Tuesday, November 28, 2006


December 2006 - Since April I’ve been working on a tremendous opportunity my employer (who’ll I do my best to keep clandestine) presented me to replace our source, defect, and change management system. This blog is a living story of our implementation. First a bit of background to get us started.

At our company these three disciplines (source, defect, and change management) are under the configuration management umbrella so this could be, and probably should be, called a configuration management solution. We currently use a tool for source control management (i.e. Visual Source Safe) which while is cheap (we quit paying for it years ago) and easy to use, allows inexperienced users to actually delete the database files with no more than a “Do you want to permanently delete these files” message. In fact we’ve had this happen twice to us almost a year apart, and interesting enough both on Friday afternoons. We then use, and grossly overpay for, a defect management tool which the vendor would like to retire yet keeps it around for the simple fact that, as I stated before, we grossly over pay for it. Lastly we use yet another autonomous tool for change management that while we’re comfortable using, has no connection to either the source or defect management tools. So while we like assume everyone is doing their change management paper work, we have no way to enforce it and none the less have little idea about what features are truly being changed or added.

With this all being said, you can see why upper management (a term my statistics professor liked to call anyone who has budgetary power) was interested in spending some expense dollars for a new (preferably integrated) source, defect, and change management system. I won’t get into the details of how we narrowed down the vendors on our short list, but will say our evaluation was simply an extension of an existing effort in another business unit on the other side of the bathroom. To avoid the months of vendor background and demonstrations they gathered and witnessed, we simply took their short list which included IBM’s ClearCase/Clear Quest, a hybrid solution using Serena’s TeamTrack with Perforce’s Perforce, and Microsoft’s new Team Foundation Server (TFS). It was also imperative both business units stayed in synch with our choices, for while we’re currently separate, we could someday be integrated. As a side note, to some of us two bathrooms and an elevator bank are the only things that really keep us separate anyways.

We spent the next three months digging into the details of these tool sets and when the dust settled and political landscape was observed across the hall, we decided to pilot and then purchase Microsoft’s TFS. The one really interesting nugget we took away was that if you look at source, defect, and change management separately there is little differentiation between vendors. The value is in the bundling of the offerings and making the bundling seamless and painless as possible. Most of you reading this column might ask why we would pick a newly released piece of software like TFS over industry bellwethers like ClearCase/Clear Quest and Perforce. This is a great question so let me address it with a few highlights.

First of all we’re constrained by a pretty tight budget. We don’t have the expense dollars to explorer solutions that will cost one or two million dollars which is what ClearCase/Clear Quest would have costs us. Now the vendor will come back and say that we’re looking at it all wrong and we should be looking at the purchase from a “return on investment view” and honestly I can’t disagree. But there is something to be said about a solution that is five to ten times more expensive than another solution and lengthens the time it takes to get a ROI. In the fast changing world of technology lengthening the ROI is scary and risky. ClearCase/Clear Quest is known to be very expensive to both purchase and support and really priced out of our league.

Secondly, being part of the group who not only made the recommendation to purchase TFS but also support it, administration is something key to our group. Again ClearCase/Clear Quest is known to be laborious to administer (I’ve never had the opportunity so I’m taking other’s opinion on this) and the TeamTrack/Perforce hybrid would take some added integration work which we’d like to avoid. With source, defect, and change management all integrated in TFS we felt it was the most straight forward to support and easiest to train end users to use. We’re not to say TFS is not without its faults, but we’ll save these for another posting.

Thirdly, as we said above we sampled the political winds across the hall to make sure we’re in alignment in our tool choices. We’d hate to choose tool X while the other business unit chooses tool Y and then migrate them to tool Z if (or when) we become one again. While ClearCase had some momentum early, there was little talk of how defect and change management were going to be handled. Clear Quest is the obvious choice, but was not adequately discussed. TFS on the other hand presented itself as a solution fully bundled and integrated, which with the help of some influential folks escalated TFS to the top of the other business unit’s list.

Any way, enough with the details. In conclusion we hope you find this blog both as an interesting read and something which provides helpful hints when you go about implementing your TFS solution. While we make no promises, we’ll do our best to make a posting around the beginning of each month. Enjoy!