Choosing the Right Tool for the Task to Manage Projects, Collaborate, and Monitor Progress in Visual Studio ALM

Kathryn Elliott


If you are using Visual Studio TFS 2013, you can find this level of information in the following topic: Choose the Team Foundation client to support your tasks.

In Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2012 you have a number of tools to perform some familiar tasks as well as excercise new tasks. In some cases, you can only exercise some features from a single interface. In others, you can choose from several Team Foundation clients. In this post, we provide a roadmap for you to choose the best tool for your task.


Legend for the following tables:

Best tool for the task            Supports the task      rDoesn’t support the task



Plan and Manage Projects, Track Work

With the introduction of the Agile planning tools, you can plan, manage, and review up-to-the-minute progress using Team Web Access. To bulk modify many work items – to change assignments, priorities, or other fields, Excel remains one of the best tools for the job.

All five Team Foundation clients in the following table connect to Team Foundation Server. Only Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Project allow you to work offline.

TaskTeam Web
Access (1)
Explorer (2)
Test Manager (3)
Excel (4)
Project (4)

Create and groom the backlog (5)


Plan a sprint (5)


Run a sprint with Agile task board (5)    
Forecast (5)   

Create and update test cases (6)


Bug triage/reprioritize work items


Bulk add work items



Bulk modify work items



Bulk modify hierarchical links



Add formulas to worksheets



 Work offline





  1. Team Web Access provides a web-based client that requires no setup.
  2. Team Explorer is integrated with Visual Studio. These tasks are also supported by Team Explorer Everywhere.
  3. Microsoft Test Manager is installed with Visual Studio Premium 2012, Visual Studio Ultimate 2012, and Visual Studio Test Professional 2012.
  4. A Team Foundation add-in is installed into Microsoft Office Excel and Microsoft Office Project when you install any edition of Visual Studio 2012 or Visual Studio Team Explorer 2012. The add-in requires Office 2007 version or later.
  5. To perform these tasks using Team Web Access, users must meet licensing requirements and be added to the Full group for Team Web Access. For more information, see Features Accessed Through Team Web Access.
  6. You can update some fields within test cases and link them to other work items using any Team Foundation client, however, you cannot modify and edit Steps except in Test Manager. 

Collaboration with Stakeholders and Team Members

You and your team can collaborate more effectively by engaging stakeholders to provide feedback and team members to review your code. Team Foundation captures all requests and responses as work items. With PowerPoint Storyboarding you can quickly illustrate

Web Access (1)

Team Explorer

Feedback Client (3) 
Storyboarding (4)

Request feedback





Provide feedback




Review feedback   
Request code review/respond to code review (My Work (2))    
Suspend/resume tasks    
Storyboard a feature, user story, or experience    
View and provide feedback on a storyboard created with PowerPoint Storyboarding   



  1. To request feedback, users must meet licensing requirements and be added to the Full group for Team Web Access. For more information, see Features Accessed Through Team Web Access.
  2. My Work appears in Team Explorer when you install Visual Studio Premium 2012 or Visual Studio Ultimate 2012.
  3. Microsoft Feedback Client installs with each version of Visual Studio. It can also be downloaded for free. Stakeholders must be granted permissions to the team project to respond to feedback or to provide unsolicited feedback. See Grant Permissions to Stakeholders to Provide Feedback.
  4. PowerPoint Storyboarding is a Team Foundation add-in to Microsoft PowerPoint that is installed with Visual Studio Premium 2012, Visual Studio Ultimate 2012, and Visual Studio Test Professional 2012. The add-in requires Office 2007 version or later.

Monitor and Report Progress

Sometimes you just want a quick glance to see how things are progressing and other times you want to drill-down to explore details or present a status, progress, or trend report to your leadership team.

Team Web Access provides a lightweight dashboard that reflects updates made to work items as they happen. Excel and Report Manager provide support for drilling down and presenting the level of data and detail that you want.

Web Access (1)
Reports (2)
Dashboards (3)Reports
(Report Manager) (4)
Project (5)

Task burndown


Progress on user stories and requirements

Team Velocity  


Project Timeline    

Resource Usage


Lightweight Dashboard





Customizable Dashboard





  1. Because Team Web Access charts and reports access the data store, there is no time lag between data update and viewing the report.
  2. You can create Excel reports to view status and trends from a work item query. Trend reports access data from the Analysis Services cube.
  3. To view dashboards, your team project must be configured with a SharePoint portal. See Configure a Default Location for Team Project Portals.
  4. To view Reports via Report Manager, your team project must be configured with SQL Server Reporting Services and SQL Server Analysis Services. See Add a Report Server to a Team Project Collection. 
  5. You can use the default reports available in Microsoft Project to manage details that relate to task scheduling, task dependencies, and resource availability, while maintaining the data and making it available as work item tasks in Team Foundation Server. See Scheduling Tasks and Assigning Resources Using Microsoft Project.

Additional resources







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