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Writing Better User Stories

User Stories are Product Backlog Items that are descriptions of functionality. The User Story always takes the form:

"As a ______ I want to ___________ so that I can ______."

Many teams struggle with getting user stories small enough and sufficiently understood for planning and delivery. Slicing user stories so they are valuable and actionable is collaborative work - involving the Product Owner, Scrum Master and the team. Learn how slicing user stories accelerates ongoing backlog refinement, helps sprint and release planning, and increases delivered value. In this online course Scrum Inc.'s Jeff Sutherland, and the industry's leading expert on story-slicing, Ellen Gottesdiener, discuss the principles of creating vertical slices of functionality.
Estimated time for this course: 60 minutes
Audience: Intermediate
Suggested Prerequisites: Business Value

Upon completion you will:

  • Be able to write User Stories as functionally independent vertical slices
  • Be able to write non-prescriptive stories with just enough detail
  • Understand how to estimate and size stories that fit in a sprint
  • Know how to write stories with unique and common acceptance criteria
  • Qualify  for Scrum Alliance SEUs and PMI PDUs. See FAQ for detail
Writing Better User Stories Overview:
Frequently, Teams have difficulty getting User Stories small enough and sufficiently specific. Developing good User Stories is the job of the Product Owner. Writing User Stories so that they are explicit and granular needs to be done in close collaboration with the Scrum Master and the Team. Good, achievable User Stories may be the most important variable in Sprint Velocity. Often user stories may have multiple functions imbedded in them. In Scrum, these are called epics. From a Product Owners point of view, revenue comes from large pieces of functionality that can be shipped to a customer. However, for implementation, Epics need to be broken down into multiple stories.
Course Slides:

Download User Story Slides

Origins of User Stories:

The Scrum Guide defines the Product Backlog as an ordered list of Product Backlog Items. The User Story concept was developed by the original XP team at Chrysler. Ward Cunningham presented an Epidsodes pattern language at a 1995 conference which outlined the initial concept of a user oriented requirement. Discussion ensued on the XP list for the next few years and user stories were in Kent Beck's first book on eXtreme Programming in 1999. The user story approach is so useful it has been widely adopted throughout the Agile community. About 80% of Scrum teams worldwide create user stories for Product Backlog Items.

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