Microsoft significantly overhauled its application life-cycle technology in the “Ultimate” edition of Visual Studio 2010, eclipsing the capabilities of its predecessor, Visual Studio Team System. But better code quality doesn’t come out of the box: Using Microsoft’s tools to their full effect requires organizations and developers to behave and think differently, experts say.

ALM requires a mindset that emphasizes doing it right the first time, said Benjamin Day, founder of Benjamin Day Consulting and a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award winner for Visual Studio Team System. MVPs are recognized by Microsoft for their work in supporting Microsoft technology communities. “Hundreds of developers haven’t gotten the religion of doing things the right way” in terms of creating quality software, he said.

Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate’s ALM tool set addresses software quality. It incorporates tools for architecture, builds, testing and work-item management, and it is available to MSDN subscribers at no additional cost beyond the license and subscription.

Individually, Microsoft’s ALM tools are not best of breed, but instead are integrated well together, said Martin Hinshelwood, a solution architect at SSW Consulting Services of Sydney, Australia, and a Microsoft MVP for ALM. “There is one support model, one set of installations, and one person to call for support,” he said.

Customers who want to adopt those tools must acknowledge that they are also implanting a software process as well as the tools into their organization, said Chris Menegay, a principal consultant for Notion Solutions and a Microsoft regional director (recognized by Microsoft’s Developer Platform evangelism group for technical expertise). Adopting ALM practice is not as simple as just buying the tools, he said.

Developer buy-in is key
Driving developer buy-in is the key to success, because Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate brings about “big change” for organizations from a procedural and tooling perspective in software testing, Menegay explained. He said in discussing what he believes is the disadvantage of using best-of-breed tools, “With HP’s Mercury testing tools, testing is on an island separate from the development teams. They are two different tool sets: HP Quality Center on one side, and Visual Studio on the other.”

Visual Studio’s new testing tools are designed to bridge the work, or “islands,” of developers and QA professionals, and have created visibility into testing as a practice inside of organizations, Menegay said.

Microsoft built tools, including Test Manager and Lab Manager, that are meant to address discrepancies in the maturity of customers’ testing practices. Test Manager helps non-technical QA professionals build and manage test cases, and Lab Manager provides a virtual environment for provisioning “snapshots” of testing environments, said Hinshelwood.