These written cards are preserved through the entire planning and development process (PlanningGame, ReleasePlan, IterationPlanning). They are given priorities by the customers, they are given estimates by the developers, they are broken down into EngineeringTasks at the time that they are scheduled for development. There are one or more AcceptanceTests, owned by the customers, to give them confidence that the UserStory has actually been completed.
The way I explain it now is that stories don't have to represent business value to the customer team, but they do have to represent progress. Only the customer team knows what it will consider progress, so they have to do the slicing. -- KentBeck on XpMailingList
Can you give an example of a story that does not represent business value to the customer? Why would customers consider something progress if it does not deliver value to them? -- Chandrashekhar
See also UserStoryExamples, UserStoryDiscussion, LimitsOfUserStories, UserStoryAndUseCaseComparison, HowUserStoriesAreExtractedFromUsers, QuestionsAndAnswersAboutUserStories, UserAntiStories, QuestionsAboutXpStoriesAndTasks...........
I think the content of this page and UserStoryDiscussion should be swapped. And continue on in UserStoryDiscussion towards a healthy definition, something like PlanningGame (which is excellent - till then see UserStoryTemplate). Folks reading the conversation below may deduce that UserStories are either not ready for primetime or too vague to be useful.
(Which I would heartily disagree with - UserStories are (at the very least) one concrete instance of a scenario, while UseCases are an abstract overview of all courses of a scenario. And doesn't the brain work better imagining our friend Marsha trying to get thru one task, than imagining what all accountants would want to do in this module for the next X years? Build lots and lots of UserStories, which are easy, and you'll see the UseCase. This paragraph is just me. -- ChristopherGaltenberg)
Now that I've read a little more and asked a few more questions I'm getting a view of a UserStory that's more involved than what's been presented on this page so far. A UserStory is also a work unit and an estimation unit. In this it's actually considerably heavier - not lighter - than a UseCase. A UserStory as an estimation unit is inadequate if it can't be properly quantified in the PlanningGame. A UserStory as a work unit is inadequate if it isn't split up into EngineeringTasks, each of which must be properly regression tested and refactored to make the simplest 100% working system. Oh, and as a work unit it has to have an acceptance test too. So UserStory is a word with considerable process baggage in XP, not just a 2-bit UseCase.
So I have a question about the thing as an estimation unit. EngineeringTasks, we're told, have to be able to be estimated as no more than 5, and preferably less than 3 ideal engineering days. Is there a similar criterion for a UserStory? -- PeterMerel
From RonJeffries: In CommitmentSchedule, we ask the users to split a story if we estimate it at more than about 3 weeks, on the grounds that we don't understand it. We combine stories willy-nilly if they don't add up to at least a week, for estimation only. (That is, we don't intend to implement them in that order, we just batch them up in piles of a week.)
From KentBeck: Remember also that the role of a story as a work unit comes considerably after the role of a story as a priority/scope decision unit (for which it also needs to be an estimation unit).
I was trying to use your words. I'll try again. The story is used by the customer to make informed decisions about the scope of the next release, decisions informed by the estimated cost of the story and the velocity with which the team can develop. When the story's iteration rolls around, it becomes a work unit by being split into tasks (or not on smaller developments) and a test unit by being coded as a bunch of acceptance tests.
The stories are really the artifact at the heart of the continuing dialog between what is possible and what is desirable. -- KentBeck
Which is exactly as it should be in my humble opinion, and one of the most attractive features in XP. Other "OO" methodologies are not really OO; they're work/data flows. Specifications become Analysis becomes Design becomes Code becomes Deliverables become Tests become Deployed Systems. XP says to me, lookit, this thing you're asking for is what we're estimating and what we're estimating is what we're doing and what we're testing and what we're maintaining and delivering - they're all just methods on this one thing, "User Story". Or maybe I'm going off the deep end, but that's how it seems to me.
I should say that I'm in a bizarre methodological context at the moment; trying to relate XP concepts to RUP and MSF concepts without doing violence to any of 'em on behalf of a certain very large company who shall remain nameless for now. So my perspective is skewed and I may be quite mad - please deal harshly with me. -- PeterMerel
I go back to Kent's original line, up above, "Tell me the stories of what the system will do. Write down the name of the story and a paragraph or two." Its intent is to capture some information, specifically not tying the user down to matters of, "Can it be implemented in 3 weeks?", "Is it normalized in terms of the simplest definition of what is needed?", or "Does it have engineering tasks and a regression test?" Those latter things are ways the team looks at and uses the UserStory to work out their plan.
I'll test both my characterizing matrix and my understanding, here. I wrote in http://members.aol.com/acockburn/papers/usecases.htm that one can characterize the many uses of UseCases according to 4 questions:
But I confess I haven't dug far into your particular UseCases Alistair, so forgive me if I'm doing you an injustice. I'm far from a methodologist - I really only learn these things when someone else says, "Okay, I know just how we're going to do this. I read it in this book ..." I want to understand, but at least so far no one's tried to lumber me with Cockburnology or whatever acronym you dub your particular flavour of OoAdSeMtFla :-) -- PeterMerel
What I mostly notice is that what PeterMerel thinks a User Story is and what KentBeck thinks a User Story is are quite far apart. Since Peter raised the question, I'll step back out and watch you two form a reconciliation. -- AlistairCockburn
Hmm. Kent, are we far apart? It's your process and I'm really only conjecturing. I emphatically bow to your knowing what the hell you're talking about, which I don't - I'm just trying to get a grip.
Alistair I did find your comments useful, but I suspect we're coming from different angles on this. Let's hope Kent can recombobulate us without too much difficulty. -- PeterMerel.
Regarding structure: The collection of user stories forms an unstructured collection, there is never a point at which they are organized into other than a flat structure. They are sorted into three piles by priority. They are sorted into three piles by risk. They are sorted into two piles- this release and the future. They are sorted into three week iterations. How is that "flat structure"? There isn't anything like uses and extends, or even prerequisites, but there is a whole lot of structure to me. -- KentBeck
Well, I can't reconcile those two sets of statements, I'd never guess they were talking about the same thing. -- AlistairCockburn
They do sound dissimilar, but I think they're just two sides of the same coin. I still leave it to Kent to clarify, but I think I'm just recasting what I've read, not adding anything new. -- PeterMerel
I agree with all three of you, even [mostly] with Peter. Seriously. I gotta think about this. -- RonJeffries
I am shocked and horrified! -- Peter :-)
TheInmatesAreRunningTheAsylum recommends something similar to UserStory, with two differences.
The "story" is not a description of a feature in a program, but the underlying real world problem that the software is designed to solve. For example, in the case of a traffic estimation system, the problem may be where to put stop signs. The solution may be a display of a map with dots at busy intersections. But the feature is proposed later in the process than the "story".
The "user" may be fictional, based on a prototypical user, as determined by market research. An example might be "Pamela", a 35 year old interior decorator, who needs software to help her visualize color combinations. Besides being fun, the purpose is to help the user focus on the needs of a segment of users without being misled by the quirks of a particular customer.
Now there's an interesting and unusual question: Why can't we write more, if we want to? Usually one has trouble getting anybody to write enough, and that's where the user stories, as promissory notes for future conversation, come in handy. They are also unstructured, not requiring any particular form, or the failure coverage of 4-bit use cases.
I can't think of why you couldn't write more, if you want to. I'd be careful, because some engineers can't help but put their implementation concepts right into the requirements story, where they don't belong. To me, UserStory mostly means, simply, "I'll be using the system, and I want to do THIS." -- AlistairCockburn
I like this definition, but it doesn't really answer my question. I work in a "Tools" organization that develops libraries and sundries for other developers. Our customers are experienced developers, who may have very clear and specific ideas on what they want. I haven't seen anything in your definition or on the LimitsOfUserStories page that would prevent one of my users from writing a user story like this:
I need a class called "event log file". One of the constructors needs to take a full path name. If no file with that name currently exists, create the file and open it for writing. If a file does exist with that name, verify that it uses the log file format. If it is not a valid log file, throw an "invalid format" exception. If it is a valid log file, open it in append mode.
This user story doesn't specify anything about HOW to implement what is needed, but is very specific about what is needed. -- DonaldMcLean
Interesting... it seems as though the customer (the experienced developer) in the above is perfectly justified in their well specified user story... it is the business logic which he has control over. For example (from UserStoryExamples):
I set up LimitsOfUserStories to try to coalesce and sharpen the discussion that is now scattered over UserStory, UserAntiStory, TheExtremeProgrammingWayToHandleUserAntiStories, and ThereAreNoUserAntiStories. -- AlistairCockburn
So, in my area, I get better information by ensuring I have a context in which the computer interactions and functions are used.
Based on the examples of UserStories I have seen on wiki, no longer will I say that an XP UserStory is "just" a cut-down use case. They sure don't resemble anything I'd call a use case. -- AlistairCockburn
I would say that a UserStory is simply a brief, informal assertion of a requirement. There are no stylistic or perspective constraints on it. As a result, there should be no problem calling performance or security requirements UserStories, as Ron has been telling us. To answer my question above, I am the one who was confused. -- RussellGold
Well, I declare myself officially confused. I can't match the descriptions recently posted here on wiki with the official words from Kent here on wiki and in his book. -- AlistairCockburn
The uses and extends relationships are just techniques for organizing the text of the use cases. You can very easily dispense with them - and no, I would not expect customers to think that way. Use cases turn out to be a really useful technique, but it is hard to learn how to do them effectively from the published literature. When Alistair's new book, WritingEffectiveUseCases is available, that should change. -- RussellGold
Found an interesting comment at http://computer.org/seweb/dynabook/McKinnonComments.htm. TimMackinnon writes:
In our company (Connextra), during our development of the Sidewize product (which did not have a large user base in its initial development), we nominated a team of three people to [make sure TheCustomerSpeaksWithOneVoice]. These people represented Sales, Marketing and Technology. It was their job to solicit stories from people both within the company and from beta users, our software partners, and ensure they made sense and did not contradict one another. They also provided a unified voice for the priority and detail of the stories. This has worked particularly well and may give insight into the new role of business analysts.
This suggests one avenue to pursue when ScalingExtremeProgramming.
In one of the XP books it quotes Alistair Cockburn as saying we can think of Stories as promises for later conversations between developers and customers. Alistair also talks (in Crystal) about the use of "markers" in software development which are things that record what you want to remember and also inspire other thoughts later on. So, it seems to me that an initial UserStory is a marker that reminds the customer and developers what to talk about, and also inspires them in exploring some particular area of business value. A UserStory, then, contains whatever the customer thinks is necessary to jog the memories and inspirations of those who will later explore the story. Expertise in the business area will help the customer decide what are the essential "jogs" to record in the initial UserStory marker. -- Anthony Lauder
Well stated, Anthony. You certainly have captured my view there (and presumably your own). -- Alistair
I am developing a software system for my company. The system will allow the users to store, retrieve, manipulate and view the information about the TELECOM Companies of the world. I was introduced to XP by Prof. Johnson, UIUC in Fall 2000. Then I did a project using Smalltalk and SQL Server.
This time I am using Oracle 8i, Developer 6i. I have decided to follow XP methodology.
In my opinion a User Story should look like this:
I have decided to get the User Stories, Analyze them, Design and Document, then Implement and test.
Proceeding in this fashion I will have iteration reports, which will have complete and updated information about the system and its features as the project progresses.
This is tough, but today when I saw a 100-page Software Requirement Specifications for another on-going project and learned that not even a single line of code is in place to date, I was convinced that XP is many times better.
As per my understanding, the motto is Get the User Stories, Analyze/Elaborate them, then Design and Code as per the chosen standards, then perform Unit, Integration and Acceptance Testing.
-- Rahul Sharma (email@example.com)
Consider this: if you tell what you have to store, instead of telling why/who needs the info, you introduce problems. For example: is the address used for phone marketing, letters or identification? Is there more than one contact possible? IS the address about a billing address or about a legal representative? The story should be "In order to identify the company stored, a postal address of the company's headquarters will be stored together with the company name." -- Bernd Eckenfels
I have a project in my mind, an estrategy game, which is becoming quite big. I was wondering: is there an XP way to store ideas which I consider really important for a far away future, but which cannot be estimated because they involve much functionality? I'm thinking of a hierarchy of user stories: I have this idea now, and I don't want to split it right away because I have no idea how and it will take time that should be used somewhere else. If I work with this as user stories I would end up with parent-child user stories, in which case the parent doesn't have an estimation on itself, but the sum of all its found child user stories. An example could be: "The game should be split in three editions: beginner, advanced, expert. This split main reason is to have a way of getting to the expert (full featured) game from easier editions.". Is that OK, or are there examples of how this should be or shouldn't be done? Also, how about really particular details I think are really cool, but again, they depend very much on this game workings like "The spy should get random information on the specified topic of research from the enemy city.", this when I don't even have a city designed. Here, I could come up with several of this ideas, and I would rather like to store them somewhere, should I use something different that user stories or should I try to build myself a user stories relationship system (like a 3 level abstraction level, where level 2 is actually the one that gets estimated (someday)? Sorry for any incoherence; I come from a Spanish country.
I wonder.... how do you complete the project? I understand that user stories become a check-off list for system completion, however, it sounds like there is a lot of room for the customer to change his/her original intent as the new system is implemented. This is good (short-term) for the customer and if I were in the business of selling services, good for business but I am in an IT department with limited resources and a need to get one project done and start on the next one. Any thoughts?
-- Bob Cross
The ongoing, iterative nature of XP allows for systems to evolve over time. There is always a 'delivery date' which will need to be met (or, realistically adjusted as the iterations go). What is crucial in XP is feedback from the customer on a very short time basis. Stories may change, but make sure that those stories change in manageable ways. (For example; don't leave feedback until the system is 'done'; make sure there is feedback on every iteration. Waiting until the customer gives feedback during BigBangTesting is the largest source of cost overrun, missed deadlines, and frustrated customers and employees, in my opinion. -- ChadThompson
I am a customer who wants to establish priorities among the user stories. Why are they regarded simply as a heap? Why can't I specify the priority and order in which I need capabilities?
Also, can I include "ease of extension" or "designed to adapt quickly if I change my mind" as components of a user story?
-- Vince Khan
User Stories are not regarded as a heap. They are prioritized. -- BrentNewhall
Would a UserStory be applicable to capturing a problem rather than a prospective feature or solution? For instance, would something like "Developers misinterpret requirements" be a UserStory when codifying the problem domain? I've looked at UserAntiStory, but that again seems to only be used in the context of the solution, like "User X should not be able to push button Y". Before there is ever a button Y, a user X, or a system that solves the user's problem, is there a way to describe the problems that plague an organization or process such that they can be discussed and their impact weighed? -- JamesWhite
What about BusinessStories? I can't help feeling that -- since, according to recent studies, investment in IT bears little relation to improvements in business performance (which, by the way, is why the industry is in a major recession, folks) -- we are just tinkering around the edges of a much bigger problem ("building the right thing"). You simply cannot assume that just because the requirements can change, business value will be delivered. You could do 10,000 iterations and still deliver nothing of value if the customer hasn't clear objectives and the business architecture to back them up (and a little bit of luck). Agile software development does not necessarily translate into an agile business!
If the customer has no clear objectives, then it doesn't matter what software development methodology you use; you still won't deliver anything of value. -- BrentNewhall
I'm in the other end of a problem - a customer trying to figure out what I need. User stories doesn't seem to offer much help (apart from the iterations, perhaps). Any comments?
-- Jan Frelin
The name "user story" seems to be very confusing. When someone hears it, they'll immediately think about "use cases", "usage scenarios", or something like that. But judging from these pages, they are nothing of the sort. Where does the name come from?
more like "tasks"
I'm working with my development team to come up with an Agile Development methodology that works for our group. Right now, I'm brainstorming with our UI expert on how to integrate a coherent UI design into the process. Another aspect of our particular set of needs (which I suspect is very common) is that the user writing the story represents business needs, but might not dovetail exactly with the wants and needs of the actual users (the users are third party clients). For this reason, we're looking at some up front UI design and some research with the actual users to determine how well the stories fit with what they do.
Anyway, one suggestion our UI designer came up with is adding another aspect to our stories. We're looking at adding a "why?" to each story card. It seems to me that this is a great idea and the benefits are threefold. First, in the case of a publicly facing page, our UI designer has some background to possibly suggest modifications of our stories to better resolve the needs of our clients with our business needs. Second, in all cases it allows both the UI designer and the developers to suggest modified stories which might better fit the "why?" aspect of the story. Third, it aids in prioritization of (and possibly even elimination of) stories. Has anyone tried anything like this? Does it work?
About I'm working with my development team to come up with an Agile Development methodology that works for our group. Right now, I'm brainstorming with our UI expert on how to integrate a coherent UI design into the process.: I am interested in your work. Who are you? What are your results so far?
I've created a new page called UsabilityAndAgileMethodologies to go into a bit more detail. -- CaseyCady
In the event log example we usually have very specific requirements that must be met. Just saying we need an event log isn't terribly useful. We need to know things like what is the mutex behaviour, is it ISR safe, what is the max amount of memory that can be used, what's the on disk limit, etc. Is each of these a separate story or part of the same story?
That's an interesting paradigm, it's a practical method to developing. But my questions are about the maintenance of that system when the team work has been dissolved. I mean, are the UserStories enough to understand the code, and the programming philosophy?; could other work team take the administration or maintenance of that system? HOW? -- LucasZallio
What happened to user stories? They seem to be morphing into requirements and use cases. I read now where they have turn into an acceptance test which really requires an immense amount of detail. For example, i can't just have a short story like "user can select shipping options" and then talk about what that means later. For a test to be generated this would have to be fully designed into a form that is much larger than any index card and would be more complete than the heaviest use case.
I've been using UserStories as concrete examples of UseCases being invoked. Most of the requirements negotiation tends to fall not in the general characteristics of a use case but in the detail revealed in a user story (The who, what, why of a use case usually is pretty much determined by the business process).
What I find disturbing in this discussion is the suggestion that there is some deep gulf between them. I learned a long time ago that the most useful use case is:
As a matter of fact, user stories are something that I cannot really describe how they made my life easier. Here is what I did. My company is PMI standards oriented, so they still believe in plans, schedules and dead lines. And in order to get the contract, I had to submit a full detailed plan. This cannot happen, this is why XP is for. Not to give deadlines that you really don't know about well, in the plans I used to give about 2-3 weeks of an item called "User Stories and Interface" it was a good sell for them (both my CEO and the Customer). What I did is that I used to meet with the customer, and I did write the user stories. And I changed the Metaphor concept a bit for each user story I had a page as a prototype and when user stories are complete into a scene I rushed back to the customer to get their feedback on the prototype and from the user stories I had tasks. I am a project manager, and I am not away from the code, so I meet with the developers, and we estimate on the user stories, and I make sure to down size the tasks to a day for each now I have a plan according to the PMI standards and in fact I am doing the iteration according to the XP and I have a milestone (a release) and I had the developers estimate and each developer can come to my office to get his/her user story, and with the user story there is an attached document representing the page from the prototype. All what I know is the pile of user stories is vanishing in the speed of light. I really love XP and I really owe a big thank you for the great people who made my life happy - the people who invented this XP.
Thank you all
This page mirrored in ExtremeProgrammingRoadmap as of April 29, 2006