VSTS Team Explorer about ....

What better day to blog then a rainy one, Visual Studio Team Systems Team Explorer is the topic today.


What is VSTS Team Explorer about?


In my mind I think of it as “The Communicator”. Team Explorer is the central point of Visual Studio Team System projects it contains the artifacts that are shared between project teams. Team Explorer gives you a view of what is stored in the Data Warehouse (Team Foundation Server - TFS) in a sorted, organized tree view. Access to information is controlled by roles and set role permissions. Team Explorer can be configured to display all Projects you are a member of or specific ones, it’s up to you. You are given a My Favourites where you can upload documents or move existing documents to for easy quick access.  Project Portal is accessed through Team Explorer. Team members can use the project portal to save/retrieve documents, view reports, exchange information by posting messages, and use other SharePoint collaborative features like calendars and lists. Alerts are emails sent from TFS advising the subscriber that an event has happened. An example of alerts is the status of a work item change, a check-in occurs, a build is completed, or when a build status changes etc… Alerts can be subscribed to through the Project Portal.


Below is a view of Team Explorer (VSTS Edition for Testers & MSF Agile process).



What are the VSTS Team Explorer artifacts?

1.    Project Process

    • A Process is a collection of defined processes, activities that yield a result, product, or service; usually a continuous operation. A series of actions or operations designed to achieve an end. 
    • VSTS comes with two process templates that you can select from they are MSF for Agile Software Development and MSF for CMMI Process Improvement.
    • Both process templates can be customized to meet your business needs.
    • The project process you select shapes how your project is set up in VSTS. It will affect other default artifacts that come with VSTS.

2.    Project Guidance

    • The Project Guidance is a document accessible from Team Explorer that defines and explains the project process.
    • Within the Project Guidance the processes, the roles and the artifacts used in the process are documented along with how they interact. 
    • It is a definition and mapping of the whole process, the roles, the processes and the default artifacts.
    • If the project process has been customized the Process Guidance will need to be updated to reflect any changes.

3.    Work Items:

    • Each project process comes with pre-defined defaulted work items.
    • Work items are items that define work to be done in the project.
    • Pre-defined defaulted work items can be customized, or new work items can be added. Note that customizations can affect the project process, queries, and/or reports.
    • Work items can be assigned to project teams and specific people in a team.
    • Examples of work items: tasks, bugs, scenario’s, risk
    • Each project process creates default work items that relate to the process an example is a Task work item to create the Test Approach. There are many pre-defined Task work items that are automatically created for work that needs to be done at the team project level. 
    • Work items have states, which can be used to monitor the progress of the project at any given time in real time.
    • Work items can be used to create to do lists for project teams, and/or team members.
    • Work items can be associated to each other and other artifacts for example a scenario (requirement) can be associated to it’s related test (unit, web, manual are a few). Another example is a bug which can be associated to a test, a scenario, a build, even a task. The capabilities are endless.
    • Work items are powerful communication tools to knowing what’s happening in a project, what’s left to be done, where problems exist, what’s left to be done, are all requirements developed and tested.  

4.    Queries:

    • Process templates come with pre-defined default queries.
    • You can create your own queries that you set up either for yourself or all team members to access.
    • Query example would be My Task to Do List which would query for Task work items that are assigned to you and with a state equal to open. A Task work item is defined as a piece of work that has to be completed, an example; Create the Test Approach, the task work items defines what has to be done, who is responsible and the status.

5.    Documents:

    • Process templates come with pre-defined default documents that are sorted in Team Explorer by project team.
    • There is a place holder for Development, Requirements, Security, Test (QA), Project Management, Templates, and the Process Guidance, of which some have pre-defined document templates.
    • Any document created outside of VSTS can be uploaded to Team Explorer; an example would be specific Test Plans.
    • Your own company document templates can be uploaded into Team Explorer.
    • A Test Approach template is a pre-defined template document that is available for the Test Team.

6.    Reports:

    • Process templates come with pre-defined default reports that have been designed to allow reporting on the project.
    • The pre-defined reports depend on the Edition of VSTS you have and the project process selected.
    • Reports can be customized or created from scratch.
    • Creating your own reports does require knowledge and understanding of Analysis Services which is the Data Warehouse and Reporting Services.

Below is an example of pre-defined default reports that come with VSTS Edition for Testers and the process template MSF Agile.


7.       Team Builds:

·         Process Template creates a folder where project builds are created, run and viewed.

·         By default the All Build Types is added which when opened displays all created builds, showing each build by name, status, quality and comments.

8.       Source Control:

·         Process Template provides access to the Project Source Control files.

Quote of the day: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Till next time … Testa