Identifying and Improving Bad User Stories

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Techie Value
Beware of user stories where “so that” is a technical capability, not any value to the end user. This is very similar to no business value, but the value listed is technical.

Example: As a tester, I want to have detailed test plans so that when the system is completed, I can test the system.

Problem: This story refers to a specific user and has a technical benefit: the existence of test plans. Users want quality software, but they don’t care about test plans

Improvement: The improvement would be to delete this story. Part of the team’s test plan should be found in the acceptance criteria for each story.

Conclusion
Recognizing the common failure patterns in these written stories will help you avoid these problems and keep your conversations from losing their focus, leading to a more flexible development effort. Writing better stories will influence the conversations that happen, so it’s well worth the time up front to understand the value and format of a good story.

User Comments

1 comment
Ed Kelly's picture

Good article with excellent examples of poor user stories, explicit reasons whey they are not well written and well thought out rewrites.

April 25, 2013 - 2:46pm

About the author

Charles Suscheck's picture Charles Suscheck

Dr. Charles Suscheck is a nationally recognized agile leader who specializes in agile software development adoption at the enterprise level. He is one of only 11 trainers worldwide and 3 in the US certified to teach the entire Scrum.org cirriculum.  With over 25 years of professional experience, Dr. Suscheck has held positions of Process Architect, Director of Research, Principle Consultant, Professor, and Professional Trainer at some of the most recognized companies in America. He has spoken at national and international conferences such as Agile 200X, OOPSLA, and ECOOP on topics related to agile project management and is a frequent author in industry and academia. Dr. Suscheck has over 30 publications to his credit.

About the author

Andrew Fuqua's picture Andrew Fuqua

Andrew Fuqua is an agile coach with more than twenty-five years of experience programming, managing, and coaching. Much of his experience is with commercial software development at various independent software vendors, though he's had increasing experience with IT organizations for the the last seven years. Andrew has been using agile methods since 1999, including five years pair-programming in a test-driven environment.

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