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6th Sense Analytics Adds Support for TFS, Office

App-dev metrics vendor 6th Sense Analytics Inc. has announced that its Web-hosted service now integrates with Team Foundation Server and Microsoft Office.

The service automatically captures productivity-related data in real time through the use of "software sensors" which plug into development tools. These sensors report information about developers" work habits and activities to 6th Sense's servers; at that point the data processed through an analytic engine and spit back out to customers through a Web interface.

The service already had support for Visual Basic, Visual Studio, Visual SourceSafe and Internet Explorer, according to the North Carolina-based company. Customers can also develop their own sensors.

The new sensor for TFS can capture data and correlate it with individual work items, according to the company. "So you can understand the process and effort that's being expended against discrete tasks, assigned work," says Jake Sorofman, vice president of marketing for 6th Sense. This information can be used to help project estimation, he adds.

6th Sense groups its analytic reports around two basic flavors of developer productivity. The first is "Active Time," which examines how coders are working on common tasks such as testing and debugging. The other major metric is something 6th Sense calls "flow time," identified as spans of uninterrupted work that go on for at least 20 minutes.

The company says "flow time" represents periods when developers are highly focused. Managers can gain insight into productivity trends by looking at the details behind stretches of flow time, 6th Sense argues.

Sorofman says the company decided to build an Office sensor following customer demand. "We found a lot of our customers are using the Office suite for analysis, documentation and requirements definition," he says.

One overarching SDK is used to develop sensors for various tools, apps and IDEs. Sensor development requires a moderate level of programming knowledge, he says: "There's certainly coding involved. It's not overwhelmingly sophisticated, but it's not object-oriented. It's probably somewhere in between in terms of level of effort."

6th Sense doesn't have a formal schedule for releasing new sensors but typically ships an update to the core service once per quarter.

6th Sense offers a free Personal Edition. But to aggregate project metrics you'll have to pay for the Team Edition, which costs $960 per user per year.

About the Author

Chris Kanaracus is the news editor for Redmond Developer News.