Over the years one of the tools we have used to help guide improvement of the development of BizTalk applications and deployment to through test environments and into production is the BizTalk Administrator Application Quality Checklist. This is based on some work my friend Mo Uppal did around managing applications being migrated into the application automated releases he was implementing. The idea was that it could help you to understand where a particular application delivery sits in terms of the things that would make it easy to implement a good automated process.
On the back of this work I helped Mo with I thought there are some more general BizTalk opportunities here. The idea is to create a dashboard style view of your applications to show which ones meet certain standards of behaviors which will make the life of the BizTalk Administrator easy. Often in an organization I find that if there are multiple BizTalk applications they often get delivered to different standards and give the deployment and administration teams a completely different set of challenges. In the deployment area as an example you should aim to have your BizTalk applications fundamentally the same from a deployment perspective. They will always have some differences with application specific functionality but if they are 70%+ the same then this makes the admin teams life easy and supports an easy transition to an automated approach.
To help achieve this we came up with the BizTalk Administrator Application Quality Checklist (hmm maybe that's a bit of a mouthful). There is lots of stuff around in the community to help BizTalk administrators setup environments and infrastructure in a good way but there isnt a lot of information to help BizTalk administrators have a view or some guidance around what a good BizTalk application should look like and I've come across scenarios where even in the same development team or consultancy the applications they build look completely different from a deployment and management experience.
The fall out of this is that it gives the BizTalk Administrator a bad experience and the BizTalk administrator gets hassle from various areas as result of the problems which often follow poor deployment processes, but the Administrator often feels that the development team don't do enough to help but perhaps cant articulate this to the development team and it all results in friction.
To help with this the BizTalk Administrator Application Quality Checklist aims to let the BizTalk administrator look at all of the BizTalk and integration deliverables they are given and then to indicate if they meet certain behaviors which will make things easy for the BizTalk administrator. The result of this is that when there is conflict the BizTalk Administrator can pull out the check list and show that the application there are problems with are not in a good place in terms of the checklist so we know how to fix these problems. In an ideal world the BizTalk administrator would go through the check list with the development team right at the start of the project and then they would implement things in the right way from day 1.
In the check list I break things down into a few areas:
- Development – Development Machine
- Development – Build Server
- Handover from Development to Deployment Team
- Deployment Team
I am a strong believer that you need to start in the development team by doing a few things in a certain way to set you off on the right path. As an example if you done do the absolute basics like have source control, have a build server and a reasonably good configuration management solution then your deployment/administration team will never have a positive process for deploying and managing BizTalk applications.
Real world Example
In the BizTalk Maturity Assessment I talked through a case study where we did some work to fix the problems a customer was having and although we guided the high level improvement initiative with the maturity assessment, the BizTalk Administrator Application Checklist was one of the lower level tools we used to help deal with some of the issues and also to leave the customers BizTalk administrator team with a tool they could use in the future to maintain this level of improvement.
When we first engaged with the customer we reviewed their BizTalk application status against the check list and found the below.
Even though you can only see part of the checklist you can see that the only thing which the customer did which was a good thing was to have code in source control. When you look at all of the red, it's pretty obvious why they were having problems in this area.
As part of the improvement initiatives we worked with the check list and get this back in order and as new applications were developed we ensured they met the same standards and the level of quality was maintained. You can see the below picture shows part of this improvement. You may also noticed we used the checklist to manage some non-BizTalk integration components we also looked after.
As a side note also notice that the column headers have comments in them describing what each header means if you are not sure.
There are a few links at the bottom of the article to let you have a look at the checklist and hopefully as a BizTalk Administrator this will give you a good tool to evaluate your existing estate and to get support for any improvements you may need to make and also give you a the start of some guidance on what good BizTalk applications should look like.
I'd also love to hear any feedback on ideas for things to add to the checklist.
Download BizTalk Administrator Application Quality Checklist