The Charm Of User Stories

January 31, 2019
Agile Business Analysis

 

Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. The simplicity of a user story allows for this approach becoming the fundamental artefact in your project armoury. Let us understand two simple concepts in user stories which highlight how a user story operates and the INVEST acronym holding it together. These two simple techniques of product backlog formulating improves the quality of the product, communication of value to the user and rests wholly on the user.

Let us move to the 3C’s principle. The 3Cs approach components are:

  • Card:

Aptly named it forms the written-down text of the user story and is an open-invite to the next logical step of conversation. This concept accepts that like in Scrum the Product Backlog items are imperfect and invites the team to discuss, discover and diffuse iterational conflicts. At this stage of discovery, the elements of collaboration and communication are crucial to refinement.

It addresses the why, what and who in the user story. The format asks leading questions to discover the role, benefit and action required. Since the team is cross-functional, the questions are both important, and the user card is developed with an actual persona in mind while addressing the benefit and assigning it to the business-goal benefits.

  • Conversation:

Normally all conversations are face-offs and moderated by the Product Owner. A collaborative discussion of all stakeholders ensues. This is the phase of the actual value of the user-story getting written and reflects the commonly accepted terms shared by all members before recording ‘Doneness’. Ideally, it also includes the Acceptance tests and methodology to be followed, so a shared understanding is recorded.

  • Confirmation:

The PO firstly confirms ‘done’, and the team checks the ‘doneness’ and its alignment and common definition of ‘done’ in writing of the user story.

Next, we move to INVEST and what it stands for.

  • I means Independent:

This lets the team know that this user story is independently solvable and implementable immaterial of other user stories and can be broken into technical dependency as often as required using refactoring principles.

  • N means Negotiable:

This is an open-ended evolving iterative story and is flexible and yet to be attributed to technical specifications. The DevOps team takes the final call on technical implementation.

  • V means Valuable:

Here is the why question. The alignment of business goals to each user story is vital. However, it does not suggest that every user-story must evolve into a marketable product. More than the user view the business goal is paramount.

  • E means Estimable:

In this head, it calls on the team to be Agile and approximate the work-complexity, effort and time required to build a potential bearing product. Final values will be based on consensual approximations.

  • S means Small:

In this stage, the item should qualify as small functional increment achievable in a single Sprint. As it gets to the top of the Backlog list, it achieves its maximum size due to ongoing collaborations.

  • T means Testable:

This phase deals with the common definition of the team understanding on verification and testing procedures acceptable for a ‘done’. If there is a common consensus that the ‘done’ can be verified in a particular procedural manner the ‘doneness’ being achieved in one Sprint implies the product is testable.

The INVEST set of rules is applied to all items on the Backlog list even when user stories are to be written yet.

In conclusion, the Agile user story is simple to learn, and the charm of the user story lies in its team-collaborated iterations and evolution.

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