Today I was lucky enough to attend a Microsoft / Black Marble event at Edinburgh Waverly Gate on Visual Studio, Team Foundation Server (both 2010) and the general Microsoft ALM approach.

I have been using Visual Studio 2010 and Team Foundation Server 2010 since the Beta 1 days (for both!), so have a good knowledge of them both, but figured it was a good idea to go along and see what I was missing.

And it was worthwhile.

TFS and VS integrated beautifully. You really could not wish for a better combination.  TFS provides an amazingly extensible foundation for your company to base its source control on – but don’t be fooled – TFS is not just another Subversion. It offers the end to end ALM solution – full User Case, UML diagrams for planning, Work Item and resource tracking all built into a warehouse architecture expertly exposed through a combination of Reporting Server and Sharepoint (that hurts me to say … you know how much I dislike Sharepoint!).

One of the most manager friendly functions added in 2010 is the ability to link query data out from TFS to Office products – from Excel to Project, your line manager can now manage you in their comfort zone. Maybe it’s a good idea, maybe not. One thing that was mentioned today was that anything that stopped them constantly asking “how’s it going” was probably a good. Now that is something I can certainly agree with! Getting decent reliable information out to project stakeholders has always been a challenge.

The demonstration of the new Microsoft Test Manager was very impressive too – finally something to allow us to document test scripts (you know those things that you get testers to follow, right?) and have an easy to use framework the testers can use to step through them (and it captures bugs – complete with relevant tracing information!) is incredible. Oh and it all links back to TFS and your dev team. Imagine it, dev’s talking to testers. Whatever next? Removal of management? Maybe not – someone has to read the reports after all :)  What they DO have coming is automated testing – macro-esque based visual UI testing. Currently only available for Winforms app and ASP.NET websites, but reliably confirmed as hopefully getting Silverlight support for RTM. I’m waiting with baited breath – this could potentially save me a LOT of hassle.

Blend SketchFlow is pretty impressive for mock applications too … but I still don’t see it being able to unseat the larger one’s out there in this niche market, such as Axure.

The one thing that seems to missing in all of the ALM solutions I’ve used in my career so far is an effective Release management tool.

But more on that later :)