you to balance simplicity, isolation, and speed in your software development efforts.

Bring Your Testing Cycles Up to Speed (Patterns of Agile Testing with Visual Studio)

  • Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, the Agile development lifecycle is weakened by non-Agile testing procedures. Find out how you can speed software development by establishing patterns of Agile testing with Visual Studio. Learn how to:
  • Manage test environments more efficiently
  • Reduce risk and rework through better communication
  • Collaborate to define measurable and repeatable acceptance tests
  • Centralize and share test documentation
  • Conduct, record, and repeat manual tests
  • Automate user interface testing
  • Provide end-to-end traceability and visibility

TFS Austin User group meeting on September 27th

I will be presenting on the TFS Austin Users group this month, on the 27th about some learned lessons from one of my recent projects. You can register for it at http://tfsaustinseptembermeeting2013-es2.eventbrite.com/

The presentation is on “Migrating a Mid-sized Team to TFS”:

While working at a major game/hardware/casino management system provider, the ALM team migrated a team of about 60 people from a set of disparate ALM tools comprised of SVN/CCNET/Scrumworks/Serena Teamtrack/Word documents/Excel spreadsheets to using TFS for its source control, build, work item tracking, and requirements management. In this presentation we will go over the existing problems, and issues that were resolved with the change, gotchas we found along the way, and added benefits we got from this migration.

See you there.


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