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What is a User Story? How are they used in Requirements Gathering and in writing User Acceptance Tests? October 3, 2010

Posted by HubTechInsider in Agile Software Development, Definitions, Project Management.
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What is a User Story? How are they used in Requirements Gathering and in writing User Acceptance Tests?

User Stories are short conversational texts that are used for initial requirements discovery and project planning. User stories are widely used in conjunction with agile software development project management methodologies for Release Planning and definition of User Acceptance Criteria for software development projects.

User Goals, stated in the form of User Stories, are more closely aligned with Business Priorities than software development Tasks and so it is the User Story format which prevails in written statements of User Acceptance Criteria.

An Agile Project Team is typically oriented to completing and delivering User-valued Features rather than on completing isolated development Tasks.These development Tasks eventually combine into a User-valued Feature).

User Goals are not the same things as software development Tasks. A User Goal is an end condition, whereas a development Task is an intermediate process needed to achieve this User Goal. To help illustrate this point, here are two example scenarios:

1. If my User Goal is to laze in my hammock reading the Sunday Boston Globe newspaper, I first have to mow the lawn. My Task is mowing; My Goal is resting. If I was able to recruit someone else to mow the lawn, I could achieve my Goal without having to do the mowing, the Task.

2. Tasks change as implementation technology or development approaches change, but Goals have the pleasant property of remaining stable on software development projects. For example, if I am a hypothetical User traveling from Boston to San Francisco, my User Goals for the trip might include Speed, Comfort and Safety. Heading for California on this proposed trip in 1850, I would have made the journey in a high technology Conestoga wagon for Speed and Comfort, and I would have brought along a Winchester rifle for Safety. However, making the same trip in 2010, with the same User Goals, I would now make the journey in a new Boeing 777 for updated Speed and Comfort and for Safety’s sake I would now leave the Winchester rifle at home.

· My User Goals remained unchanged, however the Tasks have changed so much that they are now seemingly in direct opposition. User Goals are steady, software development Tasks as stated on SOWs (Statements Of Work) are transient.

· Designing User Acceptance Criteria around software development Tasks rarely suits, but User Acceptance Criteria based on User Goals always does.

A User Story is a brief description of functionality as viewed by a User or Customer of the System. User Stories are free-form, and there is no mandatory syntax. However, it can be useful to think of a User Story as generally fitting this form:

“As a <type of User>, I want <Capability> so that <Business Value>”.

Using this template as an example, we might have a User Story like this one:

“As a Store Manager, I want to search for a Service Ticket by Store so that I can find the right Service Ticket quickly”.

User stories form the basis of User Acceptance Testing. Acceptance tests can be created to verify that the User Story has been correctly implemented.

User Story Card

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About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurshipecommercetelecommunications andsoftware development, I’m the Director, Technical Projects at eSpendWise, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Tshirtnow.net.

What is the “n body problem”, and what does it mean for software project management? June 23, 2009

Posted by HubTechInsider in Project Management.
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It can be shown that for n project team members, there are [ n (n-1) / 2 ] possible working relationships. These working relationships grow with increased project team size as the aforementioned polynomial function shows. Of course, any of these working relationships are in danger of deteriorating, and the ones that are working out great are not necessarily transitive. For example, just because Tom and Wendy work great together, and Wendy and Susan work well together, it does not follow that Tom and Susan will work well together.

Further complicating these working relationships are externalities such as intercultural differences and outsourcing of project resources and pieces of the project work.

As bluesman Robert Cray would say: “Too many cooks are gonna spoil the stew” – or, as Fred Brooks of The Mythical Man Month has said in the central thesis of this classic software development text: “adding manpower to a late software project makes it later”.

The above factors are important to consider as a Project Manager. Poor team chemistry can ruin your chances to overcome the traditional project constraints of time, budget and resources even if your project team has at its disposal high quality technical talent.

The success of your project depends on both the quality of the talent on your project team and the manner in which that talent is engaged on your project.

It is currently fashionable for employers to surmise that a project’s success is only dependent upon the technical skill of the project team members. This is far from the truth, although a pleasant fiction for human resources and senior management.

As a Project Manager, you need to possess a wide range of people skills including team building, negotiation techniques and natural affability, you must be a master communicator, you must understand human behavior and team building and dynamics, you must be a great motivator and have innate knowledge of how to create and enhance esprit de corps.

Even the most highly technical situations are governed by human relationships and human nature. Your technical abilities and credibility as a technician carries weight with management and your project team members, certainly, but it is not your primary purpose as a Project Manager to serve as a technical resource, and all the technical skill in the world won’t save you if you can’t “Herd cats”.

The special challenges of software development will  rear their ugly heads in the midst of this, imposing their will upon the challenges of management of human teams. Only a skilled team, skillfully managed, can achieve success in most software development project situations.

“Good bow, hard to bend. Good horse, hard to ride. Good man, difficult to lead well”

Want to know more?

You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies, software development, Agile project management, managing software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projects, ecommerce and telecommunications.

About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurship, ecommerce, telecommunications and software development, I’m the Director, Technical Projects at eSpendWise, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Tshirtnow.net.

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