Today at Tech.Ed US, Jason Zander and co. went through some of what’s coming in the next versions of TFS and Visual Studio and then blogged about it shortly after.

I saw some of this in action at the MVP summit earlier this year and I liked what I saw, so I’m very glad to see this being publicly talked about now. Now I could recap everything said already, but instead of regurgitating what’s on Jason’s blog, let me quickly call out some of the highlight that I’m interested in, and then you can go to the post, check out all the screenshots, and look at the whitepaper to read more, and see even more screen shots.

This upcoming release aims to close the loop between the business and the developers by building requirements management and end user feedback into the tooling.  For most software development projects, timely interaction with the customer is a critical element for success and having software that supports this is fantastic.  It also extends the communication loop from developers through to the ops team so that performance problems, bugs with stack traces and other issues that IT Pros find in production can be pushed back directly to the team to fix.  With my agile coaching hat on, I’m really looking forward to getting teams and organisations using these features to remove waste and improve what they do.

PowerPoint will be enabled for use as a lightweight requirements and wire framing tool.  This is sooo much more approachable than Sketchflow and given it follows what a lot of people already do, this is a very welcome addition.  Customers, BA’s, and others that want to quickly use PowerPoint to knock out a wireframe of how an application might work can now do so and incorporate it into TFS and make it part of the requirements management process.  Excellent!

TFS will also feature an agile task board and provide tools to make backlog management and prioritisation easier.  No more going to excel, unless you want to, just drag and drop items to rearrange priorities.  In fact the next version of TFS recognizes that most teams are now using agile approaches and explicitly targets features that will make supporting these processes easier.

Visual Studio will support test frameworks other than MSTest.  Yes, you read that right. It means means the all new VS test runner will now handle nUnit and XUnit, including code coverage, and provides extension points other test frameworks can use to plug themselves into visual studio.

Visual Studio will also sport a Crucible/CodeCollab style code review tool, enabling inline commenting and tracking of code review notes, without having to switch out to another tool.  For those teams that use code reviews as part of their process having this directly built into Visual Studio is fantastic news.

Further to this, Visual Studio will also be able to detect Code Clones.  Microsoft providing tools to help make your code DRY is only going to help improve the overall state of .NET development and I for one think this is a great addition.

Team Explorer is becoming more task and context oriented, so instead of it being a simple tree view of various nodes with a data focused UI, it will now be more aligned with developer work practices and with the usability improvements should make the learning of the tool much simpler and remove the “I hate doing administrivia” feeling you can sometimes get when keeping work items up to date.

All in all, these are great improvements in the product and very, very welcome additions.

Of course, there will be those of you who say that you can already do all or most of this with other tools, and you can, but the integration is often problematic and the benefits of these tools are lost in islands of data.  TFS brings all these pieces together in one place to make things visible across the whole team, provide a view as to what’s happening in the project overall end to end and help improve the collaboration in the software development effort.  Further, many .NET development teams are sadly stymied by management that dictates an “only from Microsoft” attitude, so having these in the base tooling removes some of the impediments that prevent teams from collaborating and communicating well, and hopefully we’ll see the overall state of .NET development improve as a result.

And in case you were wondering nothing was announced around source control, not that I’m aware of anyway.  If you wish, you can go back to a post in Jan 2010 by Brian Harry and read into that what you will.

For now, go read Jason’s post, have a peek at the whitepaper to see what else is coming.  Bring on the beta!