Friday 25 May 2012

Invest - what is a good Agile story part 2

Whilst wandering across the Agile landscape I came across an excellent mnemonic for getting a good set of story cards together; so lets INVEST in writing a good story:

Stories should be: Independent, Negotiable, Valuable, Estimable, Small, Testable:
  • Independent - One user story should be independent of another (as much as possible). Dependencies between stories make planning, prioritization, and estimation much more difficult. Often enough, dependencies can be reduced by either combining stories into one or by splitting the stories differently.
  • Negotiable - A user story is negotiable. The "Card" of the story is just a short description of the story which do not include details. The details are worked out during the "Conversation" phase. A "Card" with too much detail on it actually limits conversation with the customer.
  • Valuable - Each story has to be of value to the customer (either the user or the purchaser). One very good way of making stories valuable is to get the customer to write them. Once a customer realises that a user story is not a contract and is negotiable, they will be much more comfortable writing stories.
  • Estimable - The developers need to be able to estimate (at a ballpark even) a user story to allow prioritization and planning of the story. Problems that can keep developers from estimating a story are: lack of domain knowledge (in which case there is a need for more Negotiation/Conversation); or if the story is too big (in which case the story needs to be broken down into smaller stories).
  • Small - A good story should be small in effort, typically representing no more, than 2-3 person weeks of effort. A story which is more than that in effort can have more errors associated with scoping and estimation.
  • Testable - A story needs to be testable for the "Confirmation" to take place. Remember, we do not develop what we cannot test. If you can't test it then you will never know when you are done. An example of non-testable story: "software should be easy to use".
I like this a lot.

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