Agile Software Development

How to Improve Performance with User Stories

What distinguishes working with user stories versus working with regular requirements, and how do you maximize user story value? Bruce Harpham answers these questions in a post at his blog. He provides a primer on user stories that will help you weave a yarn of success in your projects.

Story Time

To start with a basic definition, a user story describes a typical hypothetical user who has a goal to be realized through use of an application, e.g. for a social media platform, “As a restaurant owner, I want to be able to easily share pictures with my followers so I can entice my audience with images of what we’re cooking.” Good user stories often fit into a single sentence, describe a specific action that is easy to understand, and contain a benefit to be gained from achieving their goal.

Harpham finds there are a few advantages that distinguish user stories from traditional requirements. The first is that arranging requirements in the form of user stories more clearly articulates project priorities. User stories likewise guide decision-making in this way. A third and notable advantage is that user stories emphasize outcome over means, encouraging teams to think of a variety of creative potential solutions.

Harpham goes on to list five ways to improve performance with user stories:

  1. Increase customer involvement.
  2. Analyze user stories for supporting requirements.
  3. Validate the user story with a prototype.
  4. Manage scope by using a small focus.
  5. Focus on testable concepts.

Regarding the first point, the most direct way to develop great user stories could be to simply ask customers to write them. And about the second point, Harpham uses the example user story of a busy professional wanting to be able to make quick mobile banking payments via smart phone as a spring board to get more detailed:

This story needs to be further developed and refined into specific features and service levels for the project team. For example, the project manager may include a capacity requirement (e.g. “the application will process 1 million transactions per hour without errors”). The testing lead may include several testing scenarios (e.g. test using three different smartphones, test using different browsers and other cases).

Stories are as useful as you choose to make them. For more tips, you can view the original post here:

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