An attempt at working with eScrum

Okay, first off this tool wins the "Most Horrible Name Marketing Could Come Up With" award. I mean seriously, eScrum? Well, I guess when Scrum for Team System is taken what else do you do?

I took a look at eScrum but after an hour of configuration and various error messages I gave up. I'm the type that if I need to spend half a day to try something out, something that I kind-of already have, that's half a day wasted. I personally think most of the people out there that are saying this tool is "pretty nice" haven't actually installed it (or tried to install it).

So take this blog entry with a grain of salt as I didn't complete it to get to the finish line.

What is eScrum?
Anyways, eScrum is a web-based, end-to-end project management tool for Scrum built on top of TFS. It allows multiple ways to interact with your Scrum project:

  • eScrum web-based UI
  • TFS Team Explorer
  • Excel
  • MS Project

Like any Scrum tool, it offers a one-stop place for all Scrum artifacts like product backlogs, sprint backlogs, retrospectives, and those oh-so-cool burndown charts.

Installation is pretty painless. That is until you realize that you need a bevy of Microsoft technologies and tools installed in order to run eScrum. eScrum uses a variety of web and back-end technologies and you need to install of of them before getting your eScrum site up and running, although you can install them before or after eScrum, your choice.

You'll need to install:


Once everything is installed hang on a second kids, there's still configuration to be done! eScrum is a bit of a pain to configure. Configuring eScrum is like installing Linux, there are a lot of steps and at any point you can really screw things up.

ASP.NET AJAX Control Toolkit Version Conflicts
Since the release site of the AJAX Control Toolkit does not allow download of previous versions and eScrum is compiled with a specific version, you may need to update the web.config file to allow automatic usage of a newer version of the AJAX Control Toolkit.  eScrum has not been tested with newer versions, but may work well.

Add following XML to the eScrum web.config file after the </configSections> close tag.  Afterward, update the newVersion attribute to the version of the control toolkit that you are using.

    <assemblyBinding xmlns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:asm.v1">
            <assemblyIdentity name="AjaxControlToolkit"
            <bindingRedirect oldVersion="1.0.10301.0" newVersion="1.0.CHANGEME.0"/>

Setting up SharePoint Templates
Oh yeah, the fun still continues and we're still not finished. The eScrum TFS Template includes a team SharePoint portal template which gets installed when a new TFS Project is created with the eScrum template.  The SharePoint templates must be added to the server before creating a TFS Project with the eScrum Process Template.
Deployment Steps. Follow these instructions to get this step done:

  1. Log on to the target server
  2. Open a command prompt and change directory to: <SystemDrive>\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\web server extensions\60\BIN
  3. Add the new templates using
    1. stsadm -o addtemplate -filename <path>\eScrum.stp -title "eScrum"
    2. stsadm -o addtemplate -filename <path>\eScrumFeaturesIdeas.stp -title "eScrum Features & Ideas"
    3. stsadm -o addtemplate -filename <path>\eScrumRiskLog.stp -title "eScrum Risk Log"
    4. stsadm -o addtemplate -filename <path>\eScrumStrategy.stp -title "eScrum Strategy & Issues"
  4. Type IISRESET to reset IIS

Setting up an eScrum TFS Project
eScrum uses eScrum TFS Projects as a back end storage and management, so you won't be able to use it on existing projects. Once you have added the eScrum Process Template to your TFS server, you will need to create a new TFS Project using the eScrum Template.

First you'll need to get the templates uploaded via Team Explorer (or inside Visual Studio). Make sure you don't have even the Word document open while you're uploading the template or it will fail when it tries to create the zip file.

Once you've uploaded the templates and they're available, you need to create a project using the eScrum template:

  1. In Team Explorer, right click your server and select "New Team Project…"
  2. Name your project and use the eScrum template
  3. Add yourself and your team members are all added to the Project Contributors (or Project Administrators, depending on your preference) security group.
    1. Right-click on your new Project and select "Team Project Settings.Group Membership…"
    2. Double-click either the Administrators or Contributors group
    3. Change the "Add member" selection to "Windows User or Group"
    4. Add your members
    5. Click OK

There are some other installs they want you to do and I suggest you follow the various installation and configuration guides but for my test this was good enough to get something up and running.

Now browse to where you installed it and you'll see something like this:


Creating Projects
eScrum is a little odd, but it seems to align to the Scrum process. Of course the thing with Scrum is that it's adaptable. There is no golden rule of how it works. There are guidelines and people generally follow them but for example in eScrum you must have a product. The eScrum project you create isn't good enough, it needs something actually called a "Product" (using the concept that multiple products form a project). I don't personally do Scrum that way so found it a little frustrating. The other frustrating thing when setting up a project (oh sorry, "product") was that I couldn't save it until I Product contributors were added (team members) and it wouldn't let me add team members until I created groups and that's where I stopped before my brain exploded.

Enough Configuring, I give up!
Yes, I gave up installing and configuring the beast as it was just too much. I mean, I'm all for tools and setting up websites but after an hour of screwing around (even though I knew what I was doing) I said enough was enough. Realistically, give yourself a half day (if you rush) or a full day with some testing to get this puppy up and running.

In fact, even after I had the template setup and a test project created I had no idea (other than through the Web UI) how to create a product? (which I couldn't do because of the security issues) It didn't look like I could create one in Team Explorer as all it would let me create was a bug, product details (but it needs a product first), sprint details, sprint retrospective, or a sprint task. WTF?

Yeah, the SharePoint Scrum Master was lost so either I'm an idiot (possible) or this tool isn't very intuitive, even for someone who thinks he knows what he's doing.

I wasn't going to go through the rest of the steps and who knows what else was needed, thus I wasn't able to get screenshots with projects configured and sprint backlog items, etc. I'll leave that for another soul to give up his day for.

I do however have some images for the various tabs so you can get a feel for what eScrum has to offer:

Product Page


Sprint Page


Daily Scrum Page


Retrospective Page


Bottom Line
Was it worth it? Was it worth all the installing and configuring and configuring and installing?

IMHO, no.

I'm very happy with Conchango's Scrum for Team System and hey, to install that I just had to upload a new process template from Team Explorer. No mess no fuss.

Once you do get the configuration and installation out of the way, eScrum looks interesting. It's got a nice dashboard for tracking your sprint, lets you keep on top of the daily Scrum electronically, and offers a bevy of Scrum reports like burndowns, metrics, and a product summary (none of which I have seen because I didn't take it that far when setting it up).

There are problems with the setup (even though I didn't finish). For example the SharePoint template contains entry into the Links list pointing to http://eScrum and http://eTools, none of which are correct so you have to fix this (and frankly, I don't even know what the eTools link is supposed to be). The SharePoint templates are just custom lists with a few extra fields, nothing special here. Even the logo for the site was broken in the template so it's obviously this is either rushed or nobody cares about the quality of presentation of the tool (and I wouldn't call this a 1.0 release).

Other things that immediately are a problem I had with this, you had to modify an XML config file every time you needed to add a project (and it's called a "Group" inside of the config file). Maybe you can do it through the web UI, but it looked to me like you had to modify this for each project.

I think for any kind of adoption, Microsoft needs to put together an installer for this as we don't all have a day to kill configuring a tool that should be seamless (after all, it's just a website and a TFS template remember). They also should have some documentation/guidance on this. From the looks of what I could get up and running there's very little actual "guidance" on using the tool and frankly, from the websites there's very little anything about this tool. Does MS think you install it (assuming you have the gumption to go through the entire process) and it'll just work and people will understand it? Even Scrum for Team System has nice documentation written on the process that goes along with the tool. Tools and technologies alone do not make for a good package.

If you want to use Scrum with TFS, stick to Conchango's Scrum For Team System template. It has it's own share of flaws but installs in about 5 minutes.


  • Microsoft is planning a follow up to address some of the setup pain.

  • Check out remedies for geting eScrum in place for TFS Orcas beta 1 - it works!

  • Hi Bil,

    What version of SQL Server is your Analysis Service installed on? Standard or Enterprise?

    The reason I'm asking this is that if it's standard, selecting a sprint in the retrospective page should break.


  • @Steven: I think I was just testing it on my local machine so it would have been running SQL Server Developer Edition (with remote connects turned on). I think we generally use Std edition anyways as Enterprise isn't needed. If the Enterprise version is a requirement for this tool, one more strike against it.

  • Took me about an hour to get it up and running, the reports may take a couple of hours more ...

    Most importantly, it's a Scrum add in for TFS that I can let the users have access to ... and Conchango's version certainly isn't. The web interface alone is invaluable - now if only MS would release the source so we could adapt it :)

  • "Good" to see that it wasn't just me that had problems installing / configuring eScrum.


  • @Steven: Thanks for the update. However I still stand that this product should be something you run away from. I quote your message in the thread:

    "Most people have Team System running on SQL standard as that's what TS advises. No one will pay 5X more for an enterprise license as it's not really needed for TS."

    That's just silly and IMHO a dumb move on Microsoft's part.

  • As Microsoft's Visual Studio team chokes on its own bloat, the world moves on.

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