TFS & PivotalTracker

When we started 4 years ago using Scrum the PO decided to use PivotalTracker to manage the Backlog and the roadmap.

We also had a physical board for the current sprint, but we found very useful to have the virtual one.

office-wallMy “wall” in Turin a couple of years ago, before we moved in a newer room.

Using Pivotaltracker my former team managed many projects and even now they continue to use it successfully.

In June I moved in the London office and there the teams and the projects are managed differently.

I work with the PM as a technical leader, we don’t manage the project with Scrum and we are trying to define an Agile process that suits the London management.

Using mostly .NET as a technology my Company is used to use TFS as source version’s controller and we are trying now to use it also as a board to manage the iterations.

Hard to me not to compare TFS (as a board) and PivotalTracker.

I have to say that my experience with TFS for now is very, very, little compared to the one with PivotalTracker (few months against 4 years).

The first difference that comes to my mind: I started Pivotaltracker using it but I had to learn how to use TFS.

TFS board first impression

TFS is without any doubt very powerful and is very well tight to the entire Microsoft Suite, but it is not intuitive.

I can commit the code binding it with an element on the board (user story, task, bug), and it is very practical to have in the same portal information about the builds and the automated test.

It is useful to get information about the project using the “queries” section, but again I have had to learn how to use it. And of course in my first project I didn’t manage the board well so the queries section was less useful than it could be.

In general I can add and read a lot of information, aggregate them in different ways, have a chart visualization, etc. etc.

But it is not easy to learn how to do it properly, there is a lot of modal windows and subsections and a lot of time I struggle to remember how I did or found something the previous time.

Looking at the UI it’s clear that the product is moving to manage Agile processes.

PivotalTracker first impression

PivotalTracker is not about a technology, doesn’t support a specific suite, but I can start to define my project in few clicks, everything I need and I want to know is at hand in one screen. I can refine, rearrange, redefine, invent, in the same easy way I can use a physical whiteboard.

Looking at the UI everything says to me: I am designed to manage Scrum teams

Sadly if my software is split in branches there is not an easy way to bring this information on the board, when I or the team fix a bug for a specific release there is not an easy way to bind the fix with a specific version of the software.
We used labels, description or sometime the title itself to bring to the surface these important information.

I can manage perfectly the process, but not its specific implementation with all the exceptions that the real world brings.

Adding a new team’s member in a project running with TFS

It takes time if the team should collaborate in the user story writing (a thing that I strongly recommend to do), I have to explain a lot of things about how the project is organized and how to use/define the information in it.

Even if the new member is used to work with TFS, it’s quite possible that the usage or the organization of the former team were completely different.

If you run TFS in different projects/teams it’s not such a bad idea to define a convention in order to minimize the overhead moving people between the projects.

Adding a new team’s member in a project running with PivotalTracker

In one hour I was able to explain all you needed to work in the project.


Honestly I’m not able to say which one is better and one single post is not enough to highlight all the pro and con. If I have to judge the board itself I prefer PivotalTracker, but using it I needed other tools in order to manage all the aspects of the project. It’s not necessarily a con, but it’s something you have to take in consideration.

TFS as a board is more complicated but in one portal I can manage almost all the aspects of a project (obviously in a project that uses the Microsoft technology). It is a pro, but if you have to use different technologies in the same project you lose the “one tool” pro and there is the risk you have to adapt a little in order to use it in the right way.

Even if you don’t use a Microsoft technology the board of TFS can be interesting, but at this moment working with other environments/technology I’m sure I’d use PivotalTracker.

There is one plus that both have: they are updated and improved very often, so it is quite possible that in the next months I will have to refine my review and a lot of con won’t exist anymore.

The best thing that I can do, it’s to suggest to try both.
Your specific “day-to-day” will drive you in the choice and it won’t be so strange if you will decide to use one for a project and the other for another project.

In my Company now we are using both, depending on the project.

TFS Visual Studio


I’ll continue to work with the TFS board in the next projects and I’m quite sure that I’ll be back on the topic after more months of experience using it.

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