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Leveraging Today’s Tools to Create Great Agile User Stories

September 26, 2016 No Comments

Featured article by Ruth Zive, Vice President of Marketing, Blueprint

A key feature of Agile development is the requirements process, which is based on user stories. Those involved in the Agile development process meet to determine how the target audience will use their solution; they jot these stories down on pieces of paper, which they then arrange and re-arrange during the planning phase.

Developers need these user stories because they offer the minimum amount of information necessary to estimate the level of effort needed to implement the functionality described by the story. When written well, they can be powerful, because they help developers and testers view requirements from a customer’s perspective. They provide context and an understanding of what motivates the people who will use the solutions they deliver.

User Story Challenges

Enterprises have had trouble understanding where user stories fit as they work on expanding and maturing their Agile practices across their projects and teams. This is the case for several reasons:

- Most enterprise projects involve the development and enhancement of multiple, integrated systems to deliver functionality for a variety of roles. Users can take many paths that often interconnect and overlap with other processes. This can mean hundreds of user stories for a project of any size. Manually recording and managing the wealth of information that the development team needs is not feasible, and user stories can be missed or misinterpreted in the process.

- Quality suffers because stakeholders are unfamiliar with user stories. Developers and testers may prefer user stories over a lengthy, text-heavy Business Requirements Document, but user stories are new to most business stakeholders and Business Analysts. As organizations try to transition to Agile, these individuals struggle to write high-quality user stories that accurately and sufficiently describe all customer needs. They get bogged down writing and managing them and lose focus on the bigger picture.

- Compliance, security and performance requirements are just some of the critical nonfunctional requirements organizations need to pay attention to. However, this complicates the adoption of user stories because they weren’t designed to represent those types of requirements. User stories scribbled on sticky notes or created in an Excel spreadsheet don’t support the rigor enterprises need for audits, change management, history and traceability.

Agile provides many benefits to enterprises, but they must be balanced with the high risk of high-dollar projects. They need a robust Agile requirements tool to help them, especially for the creation of reliable, consistent and high-quality user stories.

Defining Agile Requirements

Next-generation requirements management tools enable teams to leverage the power of user stories for development while making it easier for business stakeholders and business analysts to create them. Price Waterhouse Coopers noted in its paper, Adopting an Agile Methodology, Requirements gathering and delivery:

“As companies shift from small projects and teams engaged in Agile to more complex projects and potentially distributed teams, there is a need to shift from paper and spreadsheets to tools that provide workflow, persistence and traceability.”

These tools eliminate the need to manually create user stories within the development teams’ Agile tools. They bridge the gap between traditional and Agile requirements, enabling enterprises to scale Agile while managing enterprise concerns.

Tools like this enable the creation of enterprise-level user stories that enable teams to:

- Use process flows to automatically generate high-quality user stories and tests. Product owners and business analysts use customer journeys to automatically generate user stories and acceptance criteria with the click of a button. They push these artifacts into the development teams’ Agile management tool of choice, where developers and testers also have access to related requirements information, like regulatory information, visual models and constraints, supporting a comprehensive understanding. User stories are reliable and consistent, and there is no longer a need to spend time and money to teach business stakeholders or business analysts to write them.

- “Tell their stories” visually as they work with product owners and business analysts to collaboratively define customer journeys. Using the familiar construct of user models—with steps, decision points, actors and condition statements—the entire team collaborates to record and analyze processes in a shared workspace. Teams maintain a focus on strategic objectives when making prioritization decisions and spend less time managing a huge list of user stories manually.

- Realize Agile’s benefits while leveraging enterprise-level capabilities for visualization, traceability and reuse. Support for visual models and the ability to relate them to one another and other requirements artifacts helps teams establish the precise traceability they need to ensure full requirements and test case coverage. It also supports improved change management and decision-making, ultimately leading to higher-quality software. Customer journey models can be reused across projects and teams, as can user stories and other requirements artifacts, saving time and improving consistency.

As Price Waterhouse Coopers noted, the age of paper and spreadsheets is over when it comes to creating user stories. Technology now exists that substantially streamlines requirements management via visual collaboration, traceability, management analytics and reuse. Best-in-class Agile requirements tools provide a common ground where IT and business can meet to scale Agile across the enterprise by getting input from all stakeholders in a productive, efficient way.

About the author:

Ruth is a metrics-driven marketing strategist who has worked for two decades serving B2B clients in the technology, healthcare and financial services industries. At Blueprint, Ruth is responsible for product marketing, analyst relations, branding, demand generation and inside sales initiatives.

 

DATA and ANALYTICS , SOCIAL BUSINESS

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