Visual Studio ALM Rangers – 5 Year Report … sharing the essentials

We recently presented the Visual Studio ALM Rangers 5-year report, to the leadership, the ALM MVPs and all of the Rangers. As the report contained a lot of links to Rangers infrastructure and an alpine range of supporting information, we decided to create a scaled down “public” edition and present it on this blog, in continuation of the thread started in Visual Studio ALM Rangers … “5” Years already? … the highlights :).

  • If you have questions or a need/interest in more detailed information then please contact us.
  • Your candid feedback will be appreciated as always!

5-Year Report

  • Executive Summary
  • Who are Visual Studio ALM Rangers?
  • Rangers showcases
  • Rangers FY11/12 Plan


Visual Studio ALM Rangers MSDN Landing Page Visual Studio ALM Rangers Blog

Executive Summary

Five years ago, in March 2006, we started the VSTS Rangers program as a joint venture between the Visual Studio Team Systems team and the Worldwide Communities program, part of the Office of the CTO in the Microsoft Services organization. A couple of years ago, we renamed our program to Visual Studio ALM Rangers. But the vision remained the same: to accelerate the adoption of Visual Studio with out-of-band solutions for missing features. In addition, our secondary goal is to provide the opportunity for selected Microsoft consultants, support resources and partners to interact with product group experts so we can learn from our field and partners using VS ALM products and features with customers. In these 5 years, we have shipped 4 dozen solutions with hundreds of thousands of downloads.

As you see from the projects list, our production has steadily grown thanks to a growing community made up of both internal and external Rangers. And thanks to these volunteers, most of our projects have no additional budget. Over 200 Rangers provide the bulk of our resources which come from volunteer subject matter experts. Typically, they spend their private hours to do the Rangers project work. And, not just anyone is invited in to participate — Rangers need to be knowledgeable about VS and ALM, have the desire to strengthen the community, and contribute regularly.

Relying on volunteer part-time work has leaded us to strive for more efficiency in our projects. To achieve this goal, we have implemented 100% dog-fooding with our own Agile-based (Ruck) process model. For consistency, we use the same process model across the board, even for guidance type projects. Two of these projects have recently reached the internal beta release milestone and provide encouraging real world examples of our new process model.

Our first three years was focused on a strictly internal team that crossed all field roles—consulting, support, sales, and evangelism. As we expand our external Rangers communities, now with 67 MVP Rangers, our goal has been to provide the same level and ease of access to external Rangers. We have reached this goal with our extranet SharePoint site and extranet TFS which has, as a side effect, improved our operational transparency significantly.

But the top lesson learned again is to keep on learning from real world customers. We leverage our vast customer connections through our Rangers to collect their business and technical requirements and test our beta releases.

The following pages explain who we are, where our resources come from and what projects we are working on. To abbreviate this report, we have stored details in dedicated files on a file share.

We hope that this overview provides enough information to whet your appetite for more details. We appreciate any feedback and improvement suggestions.

Who are Visual Studio ALM Rangers?


The Visual Studio ALM Rangers started as a partnership between the Visual Studio product group and the Worldwide Communities program in the Office of the Microsoft Services CTO. The Rangers have operated within the Microsoft Developer Division to promote collaboration between the product groups, Microsoft Services, and the Microsoft sales field since 2006, and the Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) since 2009. They are individuals from these organizations who volunteer to contribute to and, in some cases lead, Ranger activities in order to fulfill our mission to “accelerate the adoption of Visual Studio with out-of-band solutions for missing features and guidance”.

Rangers collaborate across diverse communities to produce top quality guidance and tools that are used by customers, partners, and Microsoft consultants around the world. Through this work, the Rangers have one-to-one relationships with key VS architects, dev leads, PMs, and GMs, and have an exceptional opportunity to gain deep, real world insights into the VS ALM products and features. The Rangers are recognized internally as one of the best and longest-lasting programs to identify, capture, and reuse knowledge and improve customer satisfaction and experience. At TechReady12 in the Exhibition of Excellence, the CTO of Microsoft Services recognized the Rangers team with the award for Best Collaboration to cap off five years of excellent teamwork and high quality deliverables.

Ranger Community

The Rangers community is made up of IT professionals that are employed by Microsoft, known as the Extended Rangers, and by partners and communities, known as External Rangers. The Rangers community is literally scattered around the globe, see Rangers Index for examples, allowing us to bring together diverse cultures, skills, experience and knowledge.

General References Visual Studio ALM Rangers Blog Everything you ever wanted to know about the Rangers Find out who is behind the scenes and get to know the Rangers Where do I start as a new or re-assimilating Visual Studio ALM Ranger?

Supplementary Documents (not included in this post) Ranger Community Ranger Quotes “Verbatim” Requirements Management and “Ruck”

Pictures loaned from Visual Studio ALM Rangers … “5” Years already? … the highlights :) … Here are some of the faces of the just over 200 Rangers … perhaps you will recognise a few from your local communities …

Ranger Solutions

The Ranger solutions have been targeting Visual Studio 2005, 2008 and 2010. The next annual project nomination process is scheduled for May and we will start to plan the next wave of solutions for FY12 during June, with a possible focus on Azure and Dev11.

General References Get the latest Visual Studio ALM Rangers Solutions Visual Studio ALM Rangers Projects – summary of projects covered on this blog

Visual Studio ALM Rangers 5-Year Report Supplementary Documents A complete list of Ranger Solutions

Rangers showcases

As mentioned before, you can see the full list of Ranger solutions here but the following 5 examples should demonstrate what type of unblocking projects are typical for our business. 4 of the examples are TFS related, which reflects the fact that TFS is the center of gravity, as far as adoption is concerned. We have also included a Testing example which is our 2nd area of focus.

  • Team Foundation Server Branching guide
  • Project Server/Team Foundation Server Connector
  • Team Foundation Server Management Pack
  • Team Foundation Server Integration Platform
  • Visual Studio Testing, Services Test Lab
Team Foundation Server Branching Guide
Authoritative guidance for branching strategies and best practices missing
  • Complete readiness package (whitepapers, hands-on labs, decks, and technical posters)
  • Scenario based hands-on guidance type
  • The 3 level reference model (Basic, Standard, and Advanced) can serve the majority of our customers out of the box
  • Suitable for Visual Studio and other ALM technologies
  • 3 major releases 2005, 2008, 2010
  • Active community - Daily discussions - Ask any Branching question
  • De facto industry standard
  • A core part of this training was the Branching Guidance from the ALM Rangers, and while aspects were adapted to suit each of the systems in usage the branching & merging guidance remained unchanged regardless of system. This has led to significant improvements in the delivery in the company and the Branching Guidance is used by many. (Robert MacLean, ALM MVP)
  • We have used the branching guidance many times to help us develop a simpler and more productive branching strategy that we can use with TFS. Because of the insights and common sense provided in the guidance we were able to develop simple patterns tailored to meet our business needs and technical requirements. A real win! (Bob Hardister, ALM MVP)
  • We used the Ranger Branching Guidance extensively to both guide discussions with development teams (using C#, C++, Java and even Cobol). After much socialization, the teams decided on using the Ranger guidance (with very little customization). Seeing the energy and enthusiasm of this Ranger-led project impressed managers and developers from a large online trading firm in the Midwest; and made it much easier to deliver that part of the engagement. (Tony Feissle, MCS)
Project Server/TFS Connector
  • Customers were frustrated with maintaining same data in two Microsoft Server products
  • Portfolio management for development projects was not possible
  • Automatic synchronization of Project Server tasks with TFS Work Items
  • Automatic aggregation of task WI level data to portfolio level
  • Managing resources across dev projects
  • Supports the communication between the PMO office and the development projects
  • The biggest gap-filling gig created onsite at Merrill Lynch.
  • Mentioned as part of the Gartner ALM magic quadrant and contributed to the leader role in this space for Microsoft.
  • The Project Server connector was key for a major system integrator. This integration convinced the customer to add TFS. (David Scruggs, EPG Sales)
  • I have helped dozens of my customers who have used this solution in POCs, pilot and even production environments. (Lenny Fenster, Services SL4 CTO, VS ALM Core Ranger)
Management Pack for Team Foundation Server
  • Customers who deployed SCOM and Team Foundation Server were asking for the missing Management Pack
  • CEC compliance
  • Professional monitoring and management for Team Foundation Server
  • Implements a proper health model with Monitors
  • Contains tasks, diagnostic and recovery for certain failures
  • Verifies that all dependent services are running
  • 3 major releases 2005 , · 2008 , · 2010
  • Several pilot customers
  • Deployment to Pioneer Server and TFS Azure environments
  • Handover to product group for Dev11
  • After upgrade/installation of new instances, we used the Team Foundation Server 2010 Monitoring Management Pack and Visual Studio 2010 Quick Reference Guidance on daily operations. (Clementino de Mendonça, Manager Sogeti)
  • The deployment consisted of three build servers, a staging server and a test harness engine. To help manage this environment the Team Foundation Server 2010 Monitoring Management Pack was used. The project reduced the time to deployment of weekly and biweekly releases and streamlined the company standardizing all projects into TFS. (Clementino de Mendonça, Manager Sogeti)
Team Foundation Server Integration Platform, CC,CQ/TFS Migration/Synchronization
  • Big demand for migration and synchronization between TFS and 3rd party products
  • Support the IBM Campaign
  • Harden the product before shipping
  • Complete training package with extensive SDK, including 5 extensively documented real world customer projects
  • Complete training package with extensive SDK, including 5 100% documented real world customer projects

  • Was a key driver for deploying TFS2010 in an early stage without waiting for the POC results. (Coby Peled, MCS)
  • TFS Integration Platform and further collaboration in this area with ALM Rangers helped remove the critical blocker for ABB in migration from IBM Rational ClearQuest and ClearCase platform. (Lukasz Gratkowski, MCS)
  • I’ve used this guidance to get insight into the product and it’s the essential resource on how to use the tool in my opinion. (Mathias Olausson, ALM MVP)
Testing, Services Test Lab
  • Move our professional test center from Mercury and Borland to our Testing products
  • Services Test Lab transformed from Mercury/Borland test center to Visual Studio Test center, positioning themselves as Visual Studio Testing COE
Key Offerings
  • Test Consulting  Testing Methodology and Test Strategy consulting. Test automation – Functional, Coded UI, end-to-end response testing.
  • Performance Engineering and Analysis Evaluate performance, bottlenecks, and recommend improvements – SharePoint, Web Apps, WCF etc. Smoke, Stress, Responsiveness, Reliability, and Capacity Planning.
  • Problem Isolation & Critical Situation Support Identify complex problems that occur infrequently/only under stress. Co-location with product support centers with quick access to deep technical expertise.
  • Migration/Deployment Plan Validation Walk through your deployment in a controlled laboratory environment. Validate deployment scenarios, configurations, and performance.
  • Custom Lab Activities Laboratories are available for custom activities that meet your needs. E.g. App Compatibility, Scale – POC, Hardware Comparisons, etc.
  • Remote Testing Connected to labs via secure internet connections; view is identical. F5 FirePass hardware installed at all three facilities.
  • Azure Testing POC & functionality testing. Benchmark and tuning testing.

Rangers FY11/12 Plan

The following MIRV (internal tool) chart summarizes the regular deliverables and current solution plans by the Visual Studio ALM Rangers, which includes dog fooding of Microsoft products, events, community awareness and collaboration, and most importantly the Ranger out-of-band solutions mentioned above.

Candid feedback welcome Smile