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Currently I work on a small team of 3 developers in a privately owned college with about 12,000 students. There is currently no tracking of projects, tasks, bugs, or other work items. After I started here and realized that they don't have any sort of task tracking I was appalled. Recently I have been given the go ahead to come up with a solution to this problem.

Because it is a small team I want to keep it basic but the team supports around 20 different applications and systems. I have access to MS Project and TFS but have no training or experience using either system. We have just started to use TFS as our version control software.

What would you recommend as a starting point? Should I delve into MS Project/TFS and try work my way through that or should I look at something more basic and easier to use? Prior to this I have used software like Mantis, Scrumworks, and Excel to track issues. I have a good idea of what is needed to begin to organize things but am not sure which tool to use.

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Marcie is right about TFS; it is a pretty good system. I wouldn't bother with MSP though, not for 20 different apps.

Better make some high level Timeline where you stake out the most important events for the systems under your charge. We call it a Roadmap.

For the day to day management I would advise a Kanban or Scrum board (certainly when you are co-located), with sticky notes and stuff. We have everything electronically in TFS, even with an add-in for an electronic Scrum board, but we still duplicate the sprint items on a physical board.

Check out Pawel Brodzinski's blog for some great material on Kanban.

  • I tried to take your advice and did a bunch of research on the Kanban process. When I tried to present it to my team I got a firm "no sticky notes" response that could not be shaken. Arrgh. I also got a firm "No Scrum" response. This should be interesting. – Amy Patterson May 13 '11 at 19:02
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If you are using TFS for version control, you should also consider using it for work item tracking. It's pretty simple to enter tasks, bugs, and scenarios / requirements in TFS. The nice thing about your developers also using it for version control is that they can associate their code changes with a particular work item in TFS.

If you start using it and have specific questions about how to use TFS with MS Project (also see this question), you can post questions here if related to project management or to StackOverflow for general TFS questions.

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I recommend to use Trac, an open source instrument for project management in small agile teams. Moreover, you can get its "cloud installation" for free at fazend.com (together with Subversion for version tracking).

Trac is much easier to manage and understand than Microsoft solutions, especially for small distributed teams.

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Choosing an iterative/incremental process framework like Scrum is a good idea:

  1. Get training for yourself and the team; if everyone doesn't understand the rules, you can make a right mess of things and end up practicing Scrumifall or Scrumbut and you'll be in as much trouble as no process at all. Start by reading the Scrum Guide here.
  2. If you're going to play the role of Scrum Master AND Team Member, you're going to be running up a bit of a hill - it's not impossible, but it is definitely difficult because you're not able to keep yourself separate from the competing interests of being a member of a self-organizing/cross-functional team while meeting with your various Product Owners.
  3. Speaking of whom, you will need to assess who you're responsible to for the myriad of projects - someone needs to set the to-do lists (Product Backlog) and validate the results.
  4. Working iteratively requires your team to pick up some new skills - chief among them: Automated regression tests. Start small and work your way up: TFS has great hooks into unit test projects that allow them to be run on the server.
  5. Consider using a Process Template to add work items to support working with Scrum like the Microsoft Visual Studio Scrum 1.0 template along with the Urban Turtle Team Web Access add-on which gives you a really easy-to-use UI for managing your Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog - including tracking your impediments and bugs.
  • While my team isn't ready and/or willing to do any formal development processes I found your post very helpful. The Urban Turtle add-on looks great and hopefully I can get permission to use it. Luckily I am working with a pretty good product owner/manager who is willing to help me out with things. We have a new larger project coming up and I am hoping that things go better than the last one. If not it's time to polish my resume :) – Amy Patterson May 13 '11 at 19:00
  • I am planning on calling our processes ScrumMess. My hope is that I can at least begin to do things like track bugs and create a Scrum like task list. – Amy Patterson May 13 '11 at 19:04

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