Every software development team operates a little differently. For one aspect of engineering that statement is especially true: a team’s technology stack. LinearB, the leading software engineering intelligence platform, works with many common developer tools to help teams realize their goals of:
- Operational efficiency
- Business alignment and resourcing
- Project predictability and consistency
This blog delves into the seamless integration between LinearB and Microsoft tools, highlighting the enhanced flexibility, enterprise alignment, superlative DevEx, and unparalleled data accuracy that this integration brings to software development teams.
TLDR: LinearB integrates seamlessly with Microsoft tools. This integration helps software development teams:
- Enjoy more flexibility in how they work and ensure visibility into key metrics–like DORA–to pinpoint improvement opportunities using data correlation
- Measure, benchmark, and understand business impact of key initiatives with Resource Allocation and Investment Profile
- Remove developer toil, automate good habits, and foster better collaboration with programmable workflows
Exploring the Integration
LinearB provides software engineering intelligence to development teams of all shapes and sizes. It correlates data from different sources within the SDLC (like SCM, PM, and CI/CD tools) and provides the foundation for a comprehensive metrics program that includes a unified view into engineering metrics, insights, benchmarks, and improvement opportunities. It also provides programmable workflows for teams to quickly and easily action the insights surfaced during metrics analysis.
For those operating within the Microsoft ecosystem, LinearB provides a unified look into data generated by Azure Boards and Repos (part of the Azure DevOps suite). Teams can quickly identify trends, investigate spikes in core metrics like Cycle Time, work to improve stability metrics like CFR and MTTR, allocate resources in line with business priorities, and much more.
Beyond visibility, LinearB together with Microsoft Teams offers engineering organizations a low friction way for developers to align to best practices, reduce manual work (like data entry), speed up code reviews, and collaborate with the rest of the team more effectively so work never slips through the cracks.
In short, LinearB and Microsoft are a winning combination.
Connecting LinearB to Your Microsoft Stack
The process of building the connection between Azure DevOps and LinearB is simple and straightforward. Should you run into problems though, our award-winning support team would love to help you get started.
In a nutshell the process looks like this:
- Create a personal access token from Azure Boards
- Create a personal access token from Azure DevOps
- Add your tokens from each system to LinearB
If SSO is a requirement, use Azure Active Directory to setup an SSO integration with LinearB
Each of those links will take you to step by step instructions on the quick and easy initial provisioning process.
In addition to getting your data sources integrated with LinearB, you’ll also want to connect Microsoft Teams for automated alerting about set operational goals (like PR size reduction), enhanced collaboration between team members, and tools to help devs prioritize their work.
Finally, if your team operates using Azure Boards and GitHub, be sure to download and install gitStream (it’s free). This easy-to-use tool–which can be deployed in minutes–has been proven to reduce the PR review process by 40% by minimizing manual work, providing more context for reviewers, and automating PR routing.
This workflow automation tool enables teams to use YAML configuration files to optimize the code review process and make teams more efficient.
Working Your Way - Flexibility, Freedom, and Data Accuracy
LinearB isn’t about changing how teams operate or organize their work, it meets teams where they are and provides actionable data-backed insight based on every engineering team’s unique process. The best part is that it will ingest and correlate data from different systems, no matter if you’re using unrelated SCM, PM, and CI/CD tools.
CFR and MTTR
For teams operating using Azure DevOps, your metrics (and choosing how they’re populated) are just a couple of clicks away. The latest enhancement to LinearB is the ability for Azure DevOps teams to customize their incident detection strategy–a crucial consideration for teams interested in DORA metrics.
In just a few clicks, teams that have connected Azure Boards to LinearB have even more flexibility in how they detect and report on incidents. Users can specify which project filters from their board should be logged as critical bugs (and used to inform CFR and MTTR) and whether a status of “In Progress” or a specific data/time should start the calculation.
The other method for getting stability DORA metrics is to use LinearB's Incident API. This workflow sends incident data to LinearB in order to capture an accurate CFR and MTTR metric, which is half of the DORA picture. With this method, incidents can be tracked from any project or incident management tool in addition to Azure Boards.
While teams still have the option to continue using this method, the new functionality provides users with more choice in how they detect and report on incidents. LinearB’s recommendation is to leverage the new option as it provides shared visibility around how production incidents are identified and calculated for metrics dashboards.
Custom PM Metrics
In addition to incident detection, Custom PM Metrics (currently in beta for Azure DevOps) helps teams create bespoke dashboards on project management metrics they want to investigate–so they can quickly identify trends, patterns, and project bottlenecks with their data.
For example, assume you wanted to look into team A, board B, and project C, and get key insights and data points all on the same dashboard.
Historically, generating anything meaningful was a highly manual process that entails:
- Having an idea of where to begin your search
- Running queries to find and organize the information
- Opening these queries in different tabs
- Exporting all of these data points separately
- Correlating them in a way that makes sense
- Pouring over the data to generate some kind of conclusion that you can action
Not to mention all of this depends on a working knowledge of Work Item Query Language (WIQL) for Azure Boards teams. Please note that this is a Business and Enterprise subscription feature, so if you’re on the Free DORA experience, reach out to see this feature in action with a demo.
Customizable Team Level Setting for Projects
This recent enhancement enables Azure Boards teams to both work their way and use granular controls and settings to accurately forecast project delivery. These team-level settings and drop down menus use Azure Boards nomenclature (methodology, project, team, and area) and provide the ability to define every aspect of team scope to:
- Ensures reporting accuracy in both project and git metrics
- Enhance platform flexibility and customization
- Enable teams to get most from LinearB and Microsoft investments
Ensuring Engineering Is Aligned to Business Needs
Engineering leaders have a dual mandate: delivering operational excellence and driving business impact. Fulfilling the second part of that dual mandate requires project visibility that includes who’s working on the project, how much it all costs, and whether that resourcing and investment mix is inline with targets engineering sets for itself.
That’s why leaders need to build a metrics program that incorporates visibility into how teams are spending cycles and includes industry standard benchmarks for optimizing resourcing.
The Resource Allocation dashboard helps leaders see and understand:
- Engineering spend and ways to optimize it
- The business justification for more headcount or resources
- How resourcing and investment decisions impact delivery
- The total cost of projects, initiatives, epics, or any other reporting structure
It can ingest any project scope, including custom fields, labels, and tags–increasing reporting flexibility and accurately reflecting unique working styles and structures for Azure teams. The terms and custom fields it can ingest include:
- Plain text
- String or Text field (single line)
- Double or Decimal
This customizability helps leaders better see/control project spending and identify delay risks as the data is always structured to reflect how they work.
Another key aspect of more closely aligning engineering to business needs is to ensure that developers are spending time on the right things. The Investment Profile view helps teams prioritize projects by high/low impact, look into current investments, and formulate initial recommendations on how to optimize resourcing. Basically it makes it easy to translate engineering to business.
This view provides overall insight, patterns, trends, and reallocation opportunities for current investments and project execution that you can report to the business. It’s broken out into five categories:
Once you’ve determined where work is being done, who’s assigned to it, what the costs of all your projects are, and the breakdown of the work into investment categories, you’ll want to review allocation benchmarks–LinearB conducted a study on the industry and came up with a baseline of what teams should be investing in each area. Your team’s benchmarks can be adjusted and customized to accurately reflect your business alignment goals.
Then once all the inputs are in place, you can begin to use this data to optimize your strategy.
Automating Improvement and Reducing Developer Toil with Programmable Workflows
Metrics flexibility to align to working styles and ensure more accuracy are great, but without a way to quickly and easily action the insight this data provides, it’s ultimately meaningless.
LinearB provides Microsoft users with programmable workflows and real time alerting for Microsoft Teams that helps engineering organizations keep set operational goals top of mind, offloads manual work, automatically routes PRs to the right reviewer, and much more.
These programmable workflows:
- Boost quality
- Increase efficiency
- Foster good habits
- Help teams enforce standards at scale
There are two main functions for these programmable workflows: automated alerting via Teams and git repository automation.
Automated Teams Alerts
A lot of a dev's time is devoted to collaborating with peers, requesting code reviews, gathering additional requirements and clarification, etc. To help developers adopt better habits (like keeping PRs small and jumping on reviews faster), reduce context switches, and generally improve quality and efficiency, it makes sense to apply automation here in the form of real-time updates on the work they’re doing.
Microsoft Teams users can get automated alerts for:
- When a teammate has requested a review
- Small PRs that can be reviewed/approved directly from Teams
- Work the team has completed that doesn’t align to set goals (like PR size, review depth, or merging “risky work”)
- If a reviewer hasn’t been assigned to a PR, a mention in the repo will fire an alert that they need to take action.
- The status of their work–including PRs they’re assigned to review, completed PRs, pending comments, and more
Git Repo Automation
For teams on Azure Boards and GitHub, these automated workflows change the DNA of the PR process–more specifically, it ceases being “one size fits all” where every PR goes through the same gates, reviews, and approvals.
By applying automation, PR-policy-as-code, and enforcing merge standards for repos or the entire organization you’re optimizing and streamlining the PR process before a PR is even issued–making your teams more efficient and able to deliver with higher quality.
With gitStream you can:
- Add context to PRs with labels
- Find code experts for reviews
- Automatically route PRs to the correct reviewer
- Automate the merge process to maximize developer productivity
And we’re constantly adding more automations, integrations, and customizable plugins.
To sum up, the tight integration between LinearB and Microsoft's Azure DevOps represents a significant leap forward in the world of software development and project management. By bridging the gap between these powerful tools, teams that have invested in the Microsoft ecosystem are equipped with unparalleled flexibility, freedom, business visibility, and automation to help them succeed.
As we look to the future, we will continue to focus on further refining the integration between LinearB with Microsoft tools. As a reminder, many of these features were the result of your feedback. It’s invaluable to us as we work to improve the product and provide more value to our customers. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with enhancements and features you’d like to see in future LinearB releases!
We encourage you to explore this integration further, to not only enhance your team's efficiency but also to foster a culture of continuous improvement and innovation. Remember, the integration of LinearB and Microsoft is more than a technical solution—it's a strategic advantage in the competitive landscape of software development and synonymous with “enterprise success.”
If you’re a Microsoft shop and don’t have LinearB, you can get started right here with a free account!
If you’re the type of person who likes a guided tour (and who doesn’t?) schedule a demo. We’d love to hear from you!