Agile 2006 – A Story of Stories – David Hussman

Sunday – 13:30-14:15


How to collaborate and write effective user stories.

Requirements gathering has evolved over time into the form of use cases. Good use cases are short, simple, focus on the use cases and stay current through continued collaboration. Bad use cases replace collaboration, are long and expensive to write.

Burying requirements in long documents doesn’t work. People can’t find or estimate them. Testers, developers and customers interpret them differently.

As an alternative, collaborate to write small, short chunks of work as user stories. Write them down on 3×5 cards and post in a common area for easy access. Let the customer say what done means – and write it on the cards as acceptance tests. In a healthy community, everybody writes the stories.

Hold “story jams” to create the stories (think like music jams – let the creativity flow). Use a long table and invite lots of people. Create personas, and walk through a day in their lives. The list of stories doesn’t need to be complete after the story jam.

Good user stories conform to the INVEST acronym:

  • Independent – breaking dependencies increases agility, so that the business can choose the really valuable stories.
  • Negotiable – they can be changed. Build a ubiquitous language, so that everybody knows what the story really means.
  • Valuable – in terms of the customer, or whoever it’s being built for.
  • Estimable – sized appropriately for accurate estimates.
  • Testable – it’s a story smell if they can’t be tested as done.
  • User stories work because they are available, they bring people together, build trust, promote innovation and are humane. Stories are completed only when the customer signs them off.

Key points to put into practice

  • Review user stories against the invest acronym.
  • Create personas and walk through a day in their lives.
  • Don’t focus on completing ALL of the stories in a story jam.

Recommended further reading

Being Jane Malkovitch – the Life of an XP Customer (included in conference materials)

The powerpoint presentation contains photos and examples of personas, story jamming, and further explanations.

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