August 13, 2011

A Reason for Including Value in a User Story

  —Value in a user story narrows scope and adds clarity to what the story is about.

Lately, I've been doing some research on how to write good user stories for Agile requirements and discovered a post on Mike Cohn's blog discussing his rationale for the user story template he prefers. I have one point to add to his comment on the value component of a user story being optional.

An important motivation for including the value component in a user story is what narrows and refines the scope of the story and adds clarity to what the story is intended to achieve. This helps to ensure that the intent of the story is understood by the reader. It might also prompt questions if the reader disagrees with the value and those questions might lead to better insight or understanding.

Mike provides several stories in his article. Reading these stories with and without the value component changes the way they can be interpreted quite dramatically. For example, consider the story "As an estimator, I want to see all the items we will try to estimate this season".

The value component of this story tells me that its real value is enabling the estimator to check the relative costs of the other items being estimated. Without this insight, I might assume that the estimator just needs a list of estimates organized by season--an interpretation that really misses the point.

Adding a few words to highlight the value of the user story seems like very little additional burden when compared to the problems that a misinterpretation might create.

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