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Jeff Levinson (Mugshot)

I’ve talked about the feedback tool before when the TFS CTP was released and there have been many changes to the tool and the process as well (hopefully there will be more changes before the release). What is the feedback tool? In short, it is designed to solicit feedback from your customers on an application and to capture that data and add it to the traceability matrix of a requirement.

To begin with, you can solicit feedback just by clicking the Request Feedback link on the home page of any project in Team Web Access. This is a change from the CTP. In the CTP you could select an individual requirement and select Request Feedback. This is one of the changes that I am hoping will make it back into the final release as it eliminates the manual step of linking the feedback to the user story (which you have to do in the beta). Figure 1 shows the updated home page in Team Web Access.

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Figure 1 – Team Web Access Home Page with the Request Feedback link highlighted

Once you request feedback you will be presented with the form shown in Figure 2.

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Figure 2 – Request Feedback Form

This form lets you specify who you are going to send the request for feedback to, what type of application they are going to be reviewing and how to get to that application and finally what you want the reviewers to actually review. You can provide launch instructions and as many focus areas as required (although, as a best practice focus on only one or two areas for each piece of feedback). Using agile you would ideally request feedback on a single story at a time which is a small, targeted requirement. For a waterfall project you should request feedback on a very narrow sliver of the requirement otherwise it becomes more difficult to take action on the provided feedback. Clicking Add feedback item on the bottom left will create new item sections under section 3 (shown in Figure 2 at the bottom).

You can then preview or simply send the feedback request. The e-mail the end user receives is shown in figure 3.

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Figure 3 – Feedback Request e-mail. Here I requested feedback from myself!

Clicking Start your feedback session will launch your application (if that is possible). If the end user does not have the feedback tool installed they can install it via the link directly from Microsoft. The rest of the form is a template based e-mail. In my next blog post I’ll show you how to customize this (it is not a fully supported feature but it works just fine) e-mail.

Once you start the feedback session a docked feedback panel will be displayed to the left of the screen (you can float this window as well or dock it to other sides) as shown in Figure 4.

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Figure 4 – Feedback panel

From here, launch the application and click Next to begin providing feedback. When you click Next you are presented with the “Provide” tab of the feedback form (Figure 5).

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Figure 5 – The Provide tab of the feedback tool

As you can see, this is very flexible in terms of taking feedback from the user. You can record the screen or audio or both or neither! You can take screenshots (a screenshot is shown in the feedback pane in Figure 5) and annotate it with your favorite program (I used Snagit 11 for this demonstration – you can change the tool and set a few more options by clicking the settings button at the top of the pane (small gear to the left of the help icon)). You can also provide a rating by selecting 1 to 5 stars at the bottom of the pane.

When you are done recording feedback, click Next which will display the submit pane (Figure 6).

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Figure 6 – Submit Pane of the Feedback tool

Once you click Submit and Close you are done. The feedback has been provided to the team. Now, when a team member goes to look at the feedback they will the work item shown in Figure 7.

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Figure 7 – The Feedback Response work item

As you can see, the feedback and the responses are two different types of work items. The response is associated in a parent/child relationship with the Feedback Request work item that generated it. My recommendation at this point is to associate the Feedback Request in a parent/child relationship with the work item you requested feedback for. This makes querying for feedback and feedback responses very easy. It also means you do not have to explicitly link all feedback responses to the requirement.

Some final thoughts

The feedback tool is the first tool I’ve seen (there may be others out there) that incorporates solid data from customers regardless of where they are. Scrum practitioners always say that teams have to be co-located with their customers so they can provide immediate feedback. We wish that were always possible but we all know it isn’t either possible or practical in many cases. This is the next best thing to be able to look over your customers shoulders – and there is no “lost in translation” effect of having a customer type out a long wordy e-mail on what they think of a feature. Use this tool to get almost the exact same benefits of having your customer sitting right next to you without having your customer sitting right next to you.

This is a great and valuable edition to the Visual Studio ALM tools.

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