ILT: Writing and Managing User Stories – Simply Put!

Techniques for Expressing, Analyzing, and Managing Stakeholder Needs in User Story Format

Course Duration: 2 Days (14 PDU/CDU)

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Course Overview

User Stories Tell Developers What The Business Needs

For many information technology (IT) projects, the subject matter experts (SME) do not know what information technology could and should do for them, yet the IT team needs to know what to deliver. One of the biggest challenges at this phase of the project is overcoming the “IT — SME communications gap”. How can you deal with these difficulties, gather reasonable "stakeholder requirements" early, and not waste the effort?

This business analysis workshop introduces a technique that originated with Agile methodologies called "User Stories" (not to be confused with Use Cases). It covers the three components of a well-structured User Story, namely the CARD, the CONVERSATION, and the CRITERIA. We investigate each component in detail to provide specific techniques that support the primary purpose of the User Story, namely to enhance communication between developers and the business community

User Stories focus on stakeholders’ requirements, needs, and goals for the solution. They avoid the trap of trying to force users to define the technical specifications. Our approach starts with a facilitated workshop to capture, in business language, the goals, objectives, or wants for the business system in User Story format. You then add details over time as needed to document each story at an appropriate level of detail. Business driven test scenarios foster a common understanding of each requirement. User stories enable constant and efficient communication among all parties interested in getting to the right solution.

A user story complements and supplements any other business analysis techniques that you are using and will make your requirements elicitation techniques easier and more complete without adding an extra burden of effort. As a bonus, this technique can also help in very early cost forecasting when it is too early to "estimate". (See our expansion course, "How to Estimate Early in a Project").

Target Audience

The material in this course will benefit anyone involved in , including (but not limited to):

  • Business Analysts
  • Subject Matter Experts
  • Agile Product Owners
  • Project Leaders and Managers
  • Line Managers
  • Systems Analysts
  • Software Testers
  • Solution Architects
  • AND "anyone wearing the business analysis hat"

Learning Objectives

Upon successful completion of this skill-building experience, you can:

  • Define User Stories and their relationship to other requirement types
  • Discuss the Agile approach and the Role that User Stories play
  • Describe the purpose of Work Items in a Product Backlog
  • List pertinent attributes of roles in User Story context
  • Contrast User Story elicitation techniques
  • Right-size your User Stories based on the principles of the CARD
  • Distinguish between Epics and User stories
  • Decompose User Stories to expose hidden components
  • Use best-of-breed business analysis techniques in the CONVERSATION to enhance communication between developers and Product Owners
  • Defend the need for test-driven development approaches
  • Define the purpose of test scenarios, test scripts, test cases, and test plans
  • Identify components that need to be tested for acceptance of an IT application
  • Capture the criteria for testing a well-formed user story
  • Capture relevant test scenarios as the CRITERIA for acceptance testing
  • Plan to incorporate selected techniques to improve your performance on the job

Course Outline

1 Introduction to User Stories

What Are User Stories

  • Levels of Business Analysis
  • Current Software Development Approaches
  • Agile Business Analysis Concepts
  • Agile Backlogs
  • Timing of Business Analysis in an Agile Environment
  • Exercise: Your Stories
  • User Story Basics
  • Dimensions of User Stories
  • Dimensions of Work Items
  • Common User Story Structures
  • Exercise: Comparing the Structures
  • Qualities of a Good User Story

2 The CARD: Techniques for Gathering User Stories

Who Writes User Stories

  • Who Writes User Stories
  • Roles versus Job Titles in a User Story
  • Adding Role Details
  • WasteTheWaist “Vision Statement” from CEO
  • Exercise: Defining Role Parameters

Getting to User Stories

  • Getting to User Stories
  • Exercise: Characteristics of a “Good” Interviewer
  • Interviewing Steps
  • Story Writing Workshops
  • Exercise: Advanced Interviewing Techniques
  • Listening Techniques
  • Hurdles to Informational Listening

Properties of Good User Stories

  • Independency
  • Dependence Demonstrated
  • Exercise: Dependent Stories
  • Value and User Goals
  • Story Value
  • Exercise: Capturing User Stories
  • User Story Sizing Parameters
  • Value Measurement-Right Sized
  • Exercise: Right-Sizing Your Group’s User Stories
  • Complexity in User Stories

3 The CONVERSATION: Decomposing User Stories and More

User Story Decomposition

  • User Stories are NOT Simple for Developers
  • The Functional Perspective
  • Exercise: Functional Decomposition
  • The Data Dimension
  • Managing Informational Elements
  • Exercise: Finding Informational User Stories
  • The Problem Dimension of User Stories
  • Types of Non-Functional User Stories
  • Exercise: Non-Functional in Your Environment
  • Non-Functional User Stories vs Ten Critical Questions
  • Defining Informational Element Accuracy
  • Precision and Currency of Data Elements
  • Non-Functional Performance Criteria Quantified
  • Evaluating Performance User Stories
  • Common Subjective Performance Requirements
  • Exercise: Quantitative vs. Subjective Measures
  • Exercise: Performance-related Functions and Data
  • Discovering Business Rules
  • Business Rule and Constraint Examples
  • Exercise: Subjective User Stories
  • Stamping Out Subjectivity
  • Discussion: Grouping User Stories
  • Value of Grouping User Stories
  • Potential Pitfalls in a Group of User Stories
  • Identifying Duplicated User Stories
  • Identifying Conflicts between User Stories
  • Exercise: Identifying Inconsistent User Stories
  • User Stories Decomposition Revisited

4 The CRITERIA: From User Stories to Acceptance Test-Driven Development (ATDD)

Introduction to Acceptance Testing

  • Modern Testing Concepts Defined
  • A Simple Thought Experiment
  • Exercise: Components of IT Systems
  • Worksheet: Components of IT Systems
  • What Are You Testing?
  • Exercise: Testable Components
  • Worksheet: Testable Components
  • Rules for Effective Requirements
  • To Test or Not To Test
  • Testing Reality

Testing Realities

  • To Test or Not to Test
  • Exercise: Components of IT Solutions
  • Worksheet: For Your Answers
  • Testable Components of IT Applications
  • Discussion: Testable Components
  • Testing Reality

From User Stories to Test Scenarios

  • Rules for Effective User Stories
  • Common User Story Structures
  • Testing Scenarios from a User Story
  • User Story-based Test Scenario Identification
  • Components of a User Story
  • Decomposing a User Story
  • Exercise: Initiating End-User Acceptance Testing

5 User Stories Summary

User Story Summary

  • Properties of a Bad User Story
  • How Do You Manage User Stories?
  • User Story Wrap-Up

6 From Showtime to Go Time!

Personal Improvement Plan

  • Understanding the Learning Curve
  • Exercise: My Techniques
  • My Personal Implementation Plan


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