What is the ALM Rangers year-end, grooming and recognition process all about?

Every year we get to the end of the financial year, which triggers the recognition phase for all Rangers and the scrub grooming of our community. In this post I will “quickly” look back and summarise what the Rangers achieved, explain the grooming process and end with a list of housekeeping tasks for the Rangers so as not to be caught by surprise.

image … I scanned a few images I drew when explaining this stuff on a whiteboard. Excuse the rough artwork Smile

rangers fy14

We need to start with a brief “looking back” at the champions, mission, dog-fooding, solutions, publications and upcoming ideas before we delve into the year-end grooming. A lot has happened since July 2013!

image … in my Swiss army days my unit moved at the speed of a rushed snail (“im Tempo einer gehetzten Waldschnecke”). We always made it to the destination, which was usually high up in the mountains, as a team. The snail became our mascot and has been spotted in books and drawings ever since.

our champions

Visual Studio ALM Ranger 2014 Champions‎ were voted by all ALM Rangers in January 2014. As always we had some very tight races to the finish line and it is imperative that Rangers realise that every single of their vote counts.

our new improved mission

Our Mission Statement … was tweaked for the first time in seven years‎ to align with the new times and present a “crisper” message: The Visual Studio ALM Rangers provide professional guidance, practical experience and gap-filling solutions to the ALM community.


We embraced the TFS Service, now known as Visual Studio Online in April 2011. Since then we have clocked up 10371 changesets, 9397 work items and a total “latest” workspace size of 16.9GB (not including $tf folder) in our main team project that serves all operational teams.

Part of the VSO dog-fooding was decommissioning of all the various systems we used. It is important that the Rangers remember the days when we had a SharePhoint Portal and a number of TFS instances using credentials that required a password change every 45-90 days. We also used Connect to store our recordings, which used different credentials and then we started using VSO, which used different credentials for many … resulting in many, many access issues, support calls, forgotten passwords and unnecessary maintenance.

Today, we have one VSO home and are continuing to dog-fooding Yammer.


As ALM Rangers we assume that we all know ALM (Application Lifecycle Management) and the associated Visual Studio Tooling. For example, we have a special place in VSO source control which is our home (
image… and we have a readme for those, like I, who forget where we keep what Smile

To update contact details or achievements, an Excel workbook needs to be checked-out, updated and checked-in as quickly as possible to avoid merge conflicts.


A *very* simple task for VS ALM experts and a great feature for us to observe different tooling use Smile

Other dog-fooding innovations include:


No less than eight (8) new and thirteen (13) upgrade releases “shipped” or “landed” during FY14:


Publications were at a lower priority, but we still saw new “gems” land during FY14:

new / upcoming ideas

  • The upcoming work, all due around the end of the fy, is noticeable on the flight board. The Flight Plan is one of the new community projects that realised this well known board: 
  • As a special thank you …
    • ALM Rangers will assemble after TechReady 19, to work through the Leading SAFe workshop. If successful, we are likely to see more of these at other TechReady and MVP Summit events.
    • The most active distinguished ALM Rangers will receive a training voucher, allowing them to enjoy remote training as dog-fooded. See Exploring ALM Solutions using TFS 2013 with QuickLearn Training for more information.

As you can see, lots of stuff happened in FY14 to date. Now let’s focus on the year-end grooming.

scrub … grooming sounds better

We used to call the year-end process the “scrub”, but have started to use “grooming” which is a much friendlier term. We introduced a MVP-like nomination and renewal system, in which the Ranger submit their achievements to be considered as part of the recognition system. We trust every Ranger to submit their “active” achievements, but at the same time “rely” every Ranger to keep their details up to date and “nudge” s if we miss anything.

  • Why are we grooming? It is important to keep our ALM Rangers community (aka.ms/vsarIndex) vibrant, manageable and organised. We are therefore “grooming” the community to remove all inactive, and recognise honorary and distinguished Rangers.
  • When are we grooming? We typically start grooming end-May and complete the exercise by end-June, coinciding with the financial year-end.
  • What is the process? The next image will take us through the overall process. For more details, refer to the Ruck Guide.


  1. We calculate the achievements, taking into account previous year and current year achievements and observations by ruck masters, project leads and program managers. The “final” grooming list is shared with the core stakeholders for a final vote and sanity check.
  2. New Rangers who do not meet the active Ranger bar and were not dark in the previous year, are renewed as Associate ALM Rangers.
  3. Rangers who meet or exceed the active Ranger bar are moved from Associate to Active, or renewed as Active ALM Rangers.
  4. Rangers who meet or exceed the distinguished Ranger bar, join the Distinguished ALM Rangers.
  5. Rangers who are no longer active, but made significant contributions to the community, join the Honorary ALM Rangers.
  6. The rest are deemed inactive and removed from the community.

The final step in the process is running a mail merge that ship a recognition letter to all ALM Rangers confirming their contributions. It is a ceremonial THANK YOU, because the true recognition comes from seeing the value the ALM Rangers are delivering to the ALM community.

alm rangers … being prepared

Now that we know how it works, I urge every Ranger to please do a bit of housekeeping:

  1. Update your contact details!
  2. Update your achievements
    • See NOTES in first sheet. Remember to click ALT-ENTER which you are in an Excel cell to add multiple achievements to a cell, without over-writing your colleagues cell.
    • Use the team codes, i.e. vsarPlanningGuide, vsarSecurity when listing the projects.
    • Remember the special achievements, if you …:
      • Contributed to two versions of a projects, append the version number, i.e. vsarTreasureMap v2, vsarTreasureMap v3 
      • Are helping with TechReady 19 planning, capture TR19 Planning under “other”.
      • Are helping with VSO dog-fooding, capture VSO Dog-Fooding under “other”.
      • Are helping with Ruck dog-fooding, capture Ruck Innovations under “other”.
      • Completed a Ranger survey, capture it under “other:, i.e. Survey – SAT
      • Published an ALM related book or article, capture it under “other”, i.e. Cook Book.
      • Delivered ALM related sessions at events, capture it under “other”, i.e. TechReady 18.

Hope that helps to clarify a few questions Smile Now back to projects…

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