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ALM Consulting in Scotland, UK, Scandinavia & Europe

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Well, that’s me started ALM Consulting in Scotland, UK & Europe as naked ALM Consulting – Martin Hinshelwood. As I write this I am on a train on my way to my first engagement in the north of England is what looks to be and awesome group of folks to talk a little Scrum and Team Foundation Build.

As of the first of November I am back in Scotland and will be basing naked ALM Consulting out of my home town of Glasgow. However I will be traveling around Europe doing consulting and training for lean-agile, TFS, Visual Studio and Scrum and working with a bunch of ALM Gold partners in various countries. As I have been talking to my contacts many folks have been asking what it is that I have been doing for the last 3 years and what it is that naked ALM Consulting does… and even what ALM means anyway. I especially get these questions from my family…

Application lifecycle management (ALM) is the product lifecycle management (governance, development, and maintenance) of application software. It encompasses requirements management, software architecture, computer programming, software testing, software maintenance, change management, project management, and release management Wikipedia

If you are still asking, “But what can you do Martin?” then by all means read on as this post was created specifically for you. However there really is no short answer that does not open even more questions and I think that all of the ALM MVP’s are in the same boat with this.  I sometimes use “I help companies that build software build it better” for laymen, or “I help companies improve their software development processes” for the more initiated. Unfortunately that statement is neither eloquent nor expletive enough so I have tried many times to come up with something a little live a list of ‘things that I have done’:

  • Lean-Agile Training\Coaching – Delivering PSD, PSF and PSM for customers across the USA including two major defence contractors, US government departments, and many other companies across the spectrum of industries. In some cases I have also provided additional Agile Engineering and Agile Requirements days to help jump start the process.

    While training is easy to quantify, coaching is a little more difficult. Suffice to say I have worked with many companies and teams in that capacity, and not just .NET teams, and hope to work with many more.

  • ALM Assessment – Delivering ALM Assessments are fun and require a lot of focus. The goal is to understand, in a short space of time, the current state of a companies software lifecycle and where they can improve. Sometimes they are very tools focused, but we all know that tools don’t solve problems. Tools only support the process that solves problems. Having conducted ALM Assessments for financial and medial institutions as well as commercial, land management, port management and even retail I feel that I can get a handle on any companies situation and goals.
  • TFS Training – I have created and delivered targeted TFS training for major biopharmaceutical, airline manufacturing, defence and government as well as investment capital, and auction organisations. Training is a fine art and one needs to balance learning with comedy (thanks Rennie) to create something that is more like a Enter-trainer rather than a monotonous drone.  Having lots of real world experience in both delivering and using the tools helps a lot with making sure that students really understand how to get the most out of the tools for their situation. Most training I have done was delivered privately where it is easier to target the companies needs, but public courses in ALM and TFS also benefit from that knowledge.
  • DPS Tools & Test – Deployment Planning Services (DPS) is a funny old beast. If you have DPS vouchers from Microsoft you can trade them in to have a consultant come onsite and assess your organisation for deployment of, or increased usage of, the features of Visual Studio ALM. There are currently two flavours of DPS. You can have a DPS Tools where one would look at implementing Team Foundation Server (TFS) in general, and there is a DPS Test where I would look at a companies adoption and usage of Microsoft Test Manager and other Testing capabilities of Visual Studio ALM. Think of DPS as a very targeted mini ALM Assessment that Microsoft pays for. Loads of companies have leveraged DPS from me and they have been fortune 500, government and small local shops. If you have the vouchers then you should use them.
  • Upgrade and Migration – In the past this has been the meat and potatoes of ALM Consulting in the Microsoft space. Now however with the investment that Microsoft has made in the installer since 2008 and their cloud solution I expect that business to drop off. It did however breed a special appreciation for simplicity and  I could not count the number of upgrades and migrations I have done with more than 8 customers already on TFS 2013 RTM. Of those 8 customers I have upgraded to the RTM only 4 were small, less than 100 developers, and the others were over 500 developers. I would always recommend that teams have a go at a trial upgrade to TFS 2013 from 2012 or even 2010 before you call a consultant as the process is much easier now. If however you are still on 2005 \ 2008 then please give me a call!
  • Process Template Upgrade & Customisation – As I always recommend customers keep this ass a separate thing so I also want to call it out separately here. Upgrading, migrating and customising your process within TFS is an art and not a science. There are many ways to implement things and one does not only need to know the options available but also be deeply integrated in to the future directions of the product to make the best choices.
  • Build Automation – Moving folks to TF Build from Cruse Control, Maven, Team City or whatever to TFS and making sure that their applications can build can be a trial. Worse if they have no build process or a manual one. Automating them can be a real pain and this included potentially re-architecting parts of their application to support automated deployment. Large software that has been around for many years can take many months to automate and while I have done full time onsite to help folks out I try to get your teams to do as much of the work as possible. If they don’t do it then they will not know how nor be able to take it forward. This should be your knowledge in your team but they probably need training and coaching to make it work.
  • Automated Deployment – I have worked with Release management for Visual Studio (InRelease, LabDeploy) and Octopus Deploy to create end to end release management and deployment strategies for customers large and small, banks and point of sale. This is going to be the hot ticket over the next few years as more and more companies push towards continuous delivery.

I only tried to hit the highlights as I have had almost 80 customer engagements in the last 3 years with Northwest Cadence and every customer has unique problems and situations that are representative of their size or complexity. Its sometimes just about rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck in.

Wither you are looking for an ALM Consultant or you are a consulting company looking for an ALM Partner or even just an overflow valve (lol) for those busy periods then  I can help you out. If you need to understand what your organisation needs to do to improve their process then give me a call, and remember: Every company deserves working software on a regular cadence.

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