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How to Write A Well-Formed User Story

Bill Wake has given us the mnemonic INVEST which help us in writing a well-formed User Story.   Working with User Stories may be easy, but writing effective User Stories can be hard.Top challenges in Writing User Stories:Getting teams engaged.Adding too much or too little detailSplitting stories.            Reminder!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Story writing workshop is important to understand the User Story in details and who are the users of that particular functionality and what the users do to use the product.Conduct a Story writing workshop Quarterly.Three tips for a successful story writing session are:Set the single objective for the meeting.      Objective should be MVP (Minimum Viable Product.) and engage the team in various discussions on top user Stories with the Product Owner.Have the right participants,       Scrum master, Product Owner and other stakeholders, Development team (Agile coach) (optional) may be User Roles.Ask the Product Owner about the top requirement/features to be delivered.In MVP, Brainstorm the requirements in detail which will help in a more innovative solution.Visualize the relationship between stories.User Story Mapping technique:Document each step in the process. Writing the sequence of steps needed to complete the user  story will make it clearer which may have been overlooked and easier to estimate. The chances of missing any functionality can be minimized.We can read the below functionality is Login and enter credentials, you may also click on “forgot password” and then submit.Another advantage of using mapping is that we can get the prioritized list of user stories as mentioned in the below diagram by lanes.SPIDR has come to our rescue. Beautiful concept given by Mike Cohn.How to Split a User Story: Biggest challenge…Spikes: -The user story is large and difficult to split when there is a spike activity involved in it. Spike doesn’t lead to any working functionality but it just for the knowledge enhancement for the team for example-Investigation of new technologies and investigating different tools etc.Paths: - The user story may be large because of the different paths associated with it. See the flowchart below to understand the example: In an e-commerce website, after selecting the items the payment method cart, the payment method can be visa card, mastercard or PayPal.So, it is recommended to split the user story based on the number of paths taken.It can be easily logically split into small stories as:As a <user>I want to pay using credit card orAs a <user>I want to pay using PayPalHere, there is no need to split using visa card or mastercard, as both come under the category of credit cards.Interfaces: - Split a story across multiple interfaces (mobile OS or browser) or data interfaces.Example: As a <user >I want to display in Android device.As a <user > I want to display in IOS device.As a <user > I want to display in web browser.So, it can be split into 3 different logical user stories.Same is the case with the browser also. Split by different browsers example: Chrome, IE, Mozilla etc, because working in all browsers will take time and the efforts would be large.There are a few scenarios in which there are complex interfaces. A perfect example will be a sign-up form (with the details) but blank UI. It means the functionality is fully working with buttons and links but no color and proper UI/UX image. The UI can be built in subsequent sprints with a different user story. So, separating the UI work with functionality is also a good way to split the user story.There is a similar case when the user story says- As a <user> import data from a file and note says (Must support: CSV, Excel and XML) Split each supported file format with different user story as-As a <user> I want to import data from a CSV.As a <user> I want to import data from an Excel.As a <user> I want to import data from an XMLData: - Develop an initial story with a subset of data.Example: Suppose I need to buy a car.As a car buyer I want to know what is the best car in the market.To come up with this decision, we need to investigate many things example consider mileage, cost, big, small, comfort, features etc. as a separate user story.As a car buyer I want to buy a car with minimum cost.As a car buyer I want to buy a car with good mileage.So, a functionality is developed incrementally with different data inputs to buy a car.Rules: - Relax business rules or technology standards in an initial version of a story.Sometimes a user story is considered as large because of the different business rules or business standards.Example: I want to buy something online for my kid’s birthday party, at least 15 items.But website shows there is a limitation of 2 items per buyer.Relaxing a rule is sometimes followed by a user story which is a great way to split.For example, in a project, we develop some functionality (sort the employees with their skill set). This will be a database query and may take quite a few seconds depending on the load. So, there is a performance issue which is very important to consider. Better to split this as a separate user story.Add the right amount of detail to the user story. Not too much detail not very less…The right balance is required… But how to find out if the details are in correct proportion or not?The answer is “Retrospective”. Ask each team member if the detail that was given was enough to complete the user story in one iteration.JUST ENOUGH AND JUST IN TIMEThe reason is that if the information provided by the BA is not sufficient to complete the user story in one iteration, then there will a delay in the project delivery and customer will not be happy. Similarly, if the detail is too much then a lot of work in upfront needs to be done and the project delivery will be on time and with the exact functionality which was decided before the start of the sprint more like a waterfall modelA very important aspect while defining the user stories is about user roles. Avoid writing user stories from the perspective of a single user, identify different user roles who will interact with the software. Write stories for a single user.Create constraint cards or write tests to ensure the constraints are not violated.Keep the user interface out of the stories for as long as possible.Let us see some examples of user stories which look fine but can be written in a much effective way.1) As a Product Owner, I want to display my ratings on my webpage.Issue/Drawbacks- It is not only about “you”. Focus on End users and stakeholders.Correct: As a trainer, I want to display my ratings on my web page so that the visitor can choose wisely.2) Design Brochure LayoutDrawbacks: Not independent, No business value.Correct: As a restaurant owner, I want to design Brochure Layout so that the visitor gets order from it. “Identification of who what and Why are the key factors”So, the user story suggested format/template is:As a <>, I want <> so that <Business value>.Few more examples:StoryDescriptionThe user can run the system on windows xp and LinuxGood user story, but still suggested to split into three(Windows,XP and Linux)The user can undo up to 50 commandsGood user storyAll graphing and charting are done by third party library.Not a good  user story as user will not care how graphing and charting are done.The system will use log4j to log all the messagesNot a good  user story and log4j should not be written as logging mechanism.The user can export data to XMLGood user storyA user can quickly master the systemNeither quickly and master should be defined.Needs to be changed

How to Write A Well-Formed User Story

5K
  • by Shilpi Jain
  • 17th Oct, 2018
  • Last updated on 11th Mar, 2021
  • 7 mins read
How to Write A Well-Formed User Story


Bill Wake has given us the mnemonic INVEST which help us in writing a well-formed User Story.

   Working with User Stories may be easy, but writing effective User Stories can be hard.
INVEST By Bill Wake
Top challenges in Writing User Stories:

  • Getting teams engaged.
  • Adding too much or too little detail
  • Splitting stories.

                Reminder!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Top challenges in Writing User Stories

Story writing workshop is important to understand the User Story in details and who are the users of that particular functionality and what the users do to use the product.


Conduct a Story writing workshop Quarterly.



Three tips for a successful story writing session are:

  1. Set the single objective for the meeting.

          Objective should be MVP (Minimum Viable Product.) and engage the team in various discussions on top user Stories with the Product Owner.

  2. Have the right participants,

           Scrum master, Product Owner and other stakeholders, Development team (Agile coach) (optional) may be User Roles.
    Ask the Product Owner about the top requirement/features to be delivered.

    In MVP, Brainstorm the requirements in detail which will help in a more innovative solution.
    Visualize the relationship between stories.

    User Story Mapping technique:

    Document each step in the process. Writing the sequence of steps needed to complete the user  story will make it clearer which may have been overlooked and easier to estimate. The chances of missing any functionality can be minimized.
    We can read the below functionality is Login and enter credentials, you may also click on “forgot password” and then submit.

    User Story Mapping technique
    Another advantage of using mapping is that we can get the prioritized list of user stories as mentioned in the below diagram by lanes.

    Another advantage of using mapping
    SPIDR has come to our rescue. Beautiful concept given by Mike Cohn.

    How to Split a User Story: Biggest challenge…

    How to Split a User Story
    Spikes: -The user story is large and difficult to split when there is a spike activity involved in it. Spike doesn’t lead to any working functionality but it just for the knowledge enhancement for the team for example-Investigation of new technologies and investigating different tools etc.

    Paths: - The user story may be large because of the different paths associated with it. See the flowchart below to understand the example: In an e-commerce website, after selecting the items the payment method cart, the payment method can be visa card, mastercard or PayPal.


    So, it is recommended to split the user story based on the number of paths taken.
    It can be easily logically split into small stories as:
  3. As a <user>I want to pay using credit card or
  4. As a <user>I want to pay using PayPal


Here, there is no need to split using visa card or mastercard, as both come under the category of credit cards.

Interfaces: - Split a story across multiple interfaces (mobile OS or browser) or data interfaces.

Example: As a <user >I want to display in Android device.
As a <user > I want to display in IOS device.
As a <user > I want to display in web browser.

So, it can be split into 3 different logical user stories.

Same is the case with the browser also. Split by different browsers example: Chrome, IE, Mozilla etc, because working in all browsers will take time and the efforts would be large.

There are a few scenarios in which there are complex interfaces. A perfect example will be a sign-up form (with the details) but blank UI. It means the functionality is fully working with buttons and links but no color and proper UI/UX image. The UI can be built in subsequent sprints with a different user story. So, separating the UI work with functionality is also a good way to split the user story.

There is a similar case when the user story says- As a <user> import data from a file and note says (Must support: CSV, Excel and XML) Split each supported file format with different user story as-

As a <user> I want to import data from a CSV.
As a <user> I want to import data from an Excel.
As a <user> I want to import data from an XML

Data: - Develop an initial story with a subset of data.

Example: Suppose I need to buy a car.
As a car buyer I want to know what is the best car in the market.

To come up with this decision, we need to investigate many things example consider mileage, cost, big, small, comfort, features etc. as a separate user story.
As a car buyer I want to buy a car with minimum cost.
As a car buyer I want to buy a car with good mileage.
So, a functionality is developed incrementally with different data inputs to buy a car.

Rules: - Relax business rules or technology standards in an initial version of a story.
Sometimes a user story is considered as large because of the different business rules or business standards.
Example: I want to buy something online for my kid’s birthday party, at least 15 items.
But website shows there is a limitation of 2 items per buyer.
Relaxing a rule is sometimes followed by a user story which is a great way to split.

For example, in a project, we develop some functionality (sort the employees with their skill set). This will be a database query and may take quite a few seconds depending on the load. So, there is a performance issue which is very important to consider. Better to split this as a separate user story.

Add the right amount of detail to the user story. Not too much detail not very less…The right balance is required…


 But how to find out if the details are in correct proportion or not?
The answer is “Retrospective”. Ask each team member if the detail that was given was enough to complete the user story in one iteration.

JUST ENOUGH AND JUST IN TIME

The reason is that if the information provided by the BA is not sufficient to complete the user story in one iteration, then there will a delay in the project delivery and customer will not be happy. Similarly, if the detail is too much then a lot of work in upfront needs to be done and the project delivery will be on time and with the exact functionality which was decided before the start of the sprint more like a waterfall model

  • A very important aspect while defining the user stories is about user roles. Avoid writing user stories from the perspective of a single user, identify different user roles who will interact with the software. Write stories for a single user.
  • Create constraint cards or write tests to ensure the constraints are not violated.
  • Keep the user interface out of the stories for as long as possible.

Let us see some examples of user stories which look fine but can be written in a much effective way.

1) As a Product Owner, I want to display my ratings on my webpage.
Issue/Drawbacks- It is not only about “you”. Focus on End users and stakeholders.
Correct: As a trainer, I want to display my ratings on my web page so that the visitor can choose wisely.

2) Design Brochure Layout

Drawbacks: Not independent, No business value.
Correct: As a restaurant owner, I want to design Brochure Layout so that the visitor gets order from it.

 “Identification of who what and Why are the key factors”
So, the user story suggested format/template is:
As a <>, I want <> so that <Business value>.

Few more examples:

Story
Description
The user can run the system on windows xp and Linux
Good user story, but still suggested to split into three
(Windows,XP and Linux)
The user can undo up to 50 commands
Good user story
All graphing and charting are done by third party library.
Not a good  user story as user will not care how graphing and charting are done.
The system will use log4j to log all the messages
Not a good  user story and log4j should not be written as logging mechanism.
The user can export data to XML
Good user story
A user can quickly master the system
Neither quickly and master should be defined.
Needs to be changed
Shilpi

Shilpi Jain

Blog Author

Shilpi is an experienced Scrum Master have 9+ years of experience in IT industry. She worked in companies like GE Healthcare and Nokia Siemens and currently working as a freelancer where she has contributed in many Technical Articles on Scrum/Agile, Project Management Tools (Atlassian, Jira and Rally), Project Management, Scrum Agile Certifications Questions and Answers (Test Paper Writing). She carries certifications like Certified Scrum Master, Fundamentals of Scum, Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB). She always shares her personal experiences in her Articles. She is a passionate writer and blogger about the Scrum and Agile Methodology.

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4 comments

Vinayaka Nari 24 Oct 2018

Informative and well articulated

sanjay saroj 16 Nov 2018

good presentation mam.Thank you.

Trived sinha 16 Nov 2018

Very detailed article Thank you

Arun 24 Jul 2020

Great article on writing a user story. I found the infographics to be very useful. It makes it easier to break down the crucial points and understand them better. Wonderfully compiled and written.

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He or she is also the person with whom the business owners and members of the ART (Agile Release Train) connect. POs always have the needs of their own Agile team in focus.  Product Owners and Product Managers work together collaboratively to understand the customer’s needs and work toward fulfilling them. The flow of information is from the customer to the PM, and then down to the POs and their team members. The POs and PMs meet up at all ART or PO planning and sync up events and stay aligned with the same set of overarching goals. As we have seen, one person cannot undertake the roles of the SAFe Product Owner and the SAFe Product Manager at the same time. POs and PMs must at all times be connected, and work in tandem to deliver a successful product; however, having one person playing both roles is a sure route to disaster!  The last word… The SAFe Product Owner plays a role that is at the core of SAFe, setting up the product strategy, getting deep into customer requirements, and prioritizing the features as per their importance. They hold the responsibility of ensuring customer delight, even as they keep a pulse on the economic value that is to be derived from the product.  In the end, SAFe is all about giving the larger enterprise a framework for scaling Agile — to build better products, respond to volatile markets, and keep in step with emerging technologies — and without the Product Owner’s expertise, all this will fall short. 
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What Is a Safe Product Owner?

The Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) is, in the... Read More

Scrum Software for the Ultimate Project Management

Technology has made our lives easier. The number of tools and devices we have at our disposal has made our lives more productive and our work more efficient. The Agile software development methodology has been adopted by several organizations to improve their adaptability, responsiveness, and productivity.  How can we improve the way we incorporate Agile Scrum into our projects? Scrum tools can be the answer. Just like the other gadgets in our lives, Scrum software and tools help improve the productivity of our teams, keep stakeholders happy and help us deliver better products. Before we jump into the use and needs of Scrum software and tools let us understand more about Scrum roles and how they work.Three essential roles for Scrum successThe Scrum Guide defines three pillars of a Scrum team, which include:The Scrum MasterThe Product OwnerThe Development TeamThe Scrum team is a small unit which is self-organised and works towards achieving the same goal; that is, the development and deployment of the product and customer satisfaction.The Scrum Product OwnerThe Scrum Product Owner is among the most essential roles in the Scrum team and acts as a bridge between the stakeholders and the development team. More involved with the business side of the software development process, the PO represents the customer and can be considered as their proxy.  The Product Owner defines the product vision, and, along with the Scrum Master and the development team works towards delivering a product that matches stakeholder needs.The Scrum MasterThe Scrum Master is the servant leader whose main responsibility is to ensure that the Scrum team can perform to the best of its abilities. They do this by overseeing the day-to-day activities of the Scrum team and removing any impediments that may hinder the productivity of the development team. The Scrum Master facilitates stakeholder collaboration along with the product owner and ensures that teams can handle complex environments and deliver projects successfully.The Scrum development teamThe development team generally consists of three to nine people, according to the Scrum Guide. These would include developers, testers, designers and more. The team is allowed to take decisions and decide the length of the sprint and how they will go about it. The development team collaborates to create a high-quality product increment at the end of each sprint that is as per the expectations of the stakeholders.Scrum ceremonies or eventsScrum has five formal events as defined by the Scrum Guide. These events help to validate the Scrum artifacts and implementing them helps enhance transparency. The events are also called ceremonies and are:Sprint PlanningDaily ScrumSprint ReviewSprint RetrospectiveThe SprintWhat Does A Scrum Tool Do?What would you need a good Scrum tool to do? Make your life easier by making processes more efficient and less cumbersome, help you deliver quality products without making a huge dent on your budget, right?  With Scrum topping the popularity charts for Agile project management methodologies, the need for efficient Scrum tools has risen. There are plenty of Scrum tools available that fit the bill and provide interfaces that help teams seamlessly follow Scrum processes and reap its benefits. These tools help:Increase productivityIn task management, daily scrum management  Increase team collaborationIn progress tracking and risk managementScrum Software for the Ultimate ProjectThere are several Scrum software tools that aid in project development using Scrum; not just in technical environments, but in non-technical sectors as well. Software like JIRA, Infinity, TargetProcess, QuickScrum, Wrike etc provide:User friendly GUICompetitive pricingProduct backlog managementTime tracking and calendar tools for schedulingScrum metrics and chartsSprint planning toolsThird party tools for integrationUser story mappingBurnup and Burndown chartsand many more features that will help Agile teams serve their customers better, improve return on investment, reduce costs, enhance collaboration and ensure stakeholder satisfaction. These tools help team uphold the values of Agile and make implementing the Scrum framework easier.Best Scrum ToolsHere are some of the best Scrum tools available in the market:1. JIRAJira is a popular tool used by large organizations to manage their Scrum projects. It has numerous features including customizable scrum boards, reporting features and more. Here’s how teams benefit from this toolCustomizable Scrum and Kanban boardsRoadmaps to communicate with team and with stakeholdersAccess to tools for Agile reportingView of code and deployment statusEnd to end DevOps visibilityEasy scalabilitySecure deploymentDeveloper tool integrationRich APIs to automate processes2. TargetProcessThis tool has been especially designed for teams that want to scale agile. It offers a number of customizable features that make it easy to work with scrum and agile.  Here’s how teams benefit from this tool(Source: Targetprocess Agile Portfolio and Work Management Tool)IdeationBuilt in reports to analyse data and uncover trendsGather ideas across sourcesCloud hosting and on-premise hostingEnterprise grade securityCollaborate across the enterprise  Collaborate with DevOps tools including GitLab, Azure DevOps, GitHub etc3. VivifyScrumThis tool is marketed as an all-in-one solution to manage projects, collaborate and track. Here’s how teams benefit from this tool (Source: Agile Project Management Software - VivifyScrum)Tools to manage agile projects—organize, manage, track and deliverCollaboration boards to effectively collaborate with team and stakeholdersCreate invoices to track and manage business and clientsManage teams and track tasks4. InfinityThis tool is among the most popular in Agile and Scrum organizations due to the many customizations and features it provides. Its various tools help reduce time to market, ensure better quality, improve collaboration and enable customer satisfaction.Here’s how teams benefit from this tool Source: Infinity | Customizable Work Management Platform (startinfinity.com)How Can Scrum Apps Benefit Your Team?The number of Scrum apps and software available in the market for Scrum projects is mind boggling. Which one you choose depends on the requirements of your team and project, and each comes with its own benefits. Some of these benefits include:They help teams, organizations and the product being createdThey ensure better quality by providing the right framework, support mechanism and the right processesAllow for continual improvement by putting in place a feedback loop and sprint reviews by stakeholdersHelp solve impediments and daily issues by incorporating daily testing and product owner feedback into the development processEnsure upfront documentation and help prioritise high value items in the product backlog, thus decreasing time to market.  Quick feedback also helps improve the product and thus helps in continuous improvement.The faster marketing of products increases return on investment, helps tap the market demand and ensures long term benefits for the customer and thus earns their trust for the organizationThe primary tenet of Agile is team collaboration. Scrum software tools help in high level collaboration between the Scrum Master, Product Owner and the development team. Teams can organise, review, plan and discuss everyday tasks, meetings, impediments and more.How to Pick the Best Tool for Your Team?With so many options available, choosing the right Scrum tool for your team can be a tricky task. What you need to do is go through the features of the best tools and see which one best fits your requirements. While the number of features you get will be directly proportional to the money you are ready to pay for the tool, there are some basic requirements your tool must satisfy.Backlog creation:  The very basic format of a Scrum project lies in the creation of a product backlog which sets the pace for the entire project. The backlog is primarily created by the Product Owner with assistance from the Scrum Master and the development team. The tool you choose should help you create the product backlog so that you can prioritise items, define the sprints and identify sprint goals.Implement feedback:  Scrum projects are based on the Agile values of continuous feedback. Your scrum tool should have features which will make your customer’s feedback and requirements easily accessible to you. This will help you implement these changes at the earliest. This continuous feedback loop will help keep customers happy.Sprint creation:  Scrum is iterative and adaptive and works by breaking down projects into small sized sprints. Your tool must aid you in the creation of sprints and burndown charts. These help you keep track of your progress on the project and are essential components of a Scrum project.The other things your tool should be able to do include:Plan and trackCustomise process templatesCustomise dashboards and reportsHelp in time managementHelp create epics and storiesProvide collab and reporting toolsProvide review toolsAnd just like you will create a product that is user friendly, the tool you use also needs to be user friendly for the team. If your team is happy using it, and it makes your life easier and your projects better, then you have the right tool!
Scrum Software for the Ultimate Project Management

Technology has made our lives easier. The number o... Read More