Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Advance WorkItems to next state on check-in

Nearly two years ago, I had a project where we used whiteboard and post-it notes for our Kanban board. Perhaps one of my favourite aspects of using a whiteboard was the non-verbal communication that occurred between team members: when a developer would finish a task, she would stand-up from her desk, take a deep breath and well deserved stretch then rip her post-it note from the In-Progress column, slap it into the Ready-for-test column and then yank one from the Next column. Everyone on the team would look up, smile and go back to coding.

Alas, whiteboards and post-it notes only work when all team members can see the board and when you’re teams are remote you will need a software solution. Our organization is big on TFS, and I’ve found much luck using SEP Teamworks to simplify the data and present it in a Kanban fashion.

One of the challenges with using software for task tracking is that it loses that tacit capability. Choosing the wrong tool can mean you spend more time managing the tool than building software.

Here’s a quick post that illustrates how you can leverage features of TFS workflow to automate your Kanban process a bit, so you don’t have to harass your team members so much.

The xml schema for our User Stories, Bugs and Tasks contains elements that describe fields, user-interface and workflow. The workflow element is interesting because it allows us to define the supported transitions between states and default values for fields in each state. It also supports this sweet little addition that will automatically transition a work-item to a different state simply by including the following Action in the Actions element:

<TRANSITION from="In Development" to="Ready for Test">
    <DEFAULTREASON value="Development Complete" />
    <FIELD refname="System.AssignedTo">
      <EMPTY />
    <ACTION value="Microsoft.VSTS.Actions.Checkin" />

Although the schema suggests that it would allow custom actions to be plugged in here, only the Microsoft.VSTS.Actions.Checkin action is supported.

To take advantage of this feature, simply associate your work items to your check-in and mark the action as “Resolve”.