Home > Articles > Programming > Windows Programming

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

One Work Item Database

Visual Studio Team System (VSTS) takes the idea of a transparent product backlog even further (see Figure 1.6). Team System uses a common product backlog to track all planned, active, and completed work for the team and a history of the majority of actions taken and decisions made regarding that work. It calls these units "work items" and lets the user view and edit them in a database view inside Visual Studio, in Microsoft Excel, and in Microsoft Project, all the while synchronizing them to a common database.

Figure 1.6

Figure 1.6 VSTS enacts and instruments the process, tying source code, testing, work items, and metrics together. Work items include all the work that needs to be tracked on a project, such as scenarios, quality of service requirements, development tasks, test tasks, bugs, and risks. These can be viewed and edited in the Team Explorer, Visual Studio, Microsoft Excel, or Microsoft Project.

One database behind the common, familiar tools defragments the information. Instead of cutting and pasting among randomly distributed artifacts, project managers, business analysts, developers, and testers all see the same work, whether planned in advance or scheduled on the fly, and whether from well-understood requirements or discovered while fixing a bug (see Figure 1.7). And unlike separate project tracking tools and techniques, much of the data collection in VSTS is automatic.

Figure 1.7

Figure 1.7 This is an example of the work items as they appear either in the Team Explorer of VSTS or in Visual Studio. Note that tasks, requirements, and bugs can all be viewed in one place.

Because VSTS uses a common database to track work items, it exposes them not just in Team Explorer but also in Microsoft Excel (see Figures 1.8 and 1.9). The use of Excel and Project is convenient but not necessary. All the functionality is available through the Team Explorer, which is the client for Team Foundation. If you’re using any Visual Studio Team System client edition or Visual Studio Professional, then the Team Explorer appears as a set of windows inside the development environment.

Figure 1.8

Figure 1.8 With VSTS, the same data can be viewed and edited in Microsoft Excel. The work items, regardless of type, are stored in the same Team Foundation database.

Figure 1.9

Figure 1.9 Microsoft Project lets you plan and manage some or all of the work items with full round tripping to the Team Foundation database.

The extensibility of Team System makes it possible for Microsoft partners to add functionality. For example, Personify Design Teamlook18 provides team members a view of their Team Projects on multiple Team Foundation Servers from within Microsoft Office Outlook. Team Foundation Server extensibility enables Teamlook to track work items with full accountability in the familiar communications tool, Outlook (see Figure 1.10).

Figure 1.10

Figure 1.10 With Teamlook from Personify Design, you can also use Outlook as a client for the Team Foundation server.

Instrument Daily Activities

The transparent backlog relies on accurate data to be useful. Often, collecting the data becomes a major activity in itself that relies on willing compliance of large numbers of participants. This disciplined attention to the bookkeeping is rarely sustained in practice, especially during periods of intense activity.

The irony is that the vast majority of the data that a team needs is directly correlated to other actions that are already managed by software. Developers check in code, builds parse that code, testers write and run tests, and all their activities are tracked somewhere—in Project, Excel, the bug database, or timesheets. What if you could gather all that data automatically, correlate it, and use it to measure the process?

Team System takes that approach. It instruments the daily activities of the team members to collect process data with no overhead. For example, every time a developer checks updated code into version control, work items are updated to reflect the tasks and scenarios updated by this code. The relationships are captured in a "changeset," and when the next build runs, it identifies the change sets included and updates work items again with the build number. When tests execute, they use the same build number. Then test results, code changes, and work items are all correlated automatically by Team System (see Figure 1.11).

Figure 1.11

Figure 1.11 The metrics warehouse collects the data from all the actions on the project to provide reports that correlate the different sources and dimensions of data.

In addition to keeping the backlog current and visible, this automatic data collection populates a data warehouse with metrics that reveal trends and comparisons of quality from many dimensions on a daily basis. Just like a data warehouse that provides business intelligence on functions such as a sales or production process, this one provides intelligence on the software development process.

Simple Observations

With this data warehouse, basic questions become easy to answer: Is the project coming in on time, or how far off is it? How much has the plan changed? Who’s over or under and needs to have work rebalanced? What rates should we use to estimate remaining work? How effective are our tests? Most project managers would love to answer these basic questions with hard data. When the data collection is automated, the answers become straightforward.

Project "Smells"

More significantly, most project managers would love to find blind spots—places where data indicates a likely problem. It is now common to talk about "smells" for suspicious areas of code.19 Problems for the project as a whole also appear often as hard-to-pin-down smells, which are not well exposed by existing metrics. I’ll cover smells in some detail in Chapter 9, "Troubleshooting the Project," but for now I’ll share a common example. Imagine a graph that shows you these bug and test pass rates (see Figure 1.12).

Figure 1.12

Figure 1.12 The X-axis identifies different components of your project; the bars show you the test pass rate for each component, while the points and line show the active bug count.

Based on Figure 1.12, what would you conclude? Probably that the Instore Pickup Kiosk code is in great shape, so you should look for problems elsewhere.

At the same time, there’s a danger of relying on too few metrics. Consider the graph in Figure 1.13, which overlays code churn (the number of lines added, modified, and deleted) and code coverage from testing (the percentage of code lines or blocks exercised during testing) on the same axes.

Figure 1.13

Figure 1.13 Overlaying code coverage and code churn for the components provides a very different perspective on the data.

Suddenly the picture is reversed. There’s really high code churn in Instore Pickup Kiosk, and the code is not being covered by the tests that supposedly exercise that component. This picture reveals that we may have stale tests that aren’t exercising the new functionality. Could that be why they’re passing and not covering the actual code in this component?

Multidimensional Metrics and Smells

The ability to see more dimensions of the project data is a direct benefit of the metrics warehouse, which collects and correlates data from daily activities. It provides a quantitative, visual tool to pursue the smells. In this way, you can achieve the visibility level needed for the strictest compliance reporting while working in an agile manner and having the same visibility into a remote project, even outsourced, that you would have in a local one.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020