Monday, December 29, 2008

User Stories and the 3 things that make them complete

A really good user story will have three things to make them useful and complete

  • Who
  • What
  • Why
I’ve seen so many user stories that have the Who and What nailed, but they miss the Why. Adding the Why seems to be the hardest part, but it’s so useful for prioritization and for stakeholder understanding.


So what are these user story elements?

  • Who = the primary actor. The Who can be generic like customer, user or specific such as specialized user of a system. The Who can also be a non user such as a server; I’ll give an example later.
  • What = the action the primary actor wants to take.
  • Why = the value or the reason the primary actor wants to do the action.

When writing user stories I’ll use standard phrases to ensure the completeness of the user stories

  1. “As a” to identify the Who
  2. “I want to” to identify the What
  3. “So that” to identify the Why

So let’s write a few user stories as examples

  1. As a customer (who) I want to add items to a shopping cart (what) so that I can purchase them (why)
  2. As a server (who) I want to receive well formed xml (what) so that I can process XML without errors (why)


As I write this I found some proposals to switch the
Who, What Why to Why, Who, What to provide the business value up front. It’s an interesting idea to try when you write your user stories.


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1 comment:

PM Hut said...

Hi Patrick - You are writing some good "for beginners" articles on Scrum. I am interested in republishing on PM Hut. Please contact me through the "Contact Us" form on the PM Hut site in case you're OK with this.