Finding the right piece of information in the multitude of different work items managed within the development process is difficult. Keeping up with the latest developments related to those work items is even more difficult. TeamCompanion offers an easy and efficient solution how to stay on top of all events and be able to find the information you need, keep up with the development and be instantly aware of any changes.
Welcome to the second blog entry in our series about real-life project scenarios, where we show how, with the help of TeamCompanion, you can handle different realistic situations you come across every day in your development process. In the previous blog, we showed you how TeamCompanion enables Scrum teams to resolve capacity and prioritization issues more efficiently.
This time we will take a look at how, irrespective of the role you have, you can get instant visibility into only those types of information you want to keep on your radar. Just two steps are needed: firstly precisely define the set of work items you are interested in by using predefined or custom work item queries. Then, schedule the execution of those queries. In this way, TeamCompanion will inform you about any changes to corresponding work items in near real time and in the least intrusive way - by highlighting changed work items as "unread", the same way Outlook does for unread emails.
Picking Up and Scheduling Queries You Want to Keep on Your Radar
With TFS, we get many useful queries or views in the work item database out of the box. However, not all of them are equally useful to everyone and members of different roles will likely use different pre-canned queries in search for specific information they require.
Adam, the Product Owner is interested in the backlog queries of a specific project – the Product Backlog and the Sprint Backlog. He has added them to his Outlook’s Favorites.
Additionally, he has scheduled the execution of those queries to an interval of 30 minutes which suits his working rhythm. TeamCompanion offers various options for defining how often a query will be executed. You can preset the desired recurrence patterns in minutes, hours or days and define the schedule time span.
In this way, Adam can keep the 2 particular queries, the Product Backlog and the Sprint Backlog, in sight and be notified in near real time if any work item belonging to the query result sets changes. Each query will be refreshed according to the defined schedule, which will automatically retrieve the current state of work items from TFS and highlight changed work items as "unread" in the query result list. Adam will instantly see the count of unread work items appearing next to the work item query name in the Navigation pane. Additionally, when he views the query result, the changed work items will appear in bold text in the result list. As expected, TeamCompanion will not bother Adam with changes he made – he will be notified only about the changes made by other team members.
The query result list is the starting point for all work item management tasks. Adam can easily browse through the list, use powerful searching and filtering options, and sort or group the query result set. He can easily see all the details of the work item selected in the list in either the embedded work item form or in the HTML preview, edit work items or execute various actions on them.
Different Perspective for Different Roles
Let’s check the perspective of two additional project roles.
Cameron, the Portfolio Manager, is one or two management levels above Adam, and he manages the whole project portfolio – a series of projects, one of which is the project where Adam is the product owner. He must therefore have a broader perspective and track the progress on multiple projects simultaneously. He would use a query like Portfolio Status, which shows high level epic work items for multiple projects.
On the other hand, Julia’s information worker level is much more tactical. On her radar she keeps just the items that are related to her current assignments - My Tasks, My Bugs and My Issues. She will add these three queries to her Favorites.
Scheduled Query Execution versus Standard Email Notifications
The TFS built-in email notifications are the standard way to get notified about changes to work items. You can define several basic (using predefined templates) and advanced criteria (defined using more complex expressions) when to receive email notifications about changes on the server.
On the other hand, TeamCompanion notifies you in the context of existing work item queries by regularly executing them according to defined schedules. TeamCompanion elegantly utilizes the same paradigm used by Outlook for emails, which works equally well for work items: whenever there are new or changed work items, they are highlighted and the total number of changed items appears to the right of the work item query name.
There are several benefits of scheduled query execution when compared to standard email notifications:
· It is much easier to precisely define the set of work items you are interested in using work item queries than using the standard email notification subscription UI.
· It is often difficult to determine whether you are interested in each specific change without analyzing the notification email. You may use email rules and automatically forward notification messages to specific folders, but that would only partly solve the problem.
With scheduled execution of work item queries and highlighting of “unread” changed items, you can instantly see which work items have been changed and whether you want to analyze these changes or ignore them. This is an easy and efficient solution with far reaching effects, which improves the efficiency and thus reduces cycle time.
· Last but not least, email notification subscriptions can easily quickly generate hundreds or thousands of notifications emails. As we are all already overwhelmed by too many emails, any tool that can save us from additional email spam is welcome. Scheduled query execution, which highlights "unread" changed work items in near real time, is precisely such a tool, which helps you keep up with the latest developments in the least intrusive way.
In this scenario, you saw how Adam, the Product Owner, Cameron, the Portfolio Manager, and Julia, an Information Worker, can easily pick up work item queries they want to keep on their radar, schedule their execution and be assured that they will be notified about work item changes in near real time, without overloading their inbox.
So, what are you waiting for? Schedule your queries and relax until you get notified about the next change…
Looking forward to our next real-life project scenario?