Professional Scrum Development with Microsoft Visual Studio 2012

Richard Hundhausen (2012)
Review date: August 2013
Summary


Opinion

I thought I had to start this review by telling how biased I am about this topic. I'm not fond of the TFS. I find it to be a huge monolithic beast that pulls in the entire Microsoft stack to do things that can be done with simpler tools. For instance, when I saw how the workflow engine is used to construct build definitions, I thought that I'd never be able to smile again in my whole life. Of course, some of these opinions are based on insufficient experience and ignorance, and they might change over time, but that's what I had in the back of my head when I set out to review this book.

Lo and behold; I was surprised!

The author actually manages to write a book that has a very pragmatic attitude towards the tools it describes, and even criticizes them sometimes, and still gets to put a red Microsoft press ribbon on the front cover. I'm truly impressed.

I actually really liked this book. It does something very hard; it manages to combine agile practices and Scrum with Visual Studio and the TFS in a good way, and whenever Microsoft's tools or templates are inadequate or simply wrong, it points that out.

As for the contents, more than I expected is about Scrum and agile software development. I'd say two thirds, while the rest is about various aspects of Visual Studio. If I had paid better attention to the title, this might not have come as a surprise.

Anyway, what's good about this is that this book has a chance of penetrating some non-agile fortresses entrenched in poorly written VB applications. I can tell that the author is truly passionate about agile practices, and quite knowledgeable. I'd even say that he seems more interested in writing about agile than about Visual Studio, and he does it rather well. Don't know it that's a compliment though.

I think this book would do many Microsoft shops much good. Its roughly 300 pages cover a lot of the official Scrum guide, as well as books like User Stories Applied, and "Agile Retrospectives". At the same time, it contains lots of good, probably hard-won, practices and pointers for Visual Studio and the TFS. To mention one such practice: Create a separate TFS project for the backlog and call it "!Backlog". That way it's first in the project list, and it can actually be used as a single company-wide backlog, as opposed to keeping multiple backlogs closer to the individual projects.

The book's "sub contents" are also good. A single case study is used throughout the text, and I think it's the best on of its kind so far. I usually speed-read those, but this one is good and relevant. The "Tips" and "Smells" sections are also interesting and amusing from time to time. It's actually where I found the nicest quotes, like "I'm passionate about branches. I passionately despise them". In a "Smell" section, the author discourages using some of the "Scrum Template" fields. The book is full of such advice; Git is considered a better option than local workspaces, the list could go on.

So, the book covers much agile development and some interesting stuff about Visual Studio and the TFS, and does it in an almost unbiased way. What's not so good then? Well? Being quite knowledgeable in Scrum and agile, I found some sections to be almost verbatim repetitions of other sources and therefore a bit boring. I read this book to learn more about the tools, not about agile development. However, this statement applies only to me personally. I just didn't believe the title enough when it actually started with "Professional Scrum Development?". I thought that was just something someone put in to make it sound fancy. My bad.

Then, as always with books on tools, some sections can get boring when they treat configuration in greater detail. If the thing covered isn't exactly what you're looking for, page after page discussing some aspect of some configuration can become a real pain. This goes for all books on tools though.

By the way, the eighth chapter is the best chapter in the book.

To summarize: great book from a knowledgeable author with agile values. Some rip off warning, but the ends justify the means. If I ran a team that needed strengthening in agile development and the use of TFS, this is the book I'd buy for the entire team.

Who should read this book

If you're a developer who'd like to learn about agile, and pick up some details about Visual Studio 2012 while at it, this is the perfect book for you.




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