Starting with TFS 2012 we are now faced with the options of using either Team Foundation Server or Team Foundation Service as our ALM platform of choice. The big question is which one to choose. One is installed locally while the other is hosted in the cloud. This is an important difference but not the only one you need to consider. I’ll list the most important points to consider here.

The cloud

If for some reason you are not allowed to handle your work items or source code in the cloud then Team Foundation Service is out of the question as it is based on Microsoft’s Windows Azure platform.

Installation and administration

Installing Team Foundation Server has become much easier than it was back in 2005 but can still be a bit tricky. Using Team Foundation Service is basically a matter of supplying a name for your instance. If you dont want the hassle of server installation and administration then you should consider Team Foundation Service.


Process templates are not customizable in Team Foundation Service. If you think you will have to make adjustments to the process template (like adding new fields to work items) then you probably want to go with Team Foundation Server instead. Unless you are ready to wait, because this will change in the future.

Document management

If you want solid document management features then Team Foundation Server is the way to go as it includes Sharepoint. Team Foundation Service currently has no document management features. This will change in the future with Office 365 integration (see Brian Harry’s first response in the comments).


One of the many nice features of Team Foundation Server is all the reports you get out of the box. Apart from sprint burndown charts you get no reports at all in Team Foundation Service. This might be perfectly fine for some or a complete deal breaker for others. This will probably change in the future but I’ve been unable to find anything to support this claim. Windows Azure SQL Reporting is available though so hopefully only a matter of time before it is integrated into the Team Foundation Service offering.

Price tag

There is actually a pricing preview for Visual Studio 2012 (and Team Foundation Server) but very limited information about Team Foundation Service pricing.

There are other differences but this should cover the most important aspects. If you want to dig deeper, have a look at the Team Founation Service whitepaper.

New scrum guide

Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, the co-founders of Scrum, have been working together and with the Scrum community on updating the official Scrum Body of Knowledge, the Scrum Guide. The core principles of Scrum remain, but misunderstandings have been clarified and techniques have been removed. The “Definitive Guide to Scrum,” focuses on the framework, rules, and ceremonies of Scrum. Emphasis is placed on the roles of the Scrum Team and understanding of their responsibilities, as opposed to the strategies and techniques involved in fulfilling those roles and responsibilities.

The new scrum guide was announced on July 15 but the reasoning behind the changes are not always clear to everyone. To remedy this is releasing a series of Scrum Guide Explanations. These explanations are really good, not only do they explain the specific change in question but reading the explanations will also give you a deeper understanding of the core principles of scrum.

If you are using scrum today or plan to use it in the future I strongly suggest you head over to and check out both the new Scrum Guide as well as the Scrum Guide Explanations.

Bug fix for SharePoint document links in VS vNext

Submitted another bug to Microsoft, this time regarding the fact that you cannot edit a SharePoint document opened from a work item in the VS IDE. After I submitted a screen capture of the bug yesterday Microsoft has confirmed that this is a bug in VS ALM 2010. The good news is that they will fix this in VS vNext where “we now launch the external browser rather than the internal VS browser when opening hyperlinks”. Until vNext arrives we will have to use work arounds. Fortunately there are several of those. Because the source of the problem is the VS internal browser opening the document in any other way you can think of does not cause this bug to appear.

TFS Power Tool bug fix

Back in October I submitted a bug to Connect regarding the Process Editor and the fact that it makes background changes to the WIT xml files without notifying the user. Yesterday Microsoft posted a reply that this will be fixed in the next version of TFS Power Tools. When the next version will be released is not known, but February and Q1 2011 has been mentioned. I can’t wait, it is going to save me some serious headaches when editing work items!

Test steps and results in TFS 2010

All SSRS reports you get out of the box with TFS 2010 are trend reports and they don’t show any details. I was recently asked to build a custom report listing all test cases in a test plan and for each test case every step should be listed with action, expected result ant test outcome. Basically the same kind of info you can get for a single test case when you view the test results in Microsoft Test Manager 2010. This turned out to be quite a bit trickier than expected but after getting some much needed info from a developer at Microsoft (thank you Sriram) I was able to get it all together.

Getting test steps and results from Tfs_DefaultCollection

Test steps are stored as XML and are found in table WorkItemLongTexts. You can use this query to get them.

declare @fldIdSteps int = (Select top 1 fldid from Fields where ReferenceName = ‘Microsoft.VSTS.TCM.Steps’)
select * from WorkItemLongTexts where FldID = @fldIdSteps

Test results for each step are found in table tbl_TestActionResult. You can use this query to get them.

select * from tbl_TestActionResult

Now, you’ll notice there are a couple of issues popping up. You’ll need to join a XML result with a table result, there might be several revisions of the test steps and there are probably many results saved for each and every test case. But most of all, there is no obvious way to link steps to results. Every test step has an ID but tbl_TestActionResult does not contain a “test step ID” column.

ActionPath explained

This is where the column ActionPath in tbl_TestActionResult comes in. This column will typically contain an empty string, 8 chars string or 16 chars string. For a specific test result in a test run there will be one line with the empty string (this line is the over all test result) and then one line for each step, containing 8 or 16 chars. These ActionPath chars are hierarchical hexadecimal representations of test step ids. The first 8 chars is the step id and the next 8 chars (if they exist) is a shared step id.

And now you have the knowledge needed to pair up test results with corresponding test steps!

Some issues to consider…

There are a few more issues you’ll have to tackle as well.

  • Step ID != Sequence number. The test step id is not the same as the numbers you see when viewing a test case in a GUI. The numbers you see in the GUI are generated in the GUI to clarify the step sequence. The step id is never shown and the sequence number is not stored in the database. You’ll have to rely on the order of the <step> elements in the XML to figure out the step sequence.
  • Revisions and result. There can be several revisions of the test steps stored in table WorkItemLongTexts and there can be several test results stored for each revision. You’ll have to compare timestamps for revisions and results when joining them to avoid errors.
  • Performance. The Database Tfs_DefaultCollection is the production database and you should always take performance hits into consideration before deploying reports that read directly from your production database.
More details

When I first tried to figure out how this all worked I put a question up at the MSDN forums. For SQL and code samples you can go to my post on MSDN and get some more details.

Areas and Iterations

I’ve built a couple of custom reports for a client, and in doing so I’ve been forced to dive deep into the TFS 2010 database, which sometimes leads to interesting findings.

This time I found a strange approach to Areas and Iterations. For all work items areas and iterations are stored in the table xxTree. But then there are two other tables named tbl_Areas and tbl_Iterations, and they also contain all areas and iterations. But without all the other stuff found in xxTree. Now, one might be tempted to believe that these tables are somehow connected and perhaps contain a foreign key pointing to the  xxTree table. But no… As far as I can tell, xxTree is for work items while tbl_Areas and tbl_Iterations is used by MTM2010 for mapping test plans to areas and iterations.

So for anyone  writing queries using these tables, make sure you use the right ones or you will end up with some very strange results.