Category Archives: Agile

How to : From the Trenches – Use SharePoint to Implement an ALM in Your Orginisation

After my successful creation and implementation of an ALM for Business Connexion using the SharePoint Platform, I thought I’d share the lessons I have learned and show you step for step how you can implement your own ALM leveraging the power of the SharePoint Platform

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In this article,

  • An Overview : SharePoint Application Lifecycle Management:
  • Learn how to plan and manage Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) in Microsoft SharePoint 2010 projects by using Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 and Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2010.
  • Also learn what to consider when setting up team development environments,
  • Establishing upgrade management processes,
  • Creating a standard SharePoint development model.
  • Extending your SharePoint ALM to include other Departments like Java, Mobile, .Net and even SAP Development
Introduction to Application Lifecycle Management in SharePoint 2010

The Microsoft SharePoint 2010 development platform, which includes Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010 and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, contains many capabilities to help you develop, deploy, and update customizations and custom functionalities for your SharePoint sites. The activities that take advantage of these capabilities all fall under the category of Application Lifecycle Management (ALM).

Key considerations when establishing ALM processes include not only the development and testing practices that you use before the initial deployment of a single customization, but also the processes that you must implement to manage updates and integrate customizations and custom functionality on an existing farm.

This article discusses the capabilities and tools that you can use when implementing an ALM process on a SharePoint farm, and also specific concerns and things to consider when you create and hone your ALM process for SharePoint development.

This article assumes that each development team will develop a unique ALM process that fits its specific size and needs, so its guidance is necessarily broad. However, it also assumes that regardless of the size of your team and the specific nature of your custom solutions, you will need to address similar sets of concerns and use capabilities and tools that are common to all SharePoint developers.

The guidance in this article will help you as create a development model that exploits all the advantages of the SharePoint 2010 platform and addresses the needs of your organization.

SharePoint Application Lifecycle Management: An Overview

Although the specific details of your SharePoint 2010 ALM process will differ according the requirements of your organizations, most development teams will follow the same general set of steps. Figure 1 depicts an example ALM process for a midsize or large SharePoint 2010 deployment. Obviously, the process and required tasks depend on the project size.

Figure 1. Example ALM process
Example ALM process

The following are the specific steps in the process illustrated in Figure 1 (see corresponding callouts 1 through 10):

  1. Someone (for example, a project manager or lead developer) collects initial requirements and turns them into tasks.
  2. Developers use Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 or other tools to track the development progress and store custom source code.
  3. Because source code is stored in a centralized location, you can create automated builds for integration and unit testing purposes. You can also automate testing activities to increase the overall quality of the customizations.
  4. After custom solutions have successfully gone through acceptance testing, your development team can continue to the pre-production or quality assurance environment.
  5. The pre-production environment should resemble the production environment as much as possible. This often means that the pre-production environment has the same patch level and configurations as the production environment. The purpose of this environment is to ensure that your custom solutions will work in production.
  6. Occasionally, copy the production database to the pre-production environment, so that you can imitate the upgrade actions that will be performed in the production environment.
  7. After the customizations are verified in the pre-production environment, they are deployed either directly to production or to a production staging environment and then to production.
  8. After the customizations are deployed to production, they run against the production database.
  9. End users work in the production environment, and give feedback and ideas concerning the different functionalities. Issues and bugs are reported and tracked through established reporting and tracking processes.
  10. Feedback, bugs, and other issues in the production environment are turned into requirements, which are prioritized and turned into developer tasks. Figure 2 shows how multiple developer teams can work with and process bug reports and change requests that are received from end users of the production environment. The model in Figure 2 also shows how development teams might coordinate their solution packages. For example, the framework team and the functionality development team might follow separate versioning models that must be coordinated as they track bugs and changes.
    Figure 2. Change management involving multiple developer teams
    Change management involving multiple teams

Integrating Testing and Build Verification Environments into a SharePoint 2010 ALM Process

In larger projects, quality assurance (QA) personnel might use an additional build verification or user acceptance testing (UAT) farm to test and verify the builds in an environment that more closely resembles the production environment.

Typically, a build verification farm has multiple servers to ensure that custom solutions are deployed correctly. Figure 3 shows a potential model for relating development integration and testing environments, build verification farms, and production environments. In this particular model, the pre-production or QA farm and the production farm switch places after each release. This model minimizes any downtime that is related to maintaining the environments.

Figure 3. Model for relating development integration and testing environments
Model for relating development environments

Integrating SharePoint Designer 2010 into a SharePoint 2010 ALM Process

Another significant consideration in your ALM model is Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2010. SharePoint 2010 is an excellent platform for no-code solutions, which can be created and then deployed directly to the production environment by using SharePoint Designer 2010. These customizations are stored in the content database and are not stored in your source code repository.

General designer activities and how they interact with development activities are another consideration. Will you be creating page layouts directly within your production environment, or will you deploy them as part of your packaged solutions? There are advantages and disadvantages to both options.

Your specific ALM model depends completely on the custom solutions and the customizations that you plan to make, and on your own policies. Your ALM process does not have to be as complex as the one described in this section. However, you must establish a firm ALM model early in the process as you plan and create your development environment and before you start creating your custom solutions.

Next, we discuss specific tools and capabilities that are related to SharePoint 2010 development that you can use when considering how to create a model for SharePoint ALM that will work best for your development team.

Solution Packages and SharePoint Development Tools

One major advantage of the SharePoint 2010 development platform is that it provides the ability to save sites as solution packages. A solution package is a deployable, reusable package stored in a CAB file with a .wsp extension. You can create a solution package either by using the SharePoint 2010 user interface (UI) in the browser, SharePoint Designer 2010, or Microsoft Visual Studio 2010. In the browser and SharePoint Designer 2010 UIs, solution packages are also called templates. This flexibility enables you to create and design site structures in a browser or in SharePoint Designer 2010, and then import these customizations into Visual Studio 2010 for more development. Figure 4 shows this process.

Figure 4. Flow through the SharePoint development tools
Flow through the SharePoint development tools

When the customizations are completed, you can deploy your solution package to SharePoint for use. After modifying the existing site structure by using a browser, you can start the cycle again by saving the updated site as a solution package.

This interaction among the tools also enables you to use other tools. For example, you can design a workflow process in Microsoft Visio 2010 and then import it to SharePoint Designer 2010 and from there to Visual Studio 2010. For instructions on how to design and import a workflow process, see Create, Import, and Export SharePoint Workflows in Visio.

For more information about creating solution packages in SharePoint Designer 2010, see Save a SharePoint Site as a Template. For more information about creating solution packages in Visual Studio 2010, see Creating SharePoint Solution Packages.

Using SharePoint Designer 2010 as a Development Tool

SharePoint Designer 2010 differs from Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007 in that its orientation has shifted from the page to features and functionality. The improved UI provides greater flexibility for creating and designing different functionalities. It provides rich tooling for building complete, reusable, and process-centric applications. For more information about the new capabilities and features of SharePoint Designer 2010, see Getting Started with SharePoint Designer.

You can also use SharePoint Designer 2010 to modify modular components developed with Visual Studio 2010. For example, you can create Web Parts and other controls in Visual Studio 2010, deploy them to a SharePoint farm, and then edit them in SharePoint Designer 2010.

The primary target users for SharePoint Designer 2010 are IT personnel and information workers who can use this application to create customizations in a production environment. For this reason, you must decide on an ALM model for your particular environment that defines which kinds of customizations will follow the complete ALM development process and which customizations can be done by using SharePoint Designer 2010. Developers are secondary target users. They can use SharePoint Designer 2010 as a part of their development activities, especially during initial creation of customization packages and also for rapid development and prototyping. Your ALM process must also define where and how to fit SharePoint Designer 2010 into the broader development model.

A key challenge of using SharePoint Designer 2010 is that when you use it to modify files, all of your changes are stored in the content database instead of in the file system. For example, if you customize a master page for a specific site by using SharePoint Designer 2010 and then design and deploy new branding elements inside a solution package, the changes are not available for the site that has the customized master page, because that site is using the version of the master page that is stored in the content database.

To minimize challenges such as these, SharePoint Designer 2010 contains new features that enable you to control usage of SharePoint Designer 2010 in a specific environment. You can apply these control settings at the web application level or site collection level. If you disable some action at the web application level, that setting cannot be changed at the site collection level.

SharePoint Designer 2010 makes the following settings available:

  • Allow site to be opened in SharePoint Designer 2010.
  • Allow customization of files.
  • Allow customization of master pages and layout pages.
  • Allow site collection administrators to see the site URL structure.

Because the primary purpose of SharePoint Designer 2010 is to customize content on an existing site, it does not support source code control. By default, pages that you customize by using SharePoint Designer 2010 are stored inside a versioned SharePoint library. This provides you with simple support for versioning, but not for full-featured source code control.

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Importing Solution Packages into Visual Studio 2010

When you save a site as a solution package in the browser (from the Save as Template page in Site Settings), SharePoint 2010 stores the site as a solution package (.wsp) file and places it in the Solution Gallery of that site collection. You can then download the solution package from the Solution Gallery and import it into Visual Studio 2010 by using the Import SharePoint Solution Package template, as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5. Import SharePoint Solution Package template
Import SharePoint Solution Package template

SharePoint 2010 solution packages contain many improvements that take advantage of new capabilities that are available in its feature framework. The following list contains some of the new feature elements that can help you manage your development projects and upgrades.

  • SourceVersion for WebFeature and SiteFeature
  • WebTemplate feature element
  • PropertyBag feature element
  • $ListId:Lists
  • WorkflowAssociation feature element
  • CustomSchema attribute on ListInstance
  • Solution dependencies

After you import your project, you can start customizing it any way you like.

Note Note
Because this capability is based on the WebTemplate feature element, which is based on a corresponding site definition, the resulting solution package will contain definitions for everything within the site. For more information about creating and using web templates, see Web Templates.

Visual Studio 2010 supports source code control (as shown in Figure 6), so that you can store the source code for your customizations in a safer and more secure central location, and enable easy sharing of customizations among developers.

Figure 6. Visual Studio 2010 source code control
Visual Studio 2010 source code control

The specific way in which your developers access this source code and interact with each other depends on the structure of your team development environment. The next section of this article discusses key concerns and considerations that you should consider when you build a team development environment for SharePoint 2010.

Team Development Environment for SharePoint 2010: An Overview

As in any ALM planning process, your SharePoint 2010 planning should include the following steps:

  1. Identify and create a process for initiating projects.
  2. Identify and implement a versioning system for your source code and other deployed resources.
  3. Plan and implement version control policies.
  4. Identify and create a process for work item and defect tracking and reporting.
  5. Write documentation for your requirements and plans.
  6. Identify and create a process for automated builds and continuous integration.
  7. Standardize your development model for repeatability.

Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 (shown in Figure 7) provides a good potential platform for many of these elements of your ALM model.

Figure 7. Visual Studio 2010 Team Foundation Server
Visual Studio 2010 Team Foundation Server

When you have established your model for team development, you must choose either a collection of tools or Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 to manage your development. Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 provides direct integration into Visual Studio 2010, and it can be used to manage your development process efficiently. It provides many capabilities, but how you use it will depend on your projects.

You can use the Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 for the following activities:

  • Tracking work items and reporting the progress of your development. Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 provides tools to create and modify work items that are delivered not only from Visual Studio 2010, but also from the Visual Studio 2010 web client.
  • Storing all source code for your custom solutions.
  • Logging bugs and defects.
  • Creating, executing, and managing your testing with comprehensive testing capabilities.
  • Enabling continuous integration of your code by using the automated build capabilities.

Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 also provides a basic installation option that installs all required functionalities for source control and automated builds. These are typically the most used capabilities of Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010, and this option helps you set up your development environment more easily.

Setting Up a Team Development Environment for SharePoint 2010

SharePoint 2010 must be installed on a development computer to take full advantage of its development capabilities. If you are developing only remote applications, such as solutions that use SharePoint web services, the client object model, or REST, you could potentially develop solutions on a computer where SharePoint 2010 is not installed. However, even in this case, your developers’ productivity would suffer, because they would not be able to take advantage of the full debugging experience that comes with having SharePoint 2010 installed directly on the development computer.

The design of your development environment depends on the size and needs of your development team. Your choice of operating system also has a significant impact on the overall design of your team development process. You have three main options for creating your development environments, as follows:

  1. You can run SharePoint 2010 directly on your computer’s client operating system. This option is available only when you use the 64-bit version of Windows 7, Windows Vista Service Pack 1, or Windows Vista Service Pack 2.
  2. You can use the boot to Virtual Hard Drive (VHD) option, which means that you start your laptop by using the operating system in VHD. This option is available only when you use Windows 7 as your primary operating system.
  3. You can use virtualization capabilities. If you choose this option, you have a choice of many options. But from an operational viewpoint, the option that is most likely the easiest to implement is a centralized virtualized environment that hosts each developer’s individual development environment.

The following sections take a closer look at these three options.

SharePoint 2010 on a Client Operating System

If you are using the 64-bit version of Windows 7, Windows Vista Service Pack 1, or Windows Vista Service Pack 2, you can install SharePoint Foundation 2010 or SharePoint Server 2010. For more information about installing SharePoint 2010 on supported operating systems, see Setting Up the Development Environment for SharePoint 2010 on Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008.

Figure 8 shows how a computer that is running a client operating system would operate within a team development environment.

Figure 8. Computer running a client operating system in a team development environment
Computer running a client operating system

A benefit of this approach is that you can take full advantage of any of your existing hardware that is running one of the targeted client operating systems. You can also take advantage of pre-existing configurations, domains, and enterprise resources that your enterprise supports. This could mean that you would require little or no additional IT support. Your developers would also face no delays (such as booting up a virtual machine or connecting to an environment remotely) in accessing their development environments.

However, if you take this approach, you must ensure that your developers have access to sufficient hardware resources. In any development environment, you should use a computer that has an x64-capable CPU, and at least 2 gigabytes (GB) of RAM to install and run SharePoint Foundation 2010; 4 GB of RAM is preferable for good performance. You should use a computer that has 6 GB to 8 GB of RAM to install and run SharePoint Server 2010.

A disadvantage of this approach is that your environments will not be centrally managed, and it will be difficult to keep all of your project-dependent environmental requirements in sync. It might also be advisable to write batch files that start and stop some of the SharePoint-related services so that when your developers are not working with SharePoint 2010, these services will not consume resources and degrade the performance of their computers.

The lack of centralized maintenance could hurt developer productivity in other ways. For example, this might be an unwieldy approach if your team is working on a large Microsoft SharePoint Online project that is developing custom solutions for multiple services (for example, the equivalents of http://intranet, http://mysite, http://teams, http://secure, http://search, http://partners, and http://www.internet.com) and deploying these solutions in multiple countries or regions.

If you are developing on a computer that is running a client operating system in a corporate domain, each development computer would have its own name (and each local domain name would be different, such as http://dev 1 or http://dev2). If each developer is implementing custom functionalities for multiple services, you must use different port numbers to differentiate each service (for example, http://dev1 for http://intranet and http://dev1:81 for http://mysite). If all of your developers are using the same Visual Studio 2010 projects, the project debugging URL must be changed manually whenever a developer takes the latest version of a project from your source code repository.

This would create a manual step that could hurt developer productivity, and it would also diminish the efficiency of any scripts that you have written for setting up development environments, because the individual environments are not standardized. Some form of centralization with virtualization is preferable for large enterprise development projects.

SharePoint 2010 on Windows 7 and Booting to Virtual Hard Drive

If you are using Windows 7, you can also create a VHD out of an existing Windows Server 2008 image on which SharePoint 2010 is installed in Windows Hyper-V, and then configure Windows 7 with BDCEdit.exe so that it boots directly to the operating system on the VHD. To learn more about this kind of configuration, see Deploy Windows on a Virtual Hard Disk with Native Boot and Boot from VHD in Win 7.

Figure 9 shows how a computer that is running Windows 7 and booting to VHD would operate within a team development environment.

Figure 9. Windows 7 and booting to VHD in a team environment
Windows 7 and booting to VHD in a team environment

An advantage of this approach is the flexibility of having multiple dedicated environments for an individual project, enabling you to isolate each development environment. Your developers will not accidentally cross-reference any artifacts within their projects, and they can create project-dependent environments.

However, this option has considerable hardware requirements, because you are using the available hardware and resources directly on your computers.

SharePoint 2010 in Centralized Virtualized Environments

In a centralized virtualized environment, you host your development environments in one centralized location, and developers access these environments through remote connections. This means that you use Windows Hyper-V in the centralized location and copy a VHD for every developer as needed. Each VHD is configured to be available from the corporate network, so that when it starts, it can be accessed by using remote connections.

Figure 10 shows how a centralized virtualized team development environment would operate.

Figure 10. Centralized virtualized team development environment
Centralized virtualized development environment

An advantage of this approach is that the hardware requirements for individual developer computers are relatively few because the actual work happens in a centralized environment. Developers could even use computers with 1 GB of RAM as their clients and then connect remotely to the centralized location. You can also manage environments easily from one centralized location, making adjustments to them whenever necessary.

Your centralized host will have significantly high hardware requirements, but developers can easily start and stop these environments. This enables you to use the hardware that you have allocated for your development environments more efficiently. Additionally, this approach provides a ready platform for more extensive testing environments for your custom code (such as multi-server farms).

After you set up your team development environment, you can start taking advantage of the deployment and upgrade capabilities that are included with the new solution packaging model in SharePoint 2010. The following sections describe how to take advantage of these new capabilities in your ALM model.

Models for Solution Lifecycle Management in SharePoint 2010

The SharePoint 2010 solution packaging model provides many useful features that will help you plan for deploying custom solutions and managing the upgrade process. You can implement assembly versioning by applying binding redirects in your web application configuration file. You can also apply versioning to your feature upgrades, and feature upgrade actions enable you to manage changes that will be necessary on your existing sites to accommodate feature upgrades. These upgrade actions can be handled declaratively or programmatically.

The feature upgrade query object model enables you to create queries in your code that look for features on your existing sites that can be upgraded. You can use this object model to obtain relevant information about all of the features and feature versions that are deployed on your SharePoint 2010 sites. In your solution manifest file, you can also configure the type of Internet Information Services (IIS) recycling to perform during a solution upgrade.

The following sections go into greater details about these capabilities and how you can use them.

Using Assembly BindingRedirect with SharePoint 2010 Assemblies

The BindingRedirect feature element can be added to your web applications configuration file. It enables you to redirect from earlier versions of installed assemblies to newer versions. Figure 11 shows how the XML configuration from the solution manifest file instructs SharePoint to add binding redirection rules to the web application configuration file. These rules forward any reference to version 1.0 of the assembly to version 2.0. This is required in your solution manifest file if you are upgrading a custom solution that uses assembly versioning and if there are existing instances of the solution and the assembly on your sites.

Figure 11. Binding redirection rules in a solution manifest file
Binding redirection rules in a solution manifest

It is a best practice to use assembly versioning, because it gives you an easy way to track the versions of a solution that are deployed to your production environments.

SharePoint 2010 Feature Versioning

The support for feature versioning in SharePoint 2010 provides many capabilities that you can use when you are upgrading features. For example, you can use the SPFeature.Version property to determine which versions of a feature are deployed on your farm, and therefore which features must be upgraded. For a code sample that demonstrates how to do this, see Version.

Feature versioning in SharePoint 2010 also enables you to define a value for the SPFeatureDependency.MinimumVersion property to handle feature dependencies. For example, you can use the MinimumVersion property to ensure that a particular version of a dependent feature is activated. Feature dependencies can be added or removed in each new version of a feature.

The SharePoint 2010 feature framework has also enhanced the object model level to support feature versioning more easily. You can use the QueryFeatures method to retrieve a list of features, and you can specify both feature version and whether a feature requires an upgrade. The QueryFeatures method returns an instance of SPFeatureQueryResultCollection, which you can use to access all of the features that must be updated. This method is available from multiple scopes, because it is available from the SPWebService, SPWebApplication, SPContentDatabase, and SPSite classes. For more information about this overloaded method, see QueryFeatures(), QueryFeatures(), QueryFeatures(), and QueryFeatures(). For an overview of the feature upgrade object model, see Feature Upgrade Object Model.

The following section summarizes many of the new upgrade actions that you can apply when you are upgrading from one version of a feature to another.

SharePoint 2010 Feature Upgrade Actions

Upgrade actions are defined in the Feature.xml file. The SPFeatureReceiver class contains a FeatureUpgrading method, which you can use to define actions to perform during an upgrade. This method is called during feature upgrade when the feature’s Feature.xml file contains one or more <CustomUpgradeAction> tags, as shown in the following example.

<UpgradeActions>
  <CustomUpgradeAction Name="text">
    ...
  </CustomUpgradeAction>
</UpgradeActions>

Each custom upgrade action has a name, which can be used to differentiate the code that must be executed in the feature receiver. As shown in following example, you can parameterize custom action instances.

<Feature xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/sharepoint/">
  <UpgradeActions>
    <VersionRange EndVersion ="2.0.0.0">
      <!-- First action-->
      <CustomUpgradeAction Name="example">
        <Parameters>
          <Parameter Name="parameter1">Whatever</Parameter>
          <Parameter Name="anotherparameter">Something meaningful</Parameter>
          <Parameter Name="thirdparameter">additional configurations</Parameter>
        </Parameters>
      </CustomUpgradeAction>
      <!-- Second action-->
      <CustomUpgradeAction Name="SecondAction">
        <Parameters>
          <Parameter Name="SomeParameter1">Value</Parameter>
          <Parameter Name="SomeParameter2">Value2</Parameter>
          <Parameter Name="SomeParameter3">Value3</Parameter>
        </Parameters>
      </CustomUpgradeAction>
    </VersionRange>
  </UpgradeActions>
</Feature>

This example contains two CustomUpgradeAction elements, one named example and the other named SecondAction. Both elements have different parameters, which are dependent on the code that you wrote for the FeatureUpgrading event receiver. The following example shows how you can use these upgrade actions and their parameters in your code.

 <summary>
 Called when feature instance is upgraded for each of the custom upgrade actions in the Feature.xml file.
 </summary>
 <param name="properties">Feature receiver properties</param>
 <param name="upgradeActionName">Upgrade action name</param>
 <param name="parameters">Custom upgrade action parameters</param>

public override  FeatureUpgrading(SPFeatureReceiverProperties properties, 
                                        string upgradeActionName, 
                                        System.Collections.Generic.IDictionary<string, string> parameters)
{

    // Do not do anything, if feature scope is not correct.
     (properties.Feature.Parent  SPWeb)
    {

        // Log that feature scope is incorrect.
        return;
    }

    switch (upgradeActionName)
    {
         "example":
            FeatureUpgradeManager.UpgradeAction1(parameters["parameter1"], parameters["AnotherParameter"],
                                                 parameters["ThirdParameter"]);
            break;
         "SecondAction":
            FeatureUpgradeManager.UpgradeAction1(parameters["SomeParameter1"], parameters["SomeParameter2"],
                                                 parameters["SomeParameter3"]);
            break;
        default:

            // Log that code for action does not exist.
            break;
    }
}

You can have as many upgrade actions as you want, and you can apply them to version ranges. The following example shows how you can apply upgrade actions to version ranges of a feature.

<Feature xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/sharepoint/">
  <UpgradeActions>
    <VersionRange BeginVersion="1.0.0.0" EndVersion ="2.0.0.0">
      ...
    </VersionRange>
    <VersionRange BeginVersion="2.0.0.1" EndVersion="3.0.0.0">
      ...
    </VersionRange>
    <VersionRange BeginVersion="3.0.0.1" EndVersion="4.0.0.0">
      ...
    </VersionRange>
  </UpgradeActions>
</Feature>

The AddContentTypeField upgrade action can be used to define additional fields for an existing content type. It also provides the option of pushing these changes down to child instances, which is often the preferred behavior. When you initially deploy a content type to a site collection, a definition for it is created at the site collection level. If that content type is used in any subsite or list, a child instance of the content type is created. To ensure that every instance of the specific content type is updated, you must set the PushDown attribute to , as shown in the following example.

<Feature xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/sharepoint/">
  <UpgradeActions>
    <VersionRange EndVersion ="2.0.0.0">
      <AddContentTypeField ContentTypeId="0x0101002b0e208ace0a4b7e83e706b19f32cab9"
                           FieldId="{ccbcd479-94c9-4f3a-95c4-58897da434fe}"
                           PushDown="True"/>
    </VersionRange>
  </UpgradeActions>
</Feature>

For more information about working with content types programmatically, see Introduction to Content Types.

The ApplyElementManifests upgrade action can be used to apply new artifacts to a SharePoint 2010 site without reactivating features. Just as you can add new elements to any new SharePoint elements.xml file, you can instruct SharePoint to apply content from a specific elements file to sites where a given feature is activated.

You can use this upgrade action if you are upgrading an existing feature whose FeatureActivating event receiver performs actions that you do not want to execute again on sites where the feature is deployed. The following example demonstrates how to include this upgrade action in a Feature.xml file.

<Feature xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/sharepoint/">
  <UpgradeActions>
    <VersionRange EndVersion ="2.0.0.0">
      <ApplyElementManifests>
        <ElementManifest Location="AdditionalV2Fields\Elements.xml"/>
      </ApplyElementManifests>
    </VersionRange>
  </UpgradeActions>
</Feature>

An example of a use case for this upgrade action involves adding new .webpart files to a feature in a site collection. You can use the ApplyElementManifest upgrade action to add those files without reactivating the feature. Another example would involve page layouts, which contain initial Web Part instances that are defined in the file element structure of the feature element file. If you reactivate this feature, you will get duplicates of these Web Parts on each of the page layouts. In this case, you can use the ElementManifest element of the ApplyElementManifests upgrade action to add new page layouts to a site collection that uses the feature without reactivating the feature.

The MapFile element enables you to map a URL request to an alternative URL. The following example demonstrates how to include this upgrade action in a Feature.xml file.

<Feature xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/sharepoint/">
  <UpgradeActions>
    <MapFile FromPath="Features\MapPathDemo_MapPathDemo\PageDeployment\MyExamplePage.aspx"
             ToPath="Features\MapPathDemo_MapPathDemo\PageDeployment\MyExamplePage2.aspx" />
  </UpgradeActions>
</Feature>

Mapping URLs in this way would be useful to you in a case where you have to deploy a new version of a page that was customized by using SharePoint Designer 2010. The resulting customized page would be served from the content database. When you deploy the new version of the page, the new version will not appear because content for that page is coming from the database and not from the file system. You could work around this problem by using the MapFile element to redirect requests for the old version of the page to the newer version.

It is important to understand that the FeatureUpgrading method is called for each feature instance that will be updated. If you have 10 sites in your site collection and you update a web-scoped feature, the feature receiver will be called 10 times for each site context. For more information about how to use these new declarative feature elements, see Feature.xml Changes.

Upgrading SharePoint 2010 Features: A High-Level Walkthrough

This section describes at a high level how you can put these feature-versioning and upgrading capabilities to work. When you create a new version of a feature that is already deployed on a large SharePoint 2010 farm, you must consider two different scenarios: what happens when the feature is activated on a new site and what happens on sites where the feature already exists. When you add new content to the feature, you must first update all of the existing definitions and include instructions for upgrading the feature where it is already deployed.

For example, perhaps you have developed a content type to which you must add a custom site column named City. You do this in the following way:

  1. Add a new element file to the feature. This element file defines the new site column and modifies the Feature.xml file to include the element file.
  2. Update the existing definition of the content type in the existing feature element file. This update will apply to all sites where the feature is newly deployed and activated.
  3. Define the required upgrade actions for the existing sites. In this case, you must ensure that the newly added element file for the additional site column is deployed and that the new site column is associated with the existing content types. To achieve these two objectives, you add the ApplyElementManifests and the AddContentTypeField upgrade actions to your Feature.xml file.

When you deploy the new version of the feature to existing sites and upgrade it, the upgrade actions are applied to sites one by one. If you have defined custom upgrade actions, the FeatureUpgrading method will be called as many times as there are instances of the feature activated in your site collection or farm.

Figure 12 shows how the different components of this scenario work together when you perform the upgrade.

Figure 12. Components of a feature upgrade that adds a new element to an existing feature
Add a new element to an existing feature

Different sites might have different versions of a feature deployed on them. In this case, you can create version ranges, which define specific actions to perform when you are upgrading from one version to another. If a version range is not defined, all upgrade actions will be applied during each upgrade.

Figure 13 shows how different upgrade actions can be applied to version ranges.

Figure 13. Applying different upgrade actions to version ranges.
Applying upgrade actions to version ranges

In this example, if a given site is upgrading directly from version 1.0 to version 3.0, all configurations will be applied because you have defined specific actions for upgrading from version 1.0 to version 2.0 and from 2.0 to version 3.0. You have also defined actions that will be applied regardless of feature version.

Code Design Guidelines for Upgrading SharePoint 2010 Features

To provide more flexibility for your code, you should not place your upgrade code directly inside the FeatureUpgrading event receiver. Instead, put the code in some centralized location and refer to it inside the event receiver, as shown in Figure 14.

Figure 14. Centralized feature upgrade manager
Centralized feature upgrade manager

By placing your upgrade code inside a centralized utility class, you increase both the reusability and the testability of your code, because you can perform the same actions in multiple locations. You should also try to design your custom upgrade actions as generically as possible, using parameters to make them applicable to specific upgrade scenarios.

Solution Lifecycles: Upgrading SharePoint 2010 Solutions

If you are upgrading a farm (full-trust) solution, you must first deploy the new version of your solution package to a farm.

Execute either of the following scripts from a command prompt to deploy updates to a SharePoint farm. The first example uses the Stsadm.exe command-line tool.

stsadm -o upgradesolution -name solution.wsp -filename solution.wsp

The second example uses the Update-SPSolution Windows PowerShell cmdlet.

UpdateSPSolution Identity contoso_solution.wsp LiteralPath c:\contoso_solution_v2.wsp GACDeployment

After the new version is deployed, you can perform the actual upgrade, which executes the upgrade actions that you defined in your Feature.xml files.

A farm solution upgrade can be performed either farm-wide or at a more granular level by using the object model. A farm-wide upgrade is performed by using the Psconfig command-line tool, as shown in the following example.

psconfig -cmd upgrade -inplace b2b
NoteNote
This tool causes a service break on the existing sites. During the upgrade, all feature instances throughout the farm for which newer versions are available will be upgraded.

You can also perform upgrades for individual features at the site level by using the Upgrade method of the SPFeature class. This method causes no service break on your farm, but you are responsible for managing the version upgrade from your code. For a code example that demonstrates how to use this method, see SPFeature.Upgrade.

Upgrading a sandboxed solution at the site collection level is much more straightforward. Just upload the SharePoint solution package (.wsp file) that contains the upgraded features. If you have a previous version of a sandboxed solution in your solution gallery and you upload a newer version, an Upgrade option appears in the UI, as shown in Figure 15.

Figure 15. Upgrading a sandboxed solution
Upgrading a sandboxed solution

After you select the Upgrade option and the upgrade starts, all features in the sandboxed solution are upgraded.

Conclusion

This article has discussed some considerations and examples of Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) design that are specific to SharePoint 2010, and it has also enumerated and described the most important capabilities and tools that you can integrate into the ALM processes that you choose to establish in your enterprise. The SharePoint 2010 feature framework and solution packaging model provide flexibility and power that you can put to work in your ALM processes.

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A Look at : ‘Kaizan” and its Philospophy in Kanban

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Kaizen, or rapid improvement processes, often is considered to be the “building block” of all lean production methods. Kaizen focuses on eliminating waste, improving productivity, and achieving sustained continual improvement in targeted activities and processes of an organization.

Lean production is founded on the idea of kaizen – or continual improvement. This philosophy implies that small, incremental changes routinely applied and sustained over a long period result in significant improvements. The kaizen strategy aims to involve workers from multiple functions and levels in the organization in working together to address a problem or improve a process.

The team uses analytical techniques, such as value stream mapping and “the 5 whys”, to identify opportunities quickly to eliminate waste in a targeted process or production area. The team works to implement chosen improvements rapidly (often within 72 hours of initiating the kaizen event), typically focusing on solutions that do not involve large capital outlays.

Periodic follow-up events aim to ensure that the improvements from the kaizen “blitz” are sustained over time. Kaizen can be used as an analytical method for implementing several other lean methods, including conversions to cellular manufacturing and just-in-time production systems.

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Method and Implementation Approach

Rapid continual improvement processes typically require an organization to foster a culture where employees are empowered to identify and solve problems. Most organizations implementing kaizen-type improvement processes have established methods and ground rules that are well communicated in the organization and reinforced through training. The basic steps for implementing a kaizen “event” are outlined below, although organizations typically adapt and sequence these activities to work effectively in their unique circumstances.

Phase 1: Planning and Preparation. The first challenge is to identify an appropriate target area for a rapid improvement event. Such areas might include: areas with substantial work-in-progress; an administrative process or production area where significant bottlenecks or delays occur; areas where everything is a “mess” and/or quality or performance does not meet customer expectations; and/or areas that have significant market or financial impact (i.e., the most “value added” activities).

Once a suitable production process, administrative process, or area in a factory is selected, a more specific “waste elimination” problem within that area is chosen for the focus of the kaizen event ( i.e., the specific problem that needs improvement, such as lead time reduction, quality improvement, or production yield improvement). Once the problem area is chosen, managers typically assemble a cross-functional team of employees.

It is important for teams to involve workers from the targeted administrative or production process area, although individuals with “fresh perspectives” may sometimes supplement the team. Team members should all be familiar with the organization’s rapid improvement process or receive training on it prior to the “event”. Kaizen events are generally organized to last between one day and seven days, depending on the scale of the targeted process and problem. Team members are expected to shed most of their operational responsibilities during this period, so that they can focus on the kaizen event.

Phase 2: Implementation. The team first works to develop a clear understanding of the “current state” of the targeted process so that all team members have a similar understanding of the problem they are working to solve. Two techniques are commonly used to define the current state and identify manufacturing wastes:

  • Five Whys. Toyota developed the practice of asking “why” five times and answering it each time to uncover the root cause of a problem. An example is shown below.Repeating “Why” Five Times1
    1. Why did the machine stop?
      There was an overload, and the fuse blew.
    2. Why was there an overload?
      The bearing was not sufficiently lubricated.
    3. Why was it not lubricated sufficiently?
      The lubrication pump was not pumping sufficiently.
    4. Why was it not pumping sufficiently?
      The shaft of the pump was worn and rattling.
    5. Why was the shaft worn out?
      There was no strainer attached, and metal scrap got in.
  • Value Stream Mapping. This technique involves flowcharting the steps, activities, material flows, communications, and other process elements that are involved with a process or transformation (e.g., transformation of raw materials into a finished product, completion of an administrative process). Value stream mapping helps an organization identify the non-value-adding elements in a targeted process. This technique is similar to process mapping, which is frequently used to support pollution prevention planning in organizations. In some cases, value stream mapping can be used in phase 1 to identify areas for which to target kaizen events.

During the kaizen event, it is typically necessary to collect information on the targeted process, such as measurements of overall product quality; scrap rate and source of scrap; a routing of products; total product distance traveled; total square feet occupied by necessary equipment; number and frequency of changeovers; source of bottlenecks; amount of work-in-progress; and amount of staffing for specific tasks. Team members are assigned specific roles for research and analysis. As more information is gathered, team members add detail to value stream maps of the process and conduct time studies of relevant operations (e.g., takt time, lead-time).

Once data is gathered, it is analyzed and assessed to find areas for improvement. Team members identify and record all observed waste, by asking what the goal of the process is and whether each step or element adds value towards meeting this goal. Once waste, or non-value added activity, is identified and measured, team members then brainstorm improvement options. Ideas are often tested on the shopfloor or in process “mock-ups”. Ideas deemed most promising are selected and implemented. To fully realize the benefits of the kaizen event, team members should observe and record new cycle times, and calculate overall savings from eliminated waste, operator motion, part conveyance, square footage utilized, and throughput time.

Phase 3: Follow-up. A key part of a kaizen event is the follow-up activity that aims to ensure that improvements are sustained, and not just temporary. Following the kaizen event, team members routinely track key performance measures (i.e., metrics) to document the improvement gains. Metrics often include lead and cycle times, process defect rates, movement required, square footage utilized, although the metrics vary when the targeted process is an administrative process. Follow-up events are sometimes scheduled at 30 and 90-days following the initial kaizen event to assess performance and identify follow-up modifications that may be necessary to sustain the improvements. As part of this follow-up, personnel involved in the targeted process are tapped for feedback and suggestions. As discussed under the 5S method, visual feedback on process performance are often logged on scoreboards that are visible to all employees.

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Implications for Environmental Performance

Potential Benefits:
At its core, kaizen represents a process of continuous improvement that creates a sustained focus on eliminating all forms of waste from a targeted process. The resulting continual improvement culture and process is typically very similar to those sought under environmental management systems (EMS), ISO 14001, and pollution prevention programs. An advantage of kaizen is that it involves workers from multiple functions who may have a role in a given process, and strongly encourages them to participate in waste reduction activities. Workers close to a particular process often have suggestions and insights that can be tapped about ways to improve the process and reduce waste. Organizations have found, however, that it is often difficult to sustain employee involvement and commitment to continual improvement activities (e.g., P2, environmental management) that are not necessarily perceived to be directly related to core operations. In some cases, kaizen may provide a vehicle for engaging broad-based organizational participation in continual improvement activities that target, in part, physical wastes and environmental impacts.
Kaizen can be a powerful tool for uncovering hidden wastes or waste-generating activities and eliminating them.
Kaizen focuses on waste elimination activities that optimize existing processes and that can be accomplished quickly without significant capital investment. This creates a higher likelihood of quick, sustained results.
Potential Shortcomings:
Failure to involve environmental personnel in a quick kaizen event can potentially result in changes that do not satisfy applicable environmental regulatory requirements (e.g., waste handling requirements, permitting requirements). Care should be taken to consult with environmental staff regarding changes made to environmentally sensitive processes.
Failure to incorporate environmental considerations into kaizen can potentially result in solutions that do not consider inherent environmental risk associated with new processes. For example, an organization might select a change in process chemistry that addresses one improvement need (e.g., product quality, process cycle time) but that might be sub-optimal if the organization considered the material hazards or toxicity and the associated chemical and hazardous waste management obligations.
By not explicitly incorporating environmental considerations into kaizen, valuable pollution prevention and sustainability opportunities may be disregarded. For example, an evident opportunity to conserve water resources may not be explored if water use is not expensive and therefore not considered a wasteful expense that needs to be addressed. Similarly, including environmental considerations in the kaizen event goals can lead to solutions that rely less on hazardous materials or that create less hazardous wastes.

Useful Resources

Productivity Press Development Team. Kaizen for the Shopfloor (Portland, Oregon: Productivity Press, 2002).

Soltero, Conrad and Gregory Waldrip. “Using Kaizen to Reduce Waste and Prevent Pollution.” Environmental Quality Management (Spring 2002), 23-37.

Microsoft Site Templates Upgraded and are now available

 

One of the main goals of the application templates is to provide a demonstration of the application building power in SharePoint and as a potential starting point for larger, more robust applications. While these templates are fully functional and usable out-of-the-box, I’ll be happy to reply on your comments and supporting you as needed.

 

note: those templates were collected from several resources and no source code for them.

All templates are compatible with SharePoint Server 2010 and Foundation Server 2010.

Case Management

The Case Management application template helps case managers track the status and tasks required to complete their work. When a case is created, standard tasks and documents are created which are modified based on the work each case manager has completed.

Clinical Trial Initiation and Management

For those who work in Academic Medical Centers, the Clinical Trial Initiation and Management application template helps teams manage the process of tracking clinical trial protocols, objective setting, subject selection and budget activities.

Employee Activities Site
employee activities
The Employee Activities Site application template helps departments, such as HR and Marketing, manage the creation and attendance of events for employees.

Employee Training Scheduling and Materials

The Employee Training Scheduling and Materials application template helps Instructors add new courses and organize course materials. Employees use the site to schedule attendance at a course, track courses they’ve attended and to provide feedback.

Employee Training 01

Employee Training

Employee Training 03

Absence Request and Vacation Schedule Management

The Absence Request and Vacation Schedule Management application template helps provider departments manage requests for out of office days and provides dashboards showing which users are signed up for a set of responsibilities

Event Planning

The Event Planning application template helps teams organize events efficiently through the use online registration, schedules, communication and feedback.

Discussion Database

The Discussion Database application template provides a location where team members can create and reply to discussion topics.

Team Work Site

The Team Work Site application template provides a place where clinical and business teams, can upload background documents, track scheduled calendar events and submit action items that result from team meetings.

Document Library and Review

The Document Library and Review application template helps people to manage the review cycle common to processes like publication, knowledge management and project plan development.

Knowledgebase

The Knowledgebase application template helps teams manage the information that is resident within their organization. The template enables team members to upload/create documents using Web-based tools and tag them with relevant identifying information.

Policies and Procedures Solution Accelerator

The Policies and Procedures Solution Accelerator assists healthcare organizations create, maintain, publish and easily access policy and procedure information. It also provides the ability to upload documents, maintain a version history and manage tasks.

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors application template provides a single location for an external group of members to store and locate common documents such as quarterly reviews, shareholder meeting notes and annual strategy documents.

Business Performance Reporting

The Business Performance Reporting application template helps health organization managers track the satisfaction of internal customers/patients through a combination of surveys and discussions.

Request for Proposal

The Request for Proposal application template helps manage the process of creating and releasing an initial RFP, collecting submissions of proposals and formally accepting the selected proposal from amongst those submitted.

Compliance Process Support Site

The Compliance Process Support Site application template helps both teams and executive sponsors to manage compliance implementation endeavors, such as HIPAA.

Expense Reimbursement and Approval

The Expense Reimbursement and Approval application template helps manage elements of the expense approval process, including creation and approval. Users can monitor the status of their reimbursement request through a filtered view listing.

Scorecards Solution Accelerator

The Scorecards solution accelerator acts as a template for configuring a management dashboard to track organizational metrics. It contains four example dashboards ranging from a primary care practice to a healthcare organization’s CEO dashboard.

Call Center
call center
The Call Center application template helps departments manage the process of handling customer service requests. The application template helps teams manage service requests from issue identification to cause analysis and resolution.

Help Desk
help desk
The Help Desk application template helps departments manage the process of handling service requests. Team members use the application template to identify a service request, manage identification of the root cause and track solution status.

Physical Asset Tracking and Management

The Physical Asset Tracking and Management application template helps departments, such as Facilities, BioMedical, Surgery, etc. manage requests and the tracking of physical assets.

Inventory Tracking
inventory
The Inventory Tracking application template helps organizations track elements associated with inventory, including creation of inventory. Users are notified when each part reaches the reorder quantity and helps manage customer and supplier information.

Cafeteria Menu Management

The Cafeteria Menu Management application template helps hospital Food & Nutrition staff easily communicate daily menu choices to hospital staff and visitors. It allows staff to develop/schedule menus and provide related nutritional information.

Budgeting and Tracking Multiple Projects

The Budgeting and Tracking Multiple Projects application template helps project teams track and budget multiple, interrelated sets of activities. Management tools such as assignment of new tasks, Gantt Charts and common status designators.

Change Request Management
change request management
The Change Request Management application template helps users track risks associated with a design change. Team members can submit a change request, notifying stakeholders of the risks involved with the change.

IT Team Workspace

The IT Team Workspace application template helps teams manage the development, deployment and support of software projects. It also includes help desk functionality, allowing team members to guide service requests from initiation to resolution.

Project Tracking Workspace

The Project Tracking Workspace application template helps small team projects manage project information in a single location. The application template provides a place where a team can list and view project issues and tasks.

 

 

 

How To : Design the Physical Architecture to Support Collaborative Development and ALM of SharePoint Foundation 2010 Application

Introduction

This article explains the physical architecture which fits best in collaborative development and ALM of SharePoint Foundation 2010 application and what are the servers and tools needed and how they play key roles in ALM of SharePoint Foundation 2010. The purpose of this article is to provide overall understanding of various servers and farms connected to each other in SharePoint Foundation.

Background

Basic understanding of different server OS & SharePoint Foundation 2010 is required.

Solution

Application Life-cycle Management (ALM) is the co-ordination of development life-cycle activities—including requirements, modeling, development, build, and testing. Recently, ALM has expanded beyond the application and the software development life cycle to also include business solution governance, infrastructure management, operations, and support.

You can use ALM to help align your organization in the context of a software solution in business, development, and operations. With an application development platform that supports ALM, you can provide integration between the various tools used and activities performed within each of these capabilities.

There are main four types of staging servers with standalone developer’s environment which plays a key role in ALM of SharePoint 2010 application:

  1. Development SharePoint Farm
  2. Team foundation server
  3. Integration/Testing Farm
  4. Production Farm
    +
    Developer’s Workstation

The below figure is a physical architecture which depicts how each sever is interconnected to support collaborative development and ALM for SharePoint Foundation 2010 application:

Click to enlarge image

Development SharePoint Farm

A SharePoint farm is fundamentally a collection of SharePoint role servers that provide for the base infrastructure required to house SharePoint sites. The farm level is the highest level of SharePoint architecture, providing a distinct operational boundary for a SharePoint environment. Each farm in an environment is a self-encompassing unit made up of one or more servers, such as web servers, service application servers, and SharePoint database servers.

SharePoint development farm needed for the developers in an organization that makes heavy use of SharePoint often need environments to test new applications, web parts, solutions, and other SharePoint customization. These developers often need a sandbox area where these farm level features and solutions can be tested.

I have considered two-tier topology for SharePoint Foundation 2010 farm. However it will be entirely based on the need of your application. If your application is a relatively small intranet application, then you can choose single tier topology or if you are going to integrate other search server with foundation, then you can choose three-tier topology with application server as a middle tier (Remember that SharePoint Foundation 2010 doesn’t include enterprise search). It may make sense to deploy one or more development farms so that developers have the opportunity to run their tests and develop software for SharePoint independent of the existing production environment.

There are basically two types of servers included in two-tier development farm of SharePoint Foundation 2010:

  1. Web server
  2. Content database server

In the above figure, there are three front-end web servers and one SharePoint content database server. However you can choose a single front-end web server connected to content database server based on your application need and architecture of production environment. All web servers share the same content database. This is called two-tier deployment farm where SharePoint server component and content database are installed on separate server. As I mentioned before, you can choose one-tier, two-tier or three-tier deployment topology based on your application architecture and topology of production architecture.

Each web server has SharePoint Foundation 2010 and SharePoint extension for TFS 2010 install on it. It needs SharePoint extension for TFS 2010 to connect with Team Foundation Server for source control, build management & project management.

Advantage of Development SharePoint Farm:

  1. Single place where SharePoint Admin can integrate all the final artifacts from multiple developers.
  2. Developer can sync with latest SharePoint site on its standalone developer workstation.
  3. Admin can easily approve artifacts and migrate to integration server.
  4. It is a unit testing environment for developers where they can test dependent functionality or farm level features.

Team Foundation Server

Team Foundation Server plays a key role in ALM which provides source control, build management and work item. You can have TFS installed on the same server which has content database server but if you are going to use build management of TFS, then it is advisable to have separate Team Foundation Server because it utilizes CPU intensively when it processes the builds.

As per the above figure, there are separate Team foundation servers which are connected to SharePoint Farm as well as standalone development workstation so that it can provide source control for customized content as well as developer’s artifacts and resources.

Advantages of TFS
  1. Source control for SharePoint artifacts and customization
  2. Build management for SharePoint
  3. Work item and bug tracking tool for SharePoint
  4. Admin console for all management activity
  5. Easy integration with SharePoint foundation server and VS 2010
  6. Easy check-in & check-out
  7. Web based console to manage ALM activity

Developer’s Workstation

As per the above figure, developers’ environment includes two developers workstation. In practice, you can take as many workstations as your development team size.

Developer workstation should have Windows 7 or Windows vista operating system with standalone SharePoint foundation server with local content database. So that one developer’s work doesn’t affect another developer and he can debug artifacts locally.

Developer workstation will include the following stuff installed:

  1. Windows 7 or Windows vista 64 bit OS
  2. Stand alone SharePoint Foundation server 2010
  3. SharePoint designer 2010
  4. Visual Studio 2010 (connected to TFS)

Developer workstation should be connected to Team Foundation Server 2010 so that when developer finally completes his artifact, then he can check-in his artifact in TFS so that other developers can take the latest code from TFS if needed. This way, parallel development can happen without affecting other developer’s work.

Integration/Testing Farm

Any production SharePoint environment should have a test environment in which new SharePoint web parts, solutions, service packs, patches, and add-ons can be tested. It is critical to deploy test farms, because many SharePoint add-ons could potentially disrupt or corrupt the formatting or structure of a production environment, and trying to test these new solutions on site collections or different web applications is not enough because the solutions often install directly on the SharePoint servers themselves. If there is an issue, the issue will be reflected in the entire farm.

Integration or testing server farm should be similar to the existing environments, with the same add-ons and solutions installed and should ideally include restores of production site collections to make it as similar as possible to the existing production environment. All changes and new products or solutions installed into an environment should subsequently be tested first in this environment.

Integration/testing servers will have final SharePoint sites and site collection as per the business requirements. QA will test all the business functionality here. Customer can also do their ‘User acceptance test’ before going live to the production server.

After user acceptance test passed, all the sites & site collection will be deployed on production server.

Advantage of Integration testing server:

  1. Clean environments and same physical architecture as production
  2. QA can test all dependent business functionality at one place
  3. Customer can participate in UAT
  4. Easy deployment/migration from integration testing server to production server

Production Farm

The final stage is rolling your farm into a production environment. At this stage, you will have incorporated the necessary solution and infrastructure adjustments that were identified during the user acceptance test stage. These servers are generally in the customer’s premises. Development team and testing team do not have control over it.

There are various 3rd party tools available in the market for SharePoint data protection, administration, migration, compliance and integration.

ImageGen[1]

Summary

So this way, you can design physical architecture where Development SharePoint Farm and developer’s workstation are integrated with TFS 2010. TFS and Content database are connected to testing server or testing farm where all the artifacts and content will be integrated in testing server for QA and UAT. Finally after UAT, it will be deployed on production farm.

You can use VM (Virtual Machine) for all the servers and workstation for effective infrastructure because if server crashes due to some reason, then you can quickly create a new VM for the needed OS from images.

Note: In the above figure, integration/Testing farm and production farm is a single server just for clear understanding but it will be as large as development farm with number of front-end web server and content database server in reality. All the server OS is Windows Server 2008 R2 SP2 64 bit. Please visit here for more information on hardware & software requirements for SharePoint Foundation 2010.

A Look At : Visual Studio 2013 Update 3 CTP2

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New technology improvements in Visual Studio 2013 Update 3 CTP 2

 

Technology improvements

The following technology improvements were made in this release.

CodeLens

  • CodeLens jobs that are running on the Team Foundation Server job agent have been optimized for performance specifically while processing branching and merging changesets.

Debugger

  • If you have more than one monitor, Visual Studio will remember which monitor a Windows Store application was last run on.
  • You can debug x86 applications that are built by .NET native.
  • When you analyze managed memory dump files, you can go to Definition and Find All References of the selected type.
  • You can debug the dump files from .NET Native applications by using Visual Studio debugger.

General

  • The Application Insights Tools for Visual Studio are now included in Visual Studio 2013 Update 3 CTP2. This initial integration as part of CTP2 includes some software updates and performance improvements.

IntelliTrace

  • You can skip straight to the details of performance events that are exported from Application Insights to IntelliTrace.

Profiler

  • The Performance and Diagnostics hub can open profiling sessions (.diagsession files) that were exported from the F12 tools in the latest developer preview of Internet Explorer 11.
  • Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and Win32 applications are supported by the new Memory Usage Tool in the Performance and Diagnostics Hub. For more information about how to use the tool to troubleshoot issues in native and managed memory, go to the following blog post:
    Diagnosing memory issues with the new Memory Usage Tool in Visual Studio

Release Management

  • You can useWindowsPowerShell or theWindowsPowerShell Desired State Configuration (DSC) feature to deploy and manage configuration data. Additionally, you can deploy to the following environments without having to set up Microsoft Deployment Agent:
    • Microsoft Azure environments
    • On-premise environments (Standard environments)

Testing Tools

  • You can add custom fields and custom work flows for test plans and test suites.
  • You can use Manage Test Suites permission for granting access to test suites.
  • You can track changes to test plans and test suites by using work item history.

For more information about these features, see the following Visual Studio Developer Tools blog article:

Test Plan and Test Suite Customization with TFS2013 Update3

Visual Studio IDE

  • CodeLens authors and changes indicators are now available for Git repositories.
  • In Code Map, links are styled by using colors, and they display in the improved Legend.
  • Debugger Map automatically zooms to the call stack entry of interest and preserves user’s zoom preferences.
  • You can drag binaries from the Windows file explorer to a code map, and then start exploring binaries by using Code Map.

Known issues

Testing Tools

  • When you try to upgrade an existing TFS server that has Test management data to Visual Studio 2013 Team Foundation Server Update 3 CTP2 in JPN or CHS, the upgrade of Test Case Management service does not work.

Visual Studio IDE

  • In Visual Studio 2013 Ultimate Update 3 CTP2 localized (non en-us) drops, when trying to request a Code Map, or a Dependency Graph for the solution, the directed graph is not produced.

 

For more information on Visual Studio 2013 and other upgrades, visit http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2933779/en-us

A Look At : The importance of people in a SharePoint project

Image

As with all other sizeable new business software implementations, a successful SharePoint deployment is one that is well thought-out and carefully managed every step of the way.

However in one key respect a SharePoint deployment is different from most others in the way it should be carried out. Whereas the majority of ERP solutions are very rigid in terms of their functionality and in the nature of the business problems they solve, SharePoint is far more of a jack-of-all-trades type of system. It’s a solution that typically spreads its tentacles across several areas within an organisation, and which has several people putting in their two cents worth about what functions SharePoint should be geared to perform.

So what is the best approach? And what makes for a good SharePoint project manager?

From my experience with SharePoint implementations, I would say first and foremost that a SharePoint deployment should be approached from a business perspective, rather than from a strictly technology standpoint. A SharePoint project delivered within the allotted time and budget can still fail if it’s executed without the broader business objectives in mind. If the project manager understands, and can effectively demonstrate, how SharePoint can solve the organisation’s real-world business problems and increase business value, SharePoint will be a welcome addition to the organisation’s software arsenal.

Also crucial is an understanding of people. An effective SharePoint project manager understands the concerns, limitations and capabilities of those who will be using the solution once it’s implemented. No matter how technically well-executed your SharePoint implementation is, it will amount to little if hardly anyone’s using the system. The objective here is to maximise user adoption and engagement, and this can be achieved by maximising user involvement in the deployment process.

 

Rather than only talk to managers about SharePoint and what they want from the system, also talk to those below them who will be using the product on a day-to-day basis. This means not only collaborating with, for example, the marketing director but also with the various marketing executives and co-ordinators.

 

It means not only talking with the human resources manager but also with the HR assistant, and so on. By engaging with a wide range of (what will be) SharePoint end-users and getting them involved in the system design process, the rate of sustained user adoption will be a lot higher than it would have been otherwise.

 

An example of user engagement in action concerns a SharePoint implementation I oversaw for an insurance company. The business wanted to improve the tracking of its documentation using a SharePoint-based records management system. Essentially the system was deployed to enhance the management and flow of health insurance and other key documentation within the organisation to ensure that the company meets its compliance obligations.

 

The project was a great success, largely because we ensured that there was a high level of end-user input right from the start. We got all the relevant managers and staff involved from the outset, we began training people on SharePoint early on and we made sure the change management part of the process was well-covered.

 

Also, and very importantly, the business value of the project was sharply defined and clearly explained from the get-go. As everyone set about making the transition to a SharePoint-driven system, they knew why it was important to the company and why it was going to be good for them too.

By contrast a follow-up SharePoint project for the company some months later was not as successful. Why? Because with that project, in which the company abandoned its existing intranet and developed a new one, the business benefits were poorly defined and were not effectively communicated to stakeholders. That particular implementation was driven by the company’s IT department which approached the project from a technical, rather than a business, perspective. User buy-in was not sought and was not achieved.

 

When the SharePoint solution went live hardly anyone used it because they didn’t see why they should. No-one had educated them on that. That’s the danger when you don’t engage all your prospective system end-users throughout every phase of a SharePoint implementation project.

As can be seen, while it is of course critical that the technical necessities of a SharePoint deployment be met, that’s only part of the picture. Without people using the system, or with people using the system to less than its maximum potential, the return on your SharePoint investment will never materialize.

Comprehensive engagement with all stakeholders, that’s where the other part of the picture comes in. That’s where a return on investment, an investment of time and effort, will most assuredly be achieved.

How To : Instrument Your Applications in Azure

Overview

Instrumenting your application code should be one of the key Non-Functional Requirements for consideration while building applications in Azure, specifically if they are multi-tenant SaaS-based applications.

windows-azure-c3634

Depending on the size and nature of your application, the following areas of instrumentation should be considered:

  1. Diagnostic Logging
    1. Exception Log
    2. Verbose Log
  2. Custom Performance Metrics
  3. Application Performance Metrics
  4. Service Metering

Diagnostics

Diagnostic Logging in very simple terms could be logging all exceptions that occur in your application. You can create a very simple LogService implementation using log4net. The service can expose methods like Debug, Error, Fatal, Warn, and Info to address various instrumentation needs. The log4net, ILog interface exposes capabilities for each of these as shown in the code below

readonly ILog _logger;
 
        static LogService()
        {
            XmlConfigurator.Configure();
        }
 
        public LogService(Type logClass)
        {
            _logger = LogManager.GetLogger(logClass);
        }
 
        /// 
        /// Log a message object with the Fatal level.
        /// 
        ///The error message.
        public void Fatal(string errorMessage)
        {
            if (_logger.IsFatalEnabled)
                _logger.Fatal(errorMessage);
        } 

InstrumentationFig2[1]

In addition to logging the exceptions caught in the catch block, it is a good idea to provide support for verbose logging and enable it for capturing detailed code flow if needed. To capture verbose log, you must instrument every method entry, including the parameters passed and return values. Important business rules within methods should also be instrumented as deemed necessary.

You can use the Info method to create specific logging entries such as “Method Entry”, “Method Exit” with each of these entries augmented by the parameters passed and returned respectively.

Note that Windows events are captured and logged in the WADLogsTable and WADWindowsEventsLogsTable table stores. They provide additional diagnostic information into issues occurring in the configured roles.

Performance Metrics

Performance metrics are usually twofold. You can use the Telemetry SDK to create custom KPI to be monitored using App Insights. If you do not have App Insights, you can actually create a simple performance monitor for your modules, using a StopWatch and capturing the ElapsedMilliseconds for the operations you intend to participate in a performance session. The key here would be, however, to be asynchronous while capturing performance data. The following class shows a simple PerfLog entity.

public class PerfLog : TableEntity
    {
        private string operationName;
 
        public string OperationName 
        { 
            get 
            {
                return operationName;
            } 
            set 
            {
                operationName = value;
                this.RowKey = string.Format("{0}_{1}", value, this.RowKey);
            } 
        }
    
        public int TenantId { get; set; }
        public string ParamValuesPassed { get; set; }
        public int OperationExecutionDuration { get; set; }
        public string ResultInfo { get; set; }
        public int RecordsReturned { get; set; }
    } 

Second, you can use the Windows Azure Performance Diagnostics part of Windows Azure Diagnostics (WAD) to create and use performance counters in your application.

The WAD framework is built using the Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) framework and the performance counter logs are stored in the WADPerformanceCountersTable storage table.

It is possible to create a custom diagnostic plan for each role using Visual Studio. The following figure illustrates the performance configuration.

Service Metering

If you are building a multi-tenant SaaS-based application, Service Metering is important to gain an understanding of usage and bill customers accordingly. The recently released Cloud Design Patterns guidance by the Patterns and Practices team elaborates on the Service Metering Guidance.

Please note that there is no default mechanism in Azure to perform metering by tenant. The architecture needs to take care of tenant-based metering. An early example of this was released in the Cloud Ninja Metering Block and you can explore the source to understand a tenant metering implementation and apply it in your application. The source is available at http://cnmb.codeplex.com/SourceControl/latest.

 

The Azure Management Portal provides you usage details on each resource and is a great way to find out the resource allocation on roles. The following figure illustrates:

Microsoft releases .Net 4.5.2 Framework and Developer Pack

You can download the releases now,

Image

We incorporated feedback we received for the .NET Framework 4.5.1 from different feedback sources to provide a faster release cadence. In this blog post we will talk about some of the new features we are delivering in the .NET Framework 4.5.2.

ASP.NET improvements

  • New HostingEnvironment.QueueBackgroundWorkItem method that lets you schedule small background work items. ASP.NET tracks these items and prevents IIS from abruptly terminating the worker process until all background work items have completed. These will enable ASP.NET applications to reliably schedule Async work items.
  • New HttpResponse.AddOnSendingHeaders and HttpResponseBase.AddOnSendingHeaders methods are more reliable and efficient than HttpApplication.PreSendRequestContent and HttpApplication.PreSendRequestHeaders. These APIs let you inspect and modify response headers and status codes as the HTTP response is being flushed to the client application. These reliability improvements minimize deadlocks and crashes between IIS and ASP.NET.
  • New HttpResponse.HeadersWritten and HttpResponseBase.HeadersWritten properties that return Boolean values to indicate whether the response headers have been written. You can use these properties to make sure that calls to APIs such as HttpResponse.StatusCode succeeds. This enables shared hosting scenarios for ASP.NET applications.

High DPI Improvements is an opt-in feature toenable resizing according to the system DPI settings for several glyphs or icons for the following Windows Forms controls: DataGridView, ComboBox, ToolStripComboBox, ToolStripMenuItem and Cursor. Here are examples of before and after views once this change is opted into.

.NET 4.5.1 Controls with High DPI setting .NET 4.5.2 Controls with High DPI setting
The red error glyph barely shows up and will eventually disappear with high scaling The red error glyph scales correctly.
The ToolStripMenu drop down arrow is barely visible, eventually won’t be usable with high scaling The drop down arrow in the ToolStripMenu scales correctly

Distributed transactions enhancement enables promotion of local transactions to Microsoft Distributed Transaction Coordinator (MSDTC) transactions without the use of another application domain or unmanaged code. This has a significant positive impact on the performance of distributed transactions.

More robust profiling with new profiling APIs that require dependent assemblies that are injected by the profiler to be loadable immediately, instead of being loaded after the app is fully initialized. This change does not affect users of the existing ICorProfiler APIs. Before this feature, diagnostics tools that do IL instrumentation via profiling API could cause unhandled exceptions to be thrown, unexpectedly terminating the process.

Improved activity tracing support in runtime and framework – The .NET Framework 4.5.2 enables out-of-process, Event Tracing for Windows (ETW)-based activity tracing for a larger surface area. This enables Application Performance Management vendors to provide lightweight tools that accurately track the costs of individual requests and activities that cross threads. These events are raised only when ETW controllers enable them.

For more information on usage of these features please refer to “What’s New in the .NET Framework 4.5.2”. Besides these features, there are many reliability and performance improvements across different areas of the .NET Framework.

Here are additional installers – pick package(s) most suitable for your needs based on your deployment scenario:

  • .NET Framework 4.5.2 Web Installer – A Bootstrapper that pulls in components based on the target OS/platform specs on which the .NET Framework is being deployed. Internet access is required.
  • .NET Framework 4.5.2 Offline Installer – The Full Package for offline deployments. Internet access is not required.
  • .NET Framework 4.5.2 Language Packs – Language specific support. You need to install the .NET Framework (language neutral) package before installing one or more language packs.
  • .NET Framework 4.5.2 Developer Pack – This will install .NET Framework Multi-targeting pack for building apps targeting .NET Framework 4.5.2 and also .NET Framework 4.5.2 runtime. Useful for build machines that need both the runtime and the multi-targeting pack

 

Great Agile Develipment Tool – Agile Planner

Great Agile Development project – /http://agileplanner.codeplex.com/

Project Description

This project is to develop an interation planning tool for agile project management.

What’s new?

Release: 1.0.0, run in Visual Studio integrated mode. See how to use for details.

What is Agile Planner?

This tool is for agile project teams, who currently are using sticky notes on the wall. With this tool stories, backlog and iterations are managed in a graphic designer, saved as files within visual studio projects and can be exported to images, reports and etc.

Main features are

  • Stories can be drag and dropped between backlog and iterations
  • Iteration’s capacity calculated automatically base on stories within it
  • Stories are rendered base on customizable status or priority color schema
  • Diagram can be exported to PNG image for printing, documentation and sharing

Here are examples.

Stories rendered based on status
agile-stories-on-status-s.png

Stories rendered base on priority
agile-stories-on-priority-s.png

 

How to use Agile Planner

1. Install
To install Agile Planner,

  • Download the runtime binary zip file from the latest releases
  • Extract all files from the runtime binary zip file
  • Run the windows installer AgilePlanner.msi (requires elevated command prompt under Vista and administrator on XP/2003).

2. Get Started
To start use Agile Planner in Visual Studio 2008 project

  • Start Visual Studio 2008, create new project or load existing project
  • Right click the project name and select menu “Add | New Item …”

add-new-item.PNG

  • Select AgilePlanner
  • Dismiss the security warning if it shows up

You will be presented a designing environment like below.

designer.PNG

  1. Graphical designer for iterations and stories
  2. Toolbox for iterations and stories
  3. Treeview Explorer for iterations and stories
  4. Property window for iterations and stories

3. Plan your project’s iterations

  • Create iterations by dragging iteration tool from toolbox to the graphical designer
  • Create Stories by dragging story tool from toolbox to the backlog and iterations
  • Edit stories’ properties such as name, capacity, priority and status the property window

add-stories.PNG

Notice: the capacity of iteration updated automatically after dragged stories between iterations and after updated the stories’ capacity property, so that you can balance the work load between iterations.

4. Render the diagram
The stories can be colored based on either their status or priority. To switch between these two options, right click the diagram and select menu “Color on Status” or “Color on Priority”. The color schema are customizable as the property of the project.

render-in-priority.PNG

5. Export
The rendered diagram can be exported to png file by right clicking on the diagram and select menu “Export to image”.

exported.png

How to use it?

See how to use

How To : Use SharePoint Dashboards & MSRS Reports for your Agile Development Life Cycle

The Problem We Solve

Agile BI is not a term many would associate with MSRS Reports and SharePoint Dashboards. While many organizations first turn to the Microsoft BI stack because of its familiarity, stitching together Microsoft’s patchwork of SharePoint, SQL Server, SSAS, MSRS, and Office creates administrative headaches and requires considerable time spent integrating and writing custom code.

This Showcase outlines the ease of accomplishing three of the most fundamental BI tasks with LogiXML technology as compared to MSRS and SharePoint:

  • Building a dashboard with multiple data sources
  • Creating interactive reports that reduce the load on IT by providing users self-service
  • Integrating disparate data sources

Read below to learn how an agile BI methodology can make your life much easier when it comes to dashboards and reports. Don’t feel like reading?

Building a Dashboard with LogiXML vs. MSRS + SharePoint

Microsoft’s only solution for dashboards is to either write your own code from scratch, manipulate SharePoint to serve a purpose for which it wasn’t initially designed, or look to third party apps. Below are some of the limitations to Microsoft’s approach to dashboards:

  • Limited Pre-Built Elements: Microsoft components come with only limited libraries of pre-built elements. In addition to actual development work, you will need to come up with an idea of how everything will work together. This necessitates becoming familiar with best practices in dashboards and reporting.
  • Sophisticated Development Expertise Required: While Microsoft components provide basic capabilities, anything more sophisticated is development resource-intensive and requires you to take on design, execution, and delivery. Any complex report visualizations and logic, such as interactive filters, must be written in code by the developer.
  • Limited Charts and Visualizations: Microsoft has a smaller sub-set of charts and visualization tools. If you want access to the complete library of .NET-capable charts, you’ll still need to OEM another charting solution at additional expense.
  • Lack of Integrated Workflow: Microsoft does not include workflow features sets out of the box in their BI offering.

LogiXML technology is centered on Logi Studio: an elemental, agile BI design environment which lets you simply choose from hundreds of powerful and configurable pre-built elements. Logi’s pre-built elements equip developers with tools to speed development, as well as the processes and logic required to build and manage BI projects. Below is a screen shot of the Logi Studio while building new dashboards.

agile-bi.jpg

Start a free LogiXML trial now.

Logi developers can easily create static or user-customizable dashboards using the Dashboard element. A dashboard is a collection of panels containing Logi reports, which in turn contain table, charts, images, etc. At runtime, the user can customize the dashboard by rearranging these panels on the browser page, by showing or hiding them, and even by changing their contents using adjustable reporting criteria. The data displayed within the panels can be configured, as in any Logi report, to link to other reports, providing drill-down functionality.

 

logi2.jpg

The dashboard displayed above has tabs and user customization enabled. The Dashboard element provides customization features, such as drag-and-drop panel positioning, support for built-in parameters the user can access to adjust the panel’s data contents, and a panel selection list that determines which panels will be displayed. AJAX techniques are utilized for web server interactions, allowing selective updates of portions of the dashboard. Dashboard customizations can be saved on an individual-user basis to create a highly personalized view of the data.

The Dashboard Wizard

The ‘Create a Dashboard’ wizard assists developers in creating dashboards by populating the report definition with the necessary dashboard-related elements. You can easily point to any data source by selecting from a variety of DataLayer types, including SQL, StoredProcedures, Web Services, Files, and more. A simple to use drag and drop SQL Query builder is also integrated, to offer a guided approach to constructing queries when connecting to your database.

logi3.jpg

Using the Dashboard Element

The Dashboard element is used to create the top level structure for all of your interactive panels within the final output. Under your dashboards, you can optionally add any number of Dashboard Panels, Panel Parameters for dynamic filtering, and even automatic refresh features with AJAX-based refresh timers.

logi4.jpg

Changing Appearance Using Themes and Style Sheets

The appearance of a dashboard can be changed easily by assigning a theme to your report. In addition, or as an alternative, you can change dashboard appearance using style. The Dashboard element has its own Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) file containing predefined classes that affect the display colors, font sizes, button labels, and spacing seen when the dashboard is displayed. You can override these classes by adding classes with the same name to your own style sheet file.

See us build a BI app with 3 data sources in under 10 minutes.

Ad Hoc Reporting Creation with LogiXML: Analysis Grid

The Analysis Grid is a managed reporting feature giving end users virtual ad hoc capability. It is an easy to use tool that allows business users to analyze and manipulate data and outputs in multiple and powerful ways.

logi5.jpg

Start a free LogiXML trial now.

Create an Analysis Grid by using the “Create Analysis Grid” wizard, or by simply adding the AnalysisGrid element into your definition file. Like the dashboard, data for the Analysis Grid can be accessed from any of the data options, including SQL databases, web sources, or files. You also have the option to launch the interactive query builder wizard for easy, drag-drop, SQL query creation.

The Analysis Grid is composed of three main parts: the data grid itself, i.e. a table of data to be analyzed; various action buttons at the top, allowing the user to perform actions such as create new columns with custom calculations, sort columns, add charts, and perform aggregations; and the ability to export the grid to Excel, CSV, or PDF format.

The Analysis Grid makes it easy to perform what-if analyses through features like filtering. The Grid also makes data-presentation impactful through visualization features including data driven color formatting, inline gauges, and custom formula creation.

Ad Hoc Reporting Creation with Microsoft

While simple ad hoc capabilities, such as enabling the selection of parameters like date ranges, can be accomplished quickly and easily with Microsoft, more sophisticated ad hoc analysis is challenging due to the following shortcomings.

Platform Integration Problems

Microsoft BI strategy is not unified and is strongly tied to SQL Server. To obtain analysis capabilities, you must build cubes through to the Analysis Service, which is a separate product with its own different security architecture. Next, you will need to build reports that talk to SQL server, also using separate products.

Dashboards require a SharePoint portal which is, again, a separate product with separate requirements and licensing. If you don’t use this, you must completely code your dashboards from scratch. Unfortunately, Microsoft Reporting Services doesn’t play well with Analysis Services or SharePoint since these were built on different technologies.

SharePoint itself offers an out of the box portal and dashboard solution but unfortunately with a number of significant shortcomings. SharePoint was designed as a document management and collaboration tool as opposed to an interactive BI dashboard solution. Therefore, in order to have a dashboard solution optimized for BI, reporting, and interactivity you are faced with two options:

  • Build it yourself using .NET and a combination of third party components
  • Buy a separate third party product

Many IT professionals find these to be rather unappealing options, since they require evaluating a new product or components, and/or a lot of work to build and make sure it integrates with the rest of the Microsoft stack.

Additionally, while SQL Server and other products support different types of security architectures, Analysis Services only has support for using integrated Windows NT security models to access cubes and therefore creates integration challenges.

Moreover, for client/ad hoc tools, you need Report Writer, a desktop product, or Excel – another desktop application. In addition to requiring separate licenses, these products don’t even talk to one another in the same ways, as they were built by different companies and subsequently acquired by Microsoft.

Each product requires a separate and often disconnected development environment with different design and administration features. Therefore to manage Microsoft BI, you must have all of these development environments available and know how to use them all.

Integration of Various Data Sources: LogiXML vs. Microsoft

LogiXML is data neutral, allowing you to easily connect to all of your organization’s data spread across multiple applications and databases. You can connect with any data source or data model and even combine data sources such as current data accessed through a web service with past data in spreadsheets.

Integration of Various Data Sources with Microsoft

Working with Microsoft components for BI means you will be faced with the challenge of limited support for non-Microsoft based databases and outside data sources. The Microsoft BI stack is centered on SQL Server databases and therefore the data source is optimized to work with SQL Server. Unfortunately, if you need outside content it can be very difficult to integrate.

Finally, Microsoft BI tools are designed with the total Microsoft experience in mind and are therefore optimized for Internet Explorer. While other browsers and devices might be useable, the experience isn’t optimized and may potentially lack in features or visualize differently.

 

Free & Licensed Windows 8, Azure, Office 365, SharePoint On-Premise and Online Tools, Web Parts, Apps available.
For more detail visit https://sharepointsamurai.wordpress.com or contact me at tomas.floyd@outlook.com

5 Agile Project Management Techniques You Can Start Using Today

Image“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” – Mark Twain

Mark Twain wasn’t a Software Development manager in any way; however, his words still resonate very accurately when it comes to how you can get started adopting Agile project management techniques.

Here are the top 5 practices you can use TODAY regardless of your situation or environment.

 

1.Don’t call it “Agile” – The term Agile seems to have become fatigued or simply over/misused. In some organizations it even has negative connotations – synonymous with “developer centric” or “no documentation” or “no requirements.” This is not the intent of Agile. In addition, sometimes the term “Agile” conjures up dogma– a religious like push to have an “all or nothing” adoption of all things “Agile”. In many cases, this simply isn’t reality. Ultimately we adopt “Agile” project management practices to help control chaos and more importantly, reduce waste by helping us focus on the production of business value. The term “Agile” sometimes conjures up a nebulous end-state that seems unachievable or unpractical to a lot of organizations. So, why call it Agile? The goal of adopting any practice is virtually the same – to minimize waste. You don’t need to label any of these practices with “Agile” if you don’t want to and still get tremendous value.

2.Time-boxed High-Bandwidth Communication Cadences – The term “High Bandwidth” is used for a reason. Part of “Agile” is an acknowledgement that humans communicate more effectively when they are face-to-face – other forms being wasteful. We like face-to-face discussions – body language, facial expressions, and interactive conversation all add to the effectiveness of this form collaboration. Given this, you should start to sprinkle in regular cadences of high-bandwidth communication across your project. To make this even more effective, consider placing a time-box around these sessions to make sure everyone stays focused. Don’t mistake this with “have more meetings” – implementing this correctly results in having less more effective meetings focusing on greater team communication. Start with a daily 15 minute “standup” meeting where the team simply acknowledges what they are working on and if they are having any problems. Next, sprinkle in a bi-weekly “show-and-tell” to show off what was accomplished during that time period with your customers. If you can’t meet face to face, then think about other forms of higher bandwidth communication such as video chat with Skype or Lync. Try to NOT rely upon email for your primary form of discussion as meaning and intent are quickly lost or misinterpreted the more you rely upon written words for communication.

 

3.Be Visible: Find a way to simply and effectively communicate the current state of work. I might stress that this is not a 50 page print out of your Microsoft Project Gantt chart – but a very simple, highly visible board that shows what people are working on. This doesn’t need to be electronic and could be as simple as sticky notes on a whiteboard. There are lots and lots of examples of this – yet, you should start off with something simple to create and more importantly, simple to maintain and update.

 

Image

 

4.Regular Checkup: The term “Post Mortem” is a horrible term. It means to investigate something after it is dead. Instead of using an autopsy to drive organizational learning why not have a “regular checkup” to make sure you are doing all that you can to keep the project and team healthy? This doesn’t need to be formal – it can be as easy as a “pizza Friday” on the last Friday of a month where the team gets together to chat about what they think is going well, and what they know needs fixing.

5.Define Done: Instead of having arbitrary numbers that represent the of “done” something is, create a checklist that you and your team agrees define exactly what it means to be “done” a task of different types. You can have a “done” checklist for your analysis tasks as well as any other step in the development process. Checklists are very easy to produce and should start off very simple. You can use your regular checkup meetings to add or remove items from your checklists to continue to capture team learning and improve consistency across your project and team members.

These 5 practices should not conflict with any method or model you are working on today and go a long way to helping you along your path to the adoption of even more Agile practices

The top 4 issues faced with an Agile SDLC

Despite trying to achieve simplicity, Agile teams may still run across difficult issues. In this section some of the more common challenges are explored.

HANDLING INCOMPLETE WORK AT THE END OF AN ITERATION

It is not uncommon for a team to have incomplete work at the end of an iteration. Unfinished work is an important issue to identify as it signals a potential problem with one or more aspects of the team. When an iteration is planned, the team sets an expectation with the customer. When those expectations are not met, the customer could lose faith in the team’s ability to deliver, which introduces conditions that make success less achievable. Unfinished work should always be analyzed by the team during every iteration retrospective. This is where the team can better understand why the work was not completed and is likewise an opportunity to chart a better course going forward.

There are only a few things that teams can do to manage unfinished work. First, the team can move the work forward into the next iteration. This is normally done with work that has been started and is close to completion. Work that is not done—and was not even started— is usually moved back to the main backlog and is prioritized and rescheduled with the rest of the backlog items.

Handling Incomplete Work

Incomplete work normally does not count towards team velocity, however, some teams like to have an earned value approach. Most teams only factor in completed work when calculating velocity since one of the reasons work may be left incomplete is because more was scheduled in the iteration than its capacity allowed.

Teams should avoid extending the duration of an iteration to finish incomplete work. To reinforce the hard stop, some teams end iterations mid-week to reduce the temptation of using weekends as iteration buffers. Strict time boxing of iterations is an important tool in helping the team produce more predictable and repeatable results. If work does not fit within an iteration, the team should take the opportunity to assess the reason why so they can eliminate such issues in future iterations.

HANDLING BUGS

Bugs are a different type of requirement, one the team does not value. Bugs are waste in the eyes of an Agile team. Any time spent fixing a bug is time taken away from producing customer value, and is one of the reasons Agile teams strive for “zero defect” products. Nevertheless, bugs are an inevitable and must be addressed by all Agile teams. But being unpredictable, they cannot be planned as consistently as requirements from an iterative perspective.

Perhaps the most common way to handle bugs on a project is to allocate a particular amount of capacity in the iteration toward fixing bugs. Obviously, iterations early in the project will not need the same bug-fixing allocation as an iteration immediately preceding a production release, so this allocation should be adjusted by the team over time.

Handling Bugs

It is very difficult for even the most experienced Agile team to forecast bugs and predetermine how they will affect the time allocation in an iteration. Consequently, bugs are pulled into each iteration’s bug allocation based on its priority and impact. Since critical bugs can manifest daily, the bug backlog must also be managed daily, a process more commonly known as bug triage. Bug resolution is also very difficult to estimate since teams usually have to work to reproduce bugs and research the root cause before any time estimate for a bug can be made.

GRANULAR SCOPED BACKLOG ITEMS

HANDING UNCERTAINTY WITH SPIKES

Every project will contain a degree of uncertainty. Agile teams encounter technical uncertainty (what technology, approach, or design to employ), as well as uncertain requirements. Uncertainty is usually resolved through a combination of experimentation and further research. Agile teams work to address uncertainty with a “spike.” Like almost all things on an Agile project, a spike is a timeboxed amount of time dedicated to addressing an uncertainty. For example, an Agile team may not know the correct approach for a certain technical problem or integration. In this case, the team will schedule a spike time boxed to 3 or 4 hours, where one or more members of the team would perform further research or experimentation required to help resolve the uncertainty. Spikes are scheduled in the iteration as any other requirement and decomposed into tasks accordingly.

NO TIME FOR AGILE MEETINGS

Agile teams focus on removing waste and sharing knowledge. The following four meetings are critical to this process and should never be skipped because they are a critical best practice in Agile planning:

  1. Daily standup (Daily Scrum in Scrum)
  2. Iteration planning (Sprint planning in Scrum)
  3. Iteration review (Sprint review in Scrum)
  4. Iteration retrospective (Sprint retrospective in Scrum)

Some teams who adopt Agile struggle with process design which of necessity allocates meeting time to maximize communication and collaboration within an iteration. It can be tempting to skip these meetings to instead complete work, but beware. This can have a detrimental impact on the end result and hamper the team’s ability to achieve its project goals.

 

Many teams choose to stop doing iteration retrospectives, which are meetings held at the end of an iteration where the team gets together and openly share what they believe went well, and specifically, what needs improvement. Retrospective meetings are perhaps the most important part of any Agile process as they are a direct conduit to delivering customer value more effectively.

 

In fact, the retrospective meetings and the process improvement ideas that result in action are exactly what makes the team “agile.” Retrospective meetings are the critical mechanism to help drive continual and ongoing process improvement on a team.

 

Another potential meeting casualty is the daily standup, known in the Scrum methodology, as the Daily Scrum. The daily standup is typically held at the same time and location every single day and is strictly time-boxed. Each member of the team answers three questions.

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What will you do today?
  • Are there any problems that are getting in your way?

Daily standups provide a mechanism to ensure that each team member has an understanding of what work has been done and what work remains. Daily standups are not status meetings and they are not meant to inspire discussion or problem solving – they are a mechanism for the team to share state and to uncover problems inhibiting their ability to achieve their goal.

 

Another version of the daily standup focuses more on the flow of work rather than individual inhibitors. Instead of the team answering the three questions above, the team looks at each of the items that are in progress and quickly discusses what can be done to usher the items through the workflow.

 

Again, the daily standup is an extremely important tool for teams to help identify issues during the development process providing the team with the opportunity to remove those issues before they impact delivery. Without these meetings teams can easily miss opportunities to resolve issues as quickly as possible.

 

Another critical meeting is the iteration review meeting. During these meetings the team meets with the product owner to demonstrate what was accomplished during the iteration. This meeting is simply a demonstration rather than a presentation. During this review meeting, the project is assessed against the iteration goal that was determined during the iteration planning meeting. This meeting is a critical feedback loop with the team. Neglecting to perform this meeting means that valuable feedback is ignored. Some teams feel that they haven’t produced enough during an iteration to warrant an iteration review.

 

However, Agile teams strive to get feedback on everything they produce as quickly and as early as possible to help ensure the appropriate value is being targeted and delivered. These are essential if the team is to make beneficial course corrections that may come out of the review meetings.

 

Perhaps one of the most important meetings of an Agile team is the iteration planning meeting. During the iteration planning meeting the business sponsor/users (referred to as the Product Owner in Scrum) describes the highest priority features to the entire team. The team has the ability to ask questions so that they can appropriately define the work they need to accomplish. In addition, during this meeting the team will help determine the goal for the iteration, helping to drive decision making and focus during the iteration. The iteration planning meeting is critical for a number of reasons.

 

First, it helps ensure that the entire team has a crystal clear understanding of the user requirements. It facilitates direct interaction with the users instead of relying upon documentation alone for the information transfer. Without this forum for communication and alignment, there is a strong chance the team will misunderstand project requirements. This cascades to poor decomposition of work, poor sizing and estimation, and most importantly, the team risks missing the opportunity to provide optimum value possible to its users.

The Case For Agile Over Waterfall

This article came about as the result of a recent trip I made to a customer. I was presenting on TFS and made the, oft repeated, statement that Agile is better than Waterfall. Now I have to admit that I have never really had anyone challenge me on this assumption since most of the people I know just accept this as truth.

On this particular day there were a couple of project managers in the audience and they were none too pleased about my assertion. For the rest of the hour, we went back and forth on the issue. Following are a few of exchanges to the best of my recollection:

 

Exchange 1

Project managers: “You can’t say that agile is better than waterfall, it simply isn’t true.”

Me: “I have twenty years of evidence backing up my claim and I have personally seen it work this way.”

 

Exchange 2

Project managers: “Well, we have government regulations we deal with and you just don’t understand what we do here.”

Me: “I have [another customer] that has to deal with HIPPA requirements and they use Agile so I don’t think your requirements are that strict, are they?”

 

Exchange 3

Project managers: “We don’t use pure Waterfall we use a modified version.”

Me: “So..you’ve already modified your methodology because it’s inadequate. Why not finish the job?”

 

 

Essentially the arguments went on from there but were just variations on these three exchanges. To be fair, I tried to explain that I believe Waterfall has it’s place in many, many areas just not in software development but this argument fell on deaf ears. So it got me to thinking: “Am I right?” I had looked at some evidence years ago and had proven it out myself on countless occasions but was that still the case all these years later? Did Agile methodologies still hold sway over Waterfall? Did the evidence prove it? To that end I have assembled evidence for myself and for anyone else who has to fight the Agile battle. Please feel free to add your own evidence (pro or con) in the comments.

 

Please note that I deal in empirical data. Period. I can find any number of people (including myself) who have had good/bad experiences with Waterfall and good/bad experiences with Agile. On the main, I’ve found Agile to be better in the situations I have dealt with but I have seen plenty of people swear to Waterfall the same way. To even the playing field I have to go to objective data as the measure rather than feelings. The data I found shows many data points but there are two that I think are vital for people to understand:

  1. Overall, Agile methodologies are better for software development projects than traditional project management (Waterfall).
  2. Even Agile projects fail; having a superior methodology is no substitute for a good team and solid project discipline.

 

Waterfall Over Agile

I looked for any empirical data that would show traditional project management (Waterfall) beating Agile methodologies for software development. After several hours I gave up. I don’t know if it exists but if it does the data showing Waterfall beating Agile is very hard to find.

 

Agile Over Waterfall

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p>The exact opposite is true for Agile being better for software development than traditional project management. There were too many studies to include so i decided to focus on one of the key studies that would be most appealing to management. To that end, I found an excellent article written by Dr. David F. Rico, PMP, ACP, CSM entitled “The Business Value of Using Agile Project Management for New Products and Services” (http://davidfrico.com/rico-apm-roi.pdf). It is an extremely concise and well documented survey of data in support of Agile and is a “study of studies” that really summarizes the Agile impact. I suggest you read the entire article but below are the most compelling pieces of data showing improvement of Agile over traditional project management within several studies:

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http://davidfrico.com/rico-apm-roi.pdf

 

 

In the same article Dr. Rico also mentions the 2008 Maryland study that “[…]developed a database with over 153 data points on the costs and benefits of agile project management from 72 studies.” [Rico, D. F. (2008). What is the ROI of agile vs. traditional methods? An analysis of extreme programming, testdriven development, pair programming, and scrum (using real options). TickIT International, 10(4), 9-18]:

image

http://davidfrico.com/rico-apm-roi.pdf

 

 

Additionally, in 2009 there was another study that examined the “[c]ost and benefit metrics, models, and measures were developed based on 52 data points from 32 studies.” [Rico, D. F., Sayani, H. H., & Sone, S. (2009). The business value of agile software methods: Maximizing ROI with just-in-time processes and documentation. Ft. Lauderdale, FL: J. Ross Publishing.]:

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http://davidfrico.com/rico-apm-roi.pdf

 

 

Naturally there are many, many more articles on the benefits of Agile. One other one that springs to mind is Ben Linder’s article entitled, “Evidence of Success of Agile Projects”. (http://www.infoq.com/news/2012/11/success-agile-projects). Linders cites references to other studies that have shown Agile project success as well as guidance for implementation. Feel free to add you own favorite study in the comments section and, if you have a study that shows Waterfall beating Agile I will gladly add it to the main article for balance.