Introducing the “Delivery Plans” Extension for VSTS


By Mohamed Radwan, Visual Studio ALM MVP and DevOps Practice Lead at Testhouse

Delivery Plans is an extension for Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) designed to provide a better cross-team visibility. It is essential for the management and organisation of work, especially if several teams are available and working at the same time on the same project. For example, when a team is developing the same project but for different platforms, the extension will give a general overview of the whole development process and not just for a specific platform.

In this post, we will see how the Delivery Plans extension works and how you can utilise it to carry out project deliveries.

After installing the Delivery Plan Extension from the Visual Studio Marketplace, Navigate to Work -> Plans to get started.

Delivery Schedule

The purpose of a delivery plan is to view and monitor the project tasks being executed across multiple teams and to estimate when tasks should be completed by. To be really Agile, teams do not need to run in the same cadence, as the teams need the autonomy to choose their own sprint schedules. In the Delivery Plan, all sprints are linked to iterations of the team’s project, which are set in the admin section of the team project.

For further explanation, please have a look at the image below:

  1. Calendar element shows the current date with a ‘today marker’ to help us to quickly understand the current state of the project. For example, we can see that Team 1 will deliver two features in Sprint 49. The same team had delivered one feature in the previous sprint (Sprint 48) and it plans to deliver two features in Sprint 50.
  2. Current Sprint is the name of the current sprint, showing the starting and the ending dates of the sprint.
  3. Features shows the title or the name of the feature and to whom the feature is assigned to.
  4. Team 2 shows a completely separate team, which is not necessarily running in the same cadence, as shown in the example.

The current day marker is shown across all teams in orange colour. As each team has its spring information and scheduled work visible in a single row, the dashboard can be used to get a quick overview of all teams.

Tasks and Teams Flexibility

The Delivery Plans extension allows users to move tasks between teams quickly. As is the case with most of VSTS, any adjustments to teams can be made by dragging & dropping it to the new team. Also, clicking on any team name will expand its row and show its expected deliverables in a specific sprint.

Besides that, the view of the card on the board can be easily modified to show the information as required for any team. For example, in the view on the image above, only the title and the assignee are shown on the card. It is quite simple to add more information to the card:

  1. Click the Settings icon in the top left corner
  2. When the new window appears, navigate to the left panel and click on Fields
  3. A box will appear with options to customise the fields to show the StateTags or other information of the card.

Gaps Identification & Field Criteria Filtering

The Delivery Plans extension allows you to find gaps for each team. If all team views are collapsed, the user will get a quick view of all scheduled work and summary views supporting identifying gaps in the forecast.

Team members can customise their view based on backlog levels and specific field(s) criteria.

Activities in the Delivery Plans extension are also filterable, so users can control what others see. Filtration can be applied using the following ways:

  • After installing the extension from the Visual Studio Marketplace, filtration can be applied as an option as a part of setup page by field criteria.
  • At any time, open delivery plans extension settings and apply field criteria as in the screenshot below.

Highlighter

The Delivery Plans extension also allows users to highlight important calendar dates as required, for instance to remind of a delivery or an important meeting, called “plan markers”.

To highlight dates using the Delivery Plans extension, open settings and click on “Markers”, then highlight any date using the “Configure Plan Markers” option.

Conclusion

As the concept of distributed systems and solutions expands every day, managing several teams working on the same big project is a challenging proposition. However, the tools we’re using are evolving too. The Delivery Plans Extension for VSTS uses the power of visualization to make it easy to manage more than one team in way that is as easy as managing a single team.

About the author

Mohamed Radwan is a Visual Studio ALM MVP and DevOps practice lead at Testhouse; he focuses on providing solutions for the various roles involved in software development and delivery to enable them to build better software through Agile Methodologies and utilisation of Microsoft Visual Studio ALM/DevOps Tools and Technologies. He excels in software practices and automation with 15+ years of professional experience spanning the different stages and phases of Software Development Lifecycle. He has helped various customers across the world in the UK, Denmark, USA, Egypt, Oman, KSA, Kuwait, and Libya, amongst others.

Mohamed holds a MSc in Agile Methodologies, and is a frequent speaker at many national and regional technology events and user groups for various countries, such as: Campus Days in Denmark, Copenhagen user group, Open Days in Egypt, KSA, Kuwait, and Oman. He has authored several frameworks and extensions including DevMagicFake and TestingConf Utilities, as well as many technical articles & guides. He is the founder of the TFSEG and co-founder of the MEAALM Community. Mohamed also holds a number of Microsoft certifications including MCT, MCPD, MCITP in EPM, MCTS (7), MCSD, MCAD, and CIW.

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