ISV Q&A with Brian Keller of Visual Studio Team System

So recently we reached out to Brian Keller, newly minted Technical Evangelist for Visual Studio Team System.  We appreciate Brian taking the time to answer a few questions for the ISV Community.  The following are the questions we forwarded to Brian.  He'll be monitoring the comments section if you have more.

What is the ISV mission for VSTS in a paragraph? 

Visual Studio Team System was created to help software development teams manage their software projects throughout the entire application lifecycle. At its heart Team System provides a platform for all project stakeholders to collaborate – developers, testers, architects, project managers, and even compliance analysts and database professionals all have the ability to benefit from Team System in their own context-appropriate manner. As that collaboration trends upwards as facilitated by Team System, so can the overall productivity of the team. Team System also helps an ISV improve the overall software quality of their projects, which ultimately helps an ISV achieve better customer satisfaction and lower sustained engineering costs. We’ve seen great uptake amongst ISV’s who are using Team System and realizing these benefits so I think we’re meeting our mission objectives, and of course we continue to push ourselves to do even better as the product matures.


How does VSTS tie into the broader Visual Studio team?

The Visual Studio Team System team actually consists of 5 product units within the greater Developer Division (DevDiv) at Microsoft. These product units break down amongst the various Team System products (one product unit focuses on Team Foundation Server, and one product unit for each of the Team System client roles: Architect/patterns and practices, Developer, Tester, and Database Professional). Organizationally all of these teams are working alongside the other product units in DevDiv such as the Visual C# team, the Visual Basic team, “VS Core,” and so on. While each team is focused on solving a unique set of requirements for their given customer segment, we also come together throughout DevDiv to unify our offering and find ways of improving our software development story at large. DevDiv is made up of an amazingly talented group of people with a passion for software development.


If you were to provide a list of "Who's Who" in VSTS who would those individuals be and do they have a blog?


Last I checked there were about 60 people on the Team System team who maintain great blogs – needless to say the team loves to communicate directly with their customers, whether it’s through their blogs, in the Team System Forums, or at conferences. Of course it can be a full-time job trying to read everybody’s blogs, so I recommend browsing the Team System Blogs Directory to find people from areas of the product you are most interested in. Rob Caron does a great job of aggregating news from across the Team System ecosystem on his blog so if you had to pick just one to read I would recommend his.


Everyone asks if MS teams use VSTS, can you give a few examples of teams within MS that are using VSTS?  How are they using VSTS?


Absolutely, teams across Microsoft are making heavy use of Visual Studio Team System. Practically every day I hear of a different team which has adopted Team System. In fact the team which builds Visual Studio Team System has been using early releases of Team System since 2004, and that’s a team which is geographically distributed worldwide and must coordinate with several partner teams as well. Now the rest of the Developer Division is on Team Foundation Server – Brian Harry publishes regular statistics on this. Here are just a few other teams at Microsoft I’m aware of who have adopted Team System: XNA, Dynamics AX, Hotmail, MSN Autos, Microsoft TV, Mappoint,, and Channel 9/10.


We have published several case studies on how Visual Studio Team System has been adopted internally at Microsoft, including one which details how Team Foundation Server has been standardized as an enterprise-wide service at Microsoft. As an enterprise-wide service that means any team at Microsoft who wants to adopt Team Foundation Server can enlist the help of a Solution Provider Team. The Solution Provider Team provides consulting and training to help a team get started. They then engage an MS IT team which handles all of the server infrastructure. It’s a great service that more and more teams are taking advantage of every week.


If you were to give a "shout-out" to an ISV, which ISV do you think has the coolest VSTS plug-in or usage of VSTS?


LOL - well I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to give a shout-out before. There are several great ISV’s who have built add-ins for Team System. One interesting example is Teamprise who makes it possible for users on non-Microsoft platforms to easily connect to Visual Studio Team Foundation Server. Compuware and Borland also provide great integration with Team System, such as Borland’s CaliberRM solution which helps a team manage requirements throughout the application lifecycle. But there are literally dozens of such partners covering a wide range of solutions, and end-users can even get the VSIP SDK for free to create their own extensions and add-ins. Several such end-user customizations and power toys can be downloaded for free from CodePlex. By the way, CodePlex is a great place to find lots of shared source projects and it happens to be powered by Team Foundation Server!


As for other ISV’s using Team System in interesting ways I like the story of The Computer Solution Company (CSC) who not only uses Team System to connect their geographically distributed development team, including vendors, but they even allow customers to connect to the work item tracking system so that they can monitor their own bugs and feature requests. Not only does this give the customer additional transparency into their issue resolution, it actually automates parts of the customer service process and saves everybody time. But Team System isn’t just for large ISV’s like CSC – I’ve been talking to one of the development teams over at SharpLogic Software which consists of 4 team members who are building the next-generation Web site and testing system for The Imagine Cup. They recently migrated from SourceSafe to Team Foundation Server and have uncovered all sorts of additional benefits along the way.


Since this is version 1.0 of the product, what is coming with the next release and can you share a timeline?

The next milestone to look forward to will be Service Pack 1 for Visual Studio 2005, which includes a number of Team Foundation Server performance improvements, bug fixes, and a few new features such as the ability to host custom controls on a work-item template form. For example, imagine hosting a Media Player control which can playback a bug repro screencast – we think people are really going to build some great work item templates in ways we haven’t even imagined yet. I don’t have a date for Service Pack 1 other than to say it’s a top priority for the division and it won’t be much longer.

Beyond that we’re preparing for the Visual Studio “Orcas” wave which will give us the chance to make several major enhancements to Team System. We aren’t disclosing those details just yet but stay tuned… The other thing I want to add is that there are great Power Toys and other incremental releases coming from the Team System product team and the community at large. Every week I find some new tool designed to enhance the Team System experience, so you don’t have to wait for SP1 or Orcas to realize a steady stream of value-add components. Start at to discover some of these goodies, and if you mine Rob’s blog archives you’ll find links to plenty of others.


What geek do you idolize most and why?

Well that seems to change just about every week depending on the tech topic. But this week it would have to Sam Guckenheimer – Sam has 25 years of experience in the software development industry and we’re lucky to have him on the Team System team as the head of product planning. Sam recently wrote a book called Software Engineering with Microsoft Visual Studio Team System. I just can’t put this book down, it’s really fascinating and Sam has a done a great job of relating software development movements like Agile and CMMI back to the vision for Team System. I recommend the book to anybody who is in the software development industry. Sam is constantly reminding the team that we must focus on the solution and value we provide to the customer as opposed to the laundry list of feature after feature. It’s an important reminder which seems obvious but is all too-easy to forget sometimes when you’re building software. Sam’s book delivers a pragmatic framework for delivering software in a value-up manner and he demonstrates how Team System was built to reinforce this goal.


Top 3-5 links for VSTS most relevant for ISVs?

Visual Studio Team System Developer Center:

Rob Caron’s “Team System Nexus” blog:

Expand your Opportunities – free online training resources for Team System:

Comments (0)

Skip to main content