Last week, Brian Harry announced on his blog some upcoming changes to the Visual Studio Online licensing. Word is that the changes should be coming in the next few months (an August-like timeframe is mentioned). The announced changes are going to be a great help in positioning Microsoft against some of their competition in the Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) sphere. How they went about deciding what change to make is just as interesting.
The main point of the changes seems to be about getting more users into VS Online in order to embed the tool amongst a greater portion of the team. Below is a brief summary:
- Stakeholders: If you are creating and editing task items (bugs, stories, tasks) the Stakeholder license gets you free access to VS Online. Great for all those members of your testing team and client stakeholders who are providing feedback. For larger teams, this can help when your Product Owner has an execution team providing details for creative, UX, and other requirements. You can’t prioritize with this license, so you’ll still need some sort of paid license to manage your backlog properly.
- Test Hub for Advanced plan users: The QA team won’t need Visual Studio Test Professional anymore for access to the Test Hub of Visual Studio online. Now, if you are on the Advanced plan, you will get access to all Test Hub functionality.
Of the two licensing changes made, the Stakeholders change is really the one that interests me most. In the agile task management sphere, Atlassian’s JIRA OnDemand and Trello’s free kanban boards have provided inexpensive options for users looking to manage their requirements. Due to the cost of bringing in non-developers to Visual Studio Online, it is hard to expand adoption of the tool to a greater number of users. Often, this leaves teams adopting multiple tools and leaving VS Online as a source control/build management tool.
By allowing Stakeholders access to the tool it will allow for more of the team to become involved in using Visual Studio Online. The increased adoption will bring more users into a single common platform and also make it easier for an organization to decide on investment in the tool.
It’s still hard to beat Trello’s free option, or the $1/month JIRA user pricing, when it comes to a task tracking tool. Both offer more complete agile task tracking than VS Online, though VS Online really wins with all the other great features (build, test, source control, capacity planning) being tightly integrated together.
An Interesting Process for Change
I really liked how the Microsoft team went about this. They researched usage patterns through the Preview phase and reviewed adoption data on the change from the Preview phase to General Availability. It’s almost like an agile approach to delivery based on feedback from your user base :). With the aggressive licensing prices of their competition, this type of agile reaction is going to help Microsoft continue to stay in the game!