Choosing a TFS 2010 Process Template for Scrum

I recently had to select a TFS 2010 process template to support a new development project using Scrum. Besides the obvious need for the template to work well for a Scrum project, I also wanted to keep things simple and flexible for my client. It was critical to choose a fully supported template with a future upgrade path for TFS v.Next.

Some of the considerations included:

  • How well does the template support Scrum?
  • How well rounded are the various TFS artifacts (work items, reports and SharePoint)?
  • Is there any extra tooling, documentation or other benefits?
  • How well supported is the template today and (best guess) into the future?

One of the great debates around TFS best practices is whether to create a separate team project for every development project, or whether to use a single team project to contain multiple dev projects. There are valid arguments for each option, which have largely been discussed elsewhere. To reduce the administrative overhead of managing many team projects and to provide consistency of the process template configuration, I decided that multiple dev projects in one team project was the right choice. If there are ever any custom modifications to the process template, it will only need to be done in one place.

That led to a few more questions:

  • Does any process template tooling assume that the team project contains only one dev project?
  • Do the reports included with the process template support multiple dev projects, or can they be easily modified? This applies to both SSRS and Excel reports.
  • Can the work item queries be easily modified to support multiple dev projects?

All of these requirements narrowed the field to three:

  1. MSF for Agile Software Development V5.0
  2. Visual Studio Scrum 1.0
  3. Scrum for Team System V3.0

I quickly ruled out Visual Studio Scrum due to concerns about its lack of maturity and support. My guess is that this template will morph into an out-of-the-box template as part of TFS v.Next. Today, however, it’s very basic. It doesn’t have any Excel reports and very few SSRS reports, no document templates and only very basic SharePoint support. It has a handful of seven basic work item types. On the project forum, I found a lot of questions and issues raised with no response from Microsoft, and there haven’t been any posts from Microsoft for months. I got the feeling that this template wasn’t going to receive any more attention until it becomes part of the TFS product (if it ever does).

That narrowed the field to two: MSF vs SfTS. SfTS is in its third release, now under the EMC brand, so it has been refined through real-world experience over many years. Support was a concern right away, because the SfTS forums are pretty dead and there is no official support program. The extra tooling is nice (TFS Workbench), the work item templates make sense and there’s a good selection of SSRS reports. There’s even a Windows service to do time rollups and so on. There are good feature lists and comparisons elsewhere, so I won’t spend time on that here.

In the past, SfTS hasn’t always had a clear upgrade path. There was little documentation about upgrading an SfTS project from TFS 2005 to 2008, for example. Today there’s a migration tool from V2 to V3, which is great. However, it’s anyone’s guess if and when the EMC employees who maintain the template will carry it on to TFS v.Next. That’s a definite concern.

One big sticking point with SfTS is that it has a built-in assumption that one team project holds a single dev project. If you use the project setup wizard in TFS Workbench, it will wipe out and replace the areas and iterations, etc. defined in the project. It also relies on a very specific iteration hierarchy which builds off of a release, not a product. There didn’t appear to be any good way to use this template with multiple dev projects in a single team project, and that’s what finally got it crossed it off the list.

The choice was MSF for Agile Software Development V5.0, thanks to its clear support from Microsoft, robust process guidance documentation and document templates, extensive reporting, good SharePoint support, reasonable selection of work item types and ability to be tweaked to support multiple dev projects. Is it the best Scrum template? Maybe not, but I think it will work fine for our needs. We’re not purists about Scrum or any agile process, so we’ll take the good parts and tune it to work best with the client’s culture and the particular skills on the team.