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Aligning with teams using Azure DevOps by moving away from spreadsheets

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In this post I want to cover how aligning with teams using Azure DevOps by moving away from spreadsheets can make a big difference. To help raise awareness.

Before the end of this post, you will have a better idea how people working outside of teams who use Azure DevOps can align with them better. By moving away from spreadsheets and using Azure DevOps more.

Both people who use Azure DevOps already and people who work alongside them will find this post useful.

In reality a lot of this post also applies to teams using other applications to manage their application lifecycle management as well. For example, teams that use GitHub.

Because aligning with teams that use these kinds of applications can help improve things dramatically.

Why align with teams using Azure DevOps

Before I go any further, I want to explain why it’s a good idea to align with teams using these applications.

High performing teams are changing the way they work and aligning with them can make a big difference. If in doubt observe how these teams are working and decide for yourself if they are performing better.

In reality, high performing teams that use these applications tend to have their agreed way of working. In order to work efficiently they are a well-oiled machine with their standards for these applications in place, or at least they are on their way to getting there.

Whereas getting them to update a spreadsheet is fine for you it can cause a number of issues for them. Some of which will not always be visible to you.

For instance, they have to remember to fill out your spreadsheet and whatever they are using to record their work for updates.

Otherwise, it means their work is not always visible for the rest of their team and potentially for whatever application they are using to manage their planned work. Causing various issues that can impact whatever you are expecting from them.

Aligning with these teams will allow you to see who is doing what in real time. In addition, you can also assign work elsewhere with ease.

As far as your visuals to present progress are concerned, you can look to use Power BI as an alternative. In fact, just learning the basics of Power BI can open the door to a lot of possibilities when it comes to presenting your progress and managing expectations.

I’ve used these visuals myself and you can get insights into things you never realized before.

Thoughts about Spreadsheets

I am aware that spreadsheets still have their place for a lot of people. In fact, I personally believe that most people do not use around ninety percent of the features that come with the spreadsheet applications like Microsoft Excel.

For example, for those who use Excel how many of the functions listed here do you use?

In reality, for accounting purposes and doing calculations spreadsheets are great. After all, that’s what spreadsheets were originally designed for.

However, personally I try to avoid using spreadsheets to record progress of vital projects. Because over the years I’ve seen so many problems caused by people using multiple copies of the same spreadsheet.

Somebody thinks that they own the only copy. Not realizing some people are working off copies in mailboxes or saved in their own shares with their personal naming conventions. Just like the naming conventions I mentioned in this old post here.

How to align with teams using Azure DevOps

Now there are various ways you can align with the teams. So that you can all work more efficiently.

One way you can do this is to see if you can move away from spreadsheets to the application that they use. A lot of these applications have functionality built into them to help report on work progress.

For example, Azure DevOps has a feature called analytics views which can be used as datasets for Power BI. Allowing you to create powerful visuals based on work items that are managed in Azure Boards. Just like you would do with spreadsheets without any concerns about the file.

In addition, you can add extensions which introduces powerful features. For instance, the popular Delivery Plans extension by Microsoft which allows to track work across sprints.

In fact, there are also other extensions for those of you who want to se the bigger picture. For example, the Feature timeline and Epic Roadmap extension which allows you to use the Portfolio Plans feature. Just be aware that Portfolio Plans is now in Beta mode.

Now there is an interesting crossover if you install both of the above extensions. If you are using the Plans feature you are able to automatically add some items to an existing Portfolio Plan in the same project as you can see below.

If your company wants to see more GANTT charts and are willing to pay, there are extensions that mimic this. Such as the extension simply called GANTT chart.

Reality

In reality, I know there are several things that can prevent you from doing the above.

For example, others you work with might work of spreadsheets as well. If that is the case take some time to figure out how to get the most out of the application and show them the benefits.

I know it might seem like a lot of effort to put everything in a new application. Especially when you are used to entering everything into the spreadsheet and having your visuals there.

Even more so when you already have started using an existing spreadsheet. Because you will be duplicating entries.

However, putting in the effort can align you with teams and open up new possibilities. Plus, it can help you avoid future issues.

Final word

I hope me covering how aligning with teams using Azure DevOps by moving away from spreadsheets has given some of you ideas. Because I do realize it’s a bit off topic from my usual posts.

However, I realized after various discussions and questions whilst presenting that there was a need for this.

If you have any views or comments about this post feel free to reach out to me.

Aligning with teams using Azure DevOps by moving away from spreadsheets
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