User Stories – How to write good stories?

User Stories

Recently came across a 20 page long requirements document and didn’t know where to start and what to remember, specially for somebody like me who has a memory of a goldfish. I stopped using those time consuming, long and boring requirements document way back in 2007 and started use cases and then moved to user stories. They are easy to write and understand and best thing about them is “collaboration“. I personally love those user story writing workshops with loads of index cards, post-its, marker and DONUTS. So how do you write user stories?

User Stories:

According to Mike Cohn User stories are short, simple descriptions of a feature told from the perspective of the person who desires the new capability, usually a user or customer of the system. They typically follow a simple template:

As a <type of user>, I want <some goal> so that <some reason>.

User stories are often written on index cards or sticky notes, stored in a shoe box, and arranged on walls or tables to facilitate planning and discussion. As such, they strongly shift the focus from writing about features to discussing them. In fact, these discussions are more important than whatever text is written.

Title: One line describing the story

As a [role]
I want [feature]
So that [benefit]
Acceptance Criteria: (presented as Scenarios)
Scenario 1: Title
Given [context]
And [some more context]…
When [event]
Then [outcome]
And [another outcome]…
Scenario 2: …

Here is an example from my recent project at Toyota motors.

Sales Performance ReportUser stories

As a [Sales Analyst]
I want [to see parts sales figures for the current month(mtd)]
So that [I can track sales progress against monthly target]

Acceptance Criteria: (presented as Scenarios)

Scenario 1: BI User login
Given [I am logging in as a BI user]
And [some more context]…
When  [the log in successful]
Then  [I will be taken to sales performance report]
And [I will be able to select month and date or defaults to current month and date]

Hope this helps! Good luck with user story writing and don’t forget to buy donuts (skinny ones for me please!).

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Estimating story from trenches

In today’s user story writing workshop my client asked me how do you estimate a user story?

To me, Complexity, Effort and Time are three key things we need to consider while estimating any user story. You look at the complexity of a story to derive the effort required to estimate the time it will take you to finish the story.

To use an analogy of carrying a log of wood from point A to point B:

COMPLEXITY: “How BIG and HEAVY is the Log of wood?”

EFFORT: “How much horsepower is required to pull this log?” This is where Story point comes in.

TIME: Say it takes 2 Horsepower, “how quickly can 6 horses move the log from A to B?” And this, we all know is velocity which can only be derived after a few Sprints.

Complexity cannot be seen in isolation and effort cannot be measured without knowing the complexity.

P.S. I can assure my readers that no animals were harmed in the making of this blog.