Managing Technical Reviews in TFS and SharePoint

I've alluded to my plans to describe how we use TFS to plan, track progress, and do things like technical reviews. Brian Harry mentioned our tech review process in his blog post, so I'll write about that first.

In the past, we've used an internal tool to manage technical reviews. The tool has some nice features - it renders content pretty similar to the way our help system does, and you can post comments directly in the topic. For a long time, though, there's been a debate over whether the good things outweigh the bad. Recently, support of the internal tool withered away, so we created this new process. As I've mentioned before, each of our help topics is represented in TFS as a work item for our own planning purposes. That gave us a good starting point to build a new tech review process. We have very little investment in the tools to support this process because it uses TFS and SharePoint instead of a specialized internal tool.


We post word documents to a document library and the reviewers check them out and add their comments and suggested changes. This still has some flaws. It means only one reviewer can comment at a time, and we have some challenges getting the content from our content management system into a word document with the art and all the styles reasonably rendered. Still, the product team really prefers providing feedback this way so, even with some strange formatting and the occasional missing art, this has been successful for us.


Since we already have work items in TFS that represent each of our help topics (and since these are kept up to date automatically), we just tagged on a few more fields and created some supporting queries to help everyone find the topics that they need to review. Here's the tech review tab. With the exception of State, these are the fields we added to support tech reviews. (Review is the URL to the document on the SharePoint site).

We created a query that lets anyone on the team find the topics that they need to review.

AndOr Field Operator Value

            Team Project = @Project

And Work Item Type = Help Topic

And State = Active

And DS Topic Status = In Tech Review

And Primary Reviewer = @Me

    And Reviewed by Primary <> Reviewed

Or Additional Reviewers = @Me

    And Reviewed by Additional <> Reviewed

Or Additional Reviewer2 = @Me

    And Reviewed by Additional2 <> Reviewed

Or Additional Reviewer3 = @Me

    And Reviewed by Additional3 <> Reviewed


We were able to use the TFS warehouse to create some helpful reports. For example, we created a similar query that returns all topics in review, sorted by due date. We used that query to create a work item list in Excel, applied some conditional formatting to highlight topics nearing the due date or late, and used that in regular nag mail.