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Monday 19 September 2016

Do you provide Life Preservers for your Developers?

This blog post was original published on the Microsoft Partner Blog on October 13th, 2016

My company, FusionWare Integration Corporation, has been a Microsoft Partner for years.  Our partnership with Microsoft has repeatedly served us well.  I could spend pages describing the benefits we have reaped from our relationship.  Benefits, like software, customer referrals, technical and end user support, help with making our customers happy, but one of the biggest benefits we didn’t even think about until we had to was protection of our software assets and developer productivity.

The Two Pillars of Development

The purpose of this blog post is to discuss two huge benefits our partnership has afforded us and how it has, in fact, saved our ability to deliver to customers.  We have tried many different Integration Development Environments (IDE) in the past and none have ever come close to offering us the productivity that Visual Studio Professional gives us.  The other pillar of our development environment is more recent to us (recent, meaning less than 10 years).  We started using Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) and it changed everything for us.  There are lots of benefits to both our pillars of development.  My goal here is to discuss two of them.  The first is developer productivity with Visual Studio and the second is protecting our assets and peace of mind (that life preserver in the title) with VSTS.  There are many other benefits, but I’ll leave that for another post.

Visual Studio and Productivity

One of the many things we do here at FusionWare is create Apps for the Windows Store.  We have published a great number of Apps to the Windows Phone Store initially and then the Windows Store and now the unified store.  We have also created other specialized database access software that I won’t go into here.  We have tried, in the past, lots of different tools for writing code.  We have written code in a bunch of different languages so we are familiar with many different permutations on environments.  It’s always like home when we return to Visual Studio, from the old days of Visual Basic to creating the dozens of mobile apps in Visual Studio Professional.  Todays applications (and apps) are complex beasts that constantly break new ground.  Visual Studio’s environment makes it really easy learn on the fly while creating great software.  From the tried and true of IntelliSense to newer innovations such as Code Lens and extensions like ReSharper bring to the party.  Integration with MSDN makes it easy to figure out what you need to get the job done.  Myself and my team can create applications in a fraction of the time we once did; improving costs and time-to-market for products we create for ourselves and our customers.

If you are creating apps for the Windows Store, then Visual Studio can make your life easier.  It’s definitely a core benefit of the Microsoft Action Pack for us and and a great add-on to all the other features of being a partner.

Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS) and Peace of Mind

The second pillar of our development effort involves VSTS.  This has had the single biggest impact on our business.  A couple of years ago there was a disastrous fire in a building adjacent to ours (literally the next building over).  It obliterated that building and had the wind been blowing towards our building we would have lost our offices.  Fortunately, before the fire occurred we had moved all our source control into VSTS.  Using tools built right into Visual Studio we had protected all our code assets in a place the fire couldn’t reach.  For a number of days we did not have access to our physical offices but work still had to get done.  No problem.  We just fired up Visual Studio on our home systems and instantly had access to all the work-in-progress in VSTS.  The combination of Visual Studio and VSTS allowed us to still deliver on-time and on-budget and definitely relieved us of a bunch of concern.  VSTS combined with Office 365 and Microsoft Azure means we can fire up a virtual office for developers just about anywhere and in very little time.  As a company, knowing that we have provided for unexpected events like fires or other events that might restrict access to our workspace, means that our developers always have their life preservers handy and can keep their developer heads above water.

When we combine Visual Studio with VSTS and its source code control, agile tools, continuous integration and other features, our productivity just continues to improve.  I especially love the continuous integration (CI).  The ability to make sure any commits to our Git repository (did I mention that Visual Studio happily support both Team Foundation version control and unlimited private Git Repos?) CI automatically builds the app, verifies its integrity and prepares it for distribution, all with automated agents taking care of it for us!

Swim don’t sink

With our Microsoft Action Pack and the Visual Studio Professional that comes with it, along with Visual Studio Team Services, we have a certain amount of peace of mind that we did not have before.  I’ve, personally, enjoyed the enhancements to my IDE that come with each new version of Visual Studio.  The experience just keeps getting better and better.

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