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Effective User Stories Part I – Why User Stories

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For many people, the Refinements are the most painful events during a sprint. New scope, change requests, wireframes, and designs… a big, big pain called “The User Story Battle”.

We’re very proud to say, this is the opposite for teams we work with. People come to these events with open minds, ready to brainstorm and tackle challenges. We don’t discuss
User Stories as requirements, but as problems to solve. The requirements are the result of this collective effort, and it’s really exciting when you find solutions, which no one expected.

Do you want to know more about how we do it? Let us tell you about User Stories.

To build successful products, Agile Teams need well-prepared and organized Product Backlogs.

The Product Backlog is an ordered list of items that emerges, evolves, and changes constantly in the course of development. These Product Backlog Items, PBIs for short, could be anything the Agile Team decides them to be. However, using User Stories to describe them is the de-facto standard.

But why User Stories?

All Agile Teams use them, for many years. Some even believe User Stories are a mandatory element in Scrum when they are not.

Аnd as it turns out not everyone understands why User Stories. What is their purpose?

If you’ve embraced Agile processes as your Way of Working, chances are you’re developing a complex solution to address non-trivial problems in an ever-changing environment. Customers constantly update their priorities and you need to be innovative and creative to satisfy their needs.

You can not use the Traditional Project Management approach and write down all the requirements up-front.

To succeed, you need to engage many people who collectively have all the knowledge, skills, and expertise, to synchronize their efforts and determine every step in the way. And you need to do that continuously.

This is not an easy task!

How can you do this quickly in a simple, productive, and creative way?

This is where User Stories come to the rescue:

  • User Stories enable you to use the full potential of the collective brainpower.
  • User Stories help you to focus on real problems, not requirements scope.
  • User Stories give you a basic structure to go from a problem to an idea quickly.
  • User Stories help everyone to align on requirements that are commonly understood.
 

The Purpose of the User Stories is to go from a Problem to the best solution quickly. Teams do this via collectively brainstorming and evaluating ideas, getting everyone on the same page, and aligning with execution.

Failing to understand that, often leads to common misuse of the User Stories.
People who have used to do traditional project management tend to perceive them as “the Product Documentation”. This leads to a single person’s idea being presented as requirements in the form of User Stories in a Backlog. Later, the User Stories are explained to the developers to achieve a common understanding to design an action plan.

While this approach might seem to work in some cases, the reality is that many opportunities for innovation are lost. Diverse ideas are never generated and decisions are made lacking the insights from the people who do and know all about the work.

Now you know why User Stories exist and what is their purpose. 

In the next post, we’ll elaborate more on the topic “What is a User Story?”.

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About the Coaches

Bogoy Bogdanov

Agile Coach

Nikola Bogdanov

Agile Coach

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