Vishful thinking…

Guidelines for writing a good UserStory

Posted in Agile, Scrum by viswaug on September 26, 2007

We have been using Scrum to manage our projects for almost the past five months now. It has been working great for us so far and has helped boost team work and increased the morale of the entire development team. I think it has enabled the team to keep their eyes on the ball and keep making progress by avoiding unnecessary distractions. One thing I have been struggling with in the Sprint planning meeting are with writing the UserStories. I am finding it tricky to come up with good clearly defined UserStories from the discussions we have been having. The INVEST acronym from the “User Stories Applied” book by Mike Cohn I think should serve as a good guideline for defining UserStories. The following is from Doug Seven‘s take on INVEST.

INVEST stands for Independent, Negotiable, Valuable, Estimatable, Small and Testable.

  • Independent
    The story should not carry with it dependencies, which can lead to estimating problems. Instead the story should be completely independent so that it can be worked on without pulling in a set of other stories.
  • Negotiable
    Stories should have room to negotiate – they are a starting point, not a contract.
  • Valuable
    The story should communicate the value to a user or customer, not to the developer. The story should define not only what a user can do, but what value the user gets from the implemented story. If there is no value, cut the story.
  • Estimateable
    You need to be able to estimate the amount of work required to implement the story. If it is too big and too daunting (an epic), break it up into smaller stories.
  • Small
    Similar to the previous, stories need to be small. Large stories are too complex to manage, and are typically more than one story compounded together.
  • Testable
    The implementation of the story needs to be testable. Define the tests that can be performed to validate the story was correctly implemented.

One Response

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  1. Chris Spagnuolo said, on September 27, 2007 at 4:33 am

    Thanks for writing this excellent post Vish. Although User Stories are sometimes tricky to write, especially from a developers point of view, they help us clearly communicate in plain English what our user (or we) want and why it’s important to them. I think the general User Story model of “As a [some user role] I want to [perform some action] so that I [some benefit]” is very useful as anyone can understand it. It clears up requirements and gives us a goal. The INVEST acronym you referred to is also a great guideline that helps to ensure that User Stories do what they are intended to do for the development team; Communicate a clear requirement.


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