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Combine Microsoft Project and Visual Studio Team System for a One-two Punch of Productivity : Page 5

Visual Studio Team System (VSTS) provides centralized storage of work item tracking features while MS Project provides rich planning and tracking features. By using them together, you can improve team productivity, minimize data conflicts, and reduce administrative overhead.


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Organizing: Areas and Iterations
You can organize work items in a team project by classifying them in hierarchies. VSTS supports two hierarchies:
 
Figure 12. Hierarchy Association: The figure shows the process of selecting the Iteration Path for a work item.
  • Iterations—Represents the lifecycle iterations into which a project is divided such as Planning, Envisioning, Development etc.
  • Areas—Represents a logical division of project into feature areas and components. For example, you can divide your project tasks as per logical architecture: User Interface layer, Business layer and Data Access Layer.
You associate work items with these two hierarchies through the Iteration Path and the Area Path columns respectively. These columns have a drop down box that displays the hierarchy in a tree structure as shown in Figure 12.

You can also use these hierarchies to create MS Project views that group work items as per the containing hierarchy. Both hierarchy structures can be modified in MS Project via the "Areas and Iterations" dialog box, which you can display by clicking the Edit Areas and Iterations menu item (see Figure 13). Comparing MS Project Server and VSTS
MS Project Server 2003 is an enterprise project management product with features such as project scheduling and management, resource utilization and billing, timesheets etc. It also allows multiple members to work on shared data by

 
Figure 13. Edit Common Structure Classifications: The dialog box shows the Area and Iteration hierarchies as a tree structure, letting you add, delete, move, or alter node indentation.
providing a Web based interface for viewing and updating project plan assignments. MS Project Server is fully integrated with MS Project (client) as one can publish assignments from MS Project to MS Project Server and view the updated assignments back in MS Project.

As VSTS has similar features in terms of shared data and MS Project integration, it is often compared with MS Project Server 2003. But these two products are entirely different products targeting different domains. Whereas Project Server targets enterprise project management domain, VSTS targets software development lifecycle domain. VSTS does not only provide assignments (or tasks), but also provides extensible work item infrastructure that can create customized work items as per project requirements. Because of its tight integration with Visual Studio IDE, VSTS allows team members to update their tasks and other work items from the IDE itself. So both the products provide complementary features and have small set of features that are common; this commonality gives scope for integration between the two products. Although there is no built-in integration between the two products in version 1 of VSTS, Microsoft plans to provide tight integration in version 2 of VSTS. Also, there is initiative in the community to develop a connector between Project Server and VSTS. The details about the initiative are available at the GotDotNet site.





Sanjay Narang is a Technology Consultant at Hewlett Packard Global Delivery India Center (HP-GDIC). He has nearly seven years of IT experience and has been with HP for more than five years, designing and developing Microsoft-based solutions. He's currently the architect for an enterprise project and process management solution, built over VSTS.
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