Monday, September 15, 2008

Connecting with the "Community"

My (by Proxy -- We miss you PJ, but we love Suzanna too!) MVP lead recently sent out an email talking about connecting with the community. She had some specific questions that she wanted feedback on.. I was busy typing up my responses when I realized she probably didn't want to hear from me, but more so from the members at large in the community, so, I thought I would post the questions and my answers here, and let you all (all 1 or 2 of you that actually read this blog) chime in as well. My answers are confined to Visual Studio Team System, but please feel free to comment on any related technology.

So, here goes:


1) What is the current sentiment amongst users about the product for which you are an “independent expert”?

I don't know if I am actually an "expert" in anything, but my MVP award is focused on Visual Studio Team System. My entire team uses VSTS, and most of the company does as well (There are some notable exceptions here, and the cross-platform stuff is definitely made harder with VSTS). From my perspective, VSTS is a game changer in the Agile software development world. As a team lead, I have instant access to the status of the project, and can tell you exactly where our problem areas lie. VSTS fosters team development as well as object ownership among team members, so I believe it is one of the best things we've ever implemented. In terms of outside the walls, the sentiment seems to be similar if not identical.

2) Are there any critical bugs out there that we need to address?

Speaking directly about VSTS 2008, I think SP1 resolved many of the issues that we were seeing, so as of now I don't know about any blocking issues.

3) Are multiple users having a similar problem using one of our technologies, and if so, what is the problem?

This is like a broken record for me, and I'm sure the VSTS team is tired of hearing me say it, but I'll put it on record again. The biggest issue we have with VSTS (speaking specifically now of the Team Suite IDE) is it's hard ties to a version of SQL Server. For example, to use Visual Studio Team System for Database Professionals with SQL Server 2008, you need the GDR release of the "DataDude" tools. This means I have to mix released code with Beta code on my production development environment if I want to use the latest SQL Server. What's worse is that I have to maintain my instance of Visual Studio 2005 as well, because it's the only version of VSTS that will author Business Intelligence projects using SQL Server 2005. It's somewhat of a support nightmare, and given that SQL Server is such a core part of our product (and is a Microsoft Flagship server no less!!!) it is very hard to explain to developers why this is good. Anyone faced with developing SQL Server 2005 and 2008 projects will have the same problem. Biztalk suffers from this as well.

4)  How are users feeling about Microsoft’s response-time to issues they are seeing?

This answer is probably unfair. For issues that we've had with VSTS, things have been pretty good. The problem for me though is that they've been good because I've leveraged contacts on the "inside" for most of them. The poor sap, er developer who doesn't have internal contacts is stuck in a support maze that can be very difficult to manage. Even Premier support customers have a rough go here because they generally don't get to VSTS Saavy folks until the 3rd escalation. With all that said, once the problem is identified it's generally handled quickly.

A similar comment can be made for other products such as SharePoint. I don't believe MS fully anticipated the support needs for SharePoint and they are just now completely getting up to speed on that front.


Well, what do you think? What would your answers to these questions be?

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