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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
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How to Write A Well-Formed User Story

4K
  • by Shilpi Jain
  • 17th Oct, 2018
  • Last updated on 19th Feb, 2019
  • 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:

StoryDescription
The 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 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 messagesNot a good  user story and log4j should not be written as logging mechanism.
The user can export data to XMLGood user story
A user can quickly master the systemNeither 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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3 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

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5 Hurdles That Scrum Masters Commonly Face

Agile has gained a significant track and has been adopted by all organizations. Agile Methodology today has become one of the most popular and most dynamic project management styles among the software development teams. And Agile is also being adopted by various other functions. It is important to note that Agile can be applied to many types of teams and projects and should not be thought of as limited to engineers or software development projects only.We run all our software delivery through an Agile methodology called Scrum. Scrum is well-recognized amongst engineering teams, but a variety of teams across industries have come to love the Scrum way. From manufacturing to operations and education, businesses of all kinds have used Scrum practices and successfully. As long as your projects involve a concrete product, Scrum can work for you. We have been using Scrum for last few years and have some great success with it. But, still the Team come across various common Scrum Pitfalls.Many organizations are adopting Agile and Scrum for producing higher quality products and services.As per the statistics are given by PwC, “Agile projects are 28% more successful than traditional projects.”Almost three-quarters (71%) of organizations report using Agile approaches sometimes, often, or always. (source: capterra)So why not,Organizations are hiring Scrum Masters for implementing Scrum Framework. It’s a sole responsibility of a Scrum Master to make sure it’s fully implemented and followed by the team in an organization.Scrum is easy to understand but hard to implementWho is a Scrum Master?The Scrum Master is a champion for a Scrum team. He coaches the team, the product owner, and the business. The Scrum Master is a multitasker were deeply understands the work being done by the team, motivates the team and makes sure that the teams are following the Scrum processes and will also work together with them to continuously improve them.How important is a Scrum Master?Scrum Master also ranks on the top of the hierarchy on most of the Agile or Scrum Process, with an eye towards a better understanding of role and importance, here is a closer look at the Scrum Master roles. 1. Scrum Master plays a vital role in the success of the project, he serves as a glue that can hold the entire project.2. Scrum Master may not participate in daily Scrum meetings but supports the entire team.3.  Scrum Master helps in strengthening the Agile development team4.  Scrum Master facilitates team meetings, which also includes Daily Stand-up5.  Scrum Master aims to deliver the maximum value to the customer.Let’s have a look at the 5 hurdles that Scrum Master commonly face:1. Managing Role ExpectationsMany organizations, as well as the upper management, confuses the role of the Scrum Master with a Project Manager. However, the most important thing that we all should know is that the Scrum Master is a Scrum facilitator for a team as well as an organization.However, sometimes management expectations are different, which makes the life of a Scrum Master little harder. We all need to understand that Scrum Master is a facilitator, a guide, a process follower and most importantly, a Servant Leader.2. Change ResistanceAs per Mike Cohn, it is the social aspect of change that can create resistance, all resistance comes from specific individuals. Teams or departments do not resist changing to Scrum, Individuals do.So, when we talk about Scrum implementations, the Scrum Master is the change agent for the same. It’s a major hurdle faced by a Scrum Master during the implementation. Change Resistance is not a surprise, it’s the most expected reaction whenever a new change is introduced.                                                      Tip: Choose a length of the Sprints in such a way that it can resist change.There are many ways for adopting Scrum patterns and overcoming change resistance. You will get that Scrum adopting patterns in my previous article- Patterns For Adopting & Spreading Scrum In Organizations.3. Keeping everything Time-Boxed        When we talk about implementing Sprints, every event is supposed to be time-boxed in order to get productive results. For example, the Daily Scrum event should not exceed 15 minutes, but in reality, we see team members start discussing their technical difficulties and the meeting goes longer than the allotted time. It’s one of the most common challenges for any Scrum Master.Well, a funny thing to try to overcome this hurdle is to make the team members stand for 15 minutes. Hide all the chairs! They will eventually get tired and finish up the meeting.4. Handling Urgent Change RequestsScrum Masters follow the rule when implementing Scrum which is to never accept changes within the Sprint. We can handle the change requests at the end of the sprint or at the start of the Sprint but not in between. However, in a practical world, we see Product Owners/Customers/Stakeholders coming up with an urgent change requests or bugs.However, it’s also not good to blindly follow the process without understanding the business and market aspects. It’s always better to communicate, collaborate with all the Stakeholders, replan and then make good decisions.5. Distributed TeamsIt is one of the most common barriers faced by a Scrum Master. When the teams are distributed geographically, there are sometimes delays, network issues, cultural or regional issues, different Time Zones, different working hours, it is always difficult to get everyone connected and collaborate/communicate with everyone.Thanks to all the technologies, applications out there that help us overcome this hurdle whether it’s communication, video conferencing, there are many tools available.Scrum Master also come across the following challenges:1. Scrum Master acts as an admin:Basically, Scrum Master tasks start with booking meetings, scheduling events, taking notes, and inviting people to ceremonies. All these may be the primary function of the Scrum Master and these deals with making the team be effective. The tasks involve various challenges.2. Lack of Agile training for the teams:As the Scrum Master is meant for the team, it’s a responsibility to make sure all your team members have foundational Agile training. This is one of the most problem faced by Scrum Master.To summarize, I would say, these are the just the “Hurdles” commonly faced by Scrum Masters but not the “Blockages”. These obstacles can be jumped over, with good skills, expertise and, experience in Scrum implementations. Keep Learning!
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5 Hurdles That Scrum Masters Commonly Face

Agile has gained a significant track and has been ... Read More