Agile PM Process Grid–3.5 User Stories


The process of using user stories is the first process in the Planning Process Group and the Adaptive Planning knowledge area in John Stenbeck’s “Agile PM Process Grid”.   The “3” in the “3.5” refers to the fact that it is a process in the third knowledge area of Adaptive Planning.   The “5” refers to the fact that, of the processes in that third knowledge area, it is the 5th process to be done in Agile PM.   The first four were done in the Initiating Process Group.

With that orientation of where we are in the agile process grid, let’s now discuss why user stories is the first process in agile planning.    A user story is a tool or technique used to capture an important piece of functionality that the customer feels is valuable.   The word story denotes that it describes something that the customer wants to do, enabled by the functionality that the team will be creating.

The customer/proxy is primarily responsible for writing user stories on cards that include important details like the acceptance criteria, tests for that functionality, and a definition of what it will look like when it’s done.

On the card you can leave an empty space in the upper corners to designate the relative “priority” of the user story and the “size” of the user story (how long it will take to develop).

The top half will contain something along the lines of:

  • As a (role), I want (something; function) so that (goal, benefit).

The second part is the acceptance criteria, the format of which is usually something like:

  • Given (a condition) when (a trigger) occurs then (an outcome) is produced.

As mentioned above, the user stories are put on sticky notes or index cards, and then they can be arranged in order or priority and or size.  This facilitates discussion and planning focused on the end user’s view of the feature.

There are two advantages of user stories.

  1. They emphasize face-to-face communication, which reduces the time and cost of idea transfer.
  2. They contribute to the continuous replanning of the product backlog, as adjustments may need to be made if the priority or size of a user story changes.

User stories are action oriented and so is the participatory decision-making process which utilizes them.

The next post covers the nest process 3.6 Iteration Backlog.

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