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Who (Really) Writes User Stories?

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Who (Really) Writes User Stories?

In this post, we take a look at how developers and users must collaborate to create effective user stories, and what the devs role in this collaboration is.

· Agile Zone
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User stories are at the core of most of the Agile frameworks and methodologies. Although many frameworks claim that they do not use user stories, user stories are almost always used, no matter the framework.

If you take any book about user stories, you will always end up reading that they are written by the users. No big surprise, as they are called "user" stories.

But in practice, what are the implications of that assertion?

First, the user must be motivated. Second, the user must know, at least, the basics of user stories and how to write them. Third, the user must have enough time available to sit down and write a story.

The question is: are all three conditions satisfied in a real environment? Well, you might have guessed the answer: no.

What's My Approach?

When explaining this technique to others, I always recall old musicians like Mozart, who produced music in their heads and dictated melody and harmony. Most of the time, there was a copyist, the person who wrote down the notes to a metronome.

Then, we can distinguish two writers: the intellectual one, and the copyist.

In the user stories context, the intellectual writer is the user. He or she decides what to expect from using a system. Then, what is our role as analysts/developers? We take the role of the copyist. So, when you sit down with your customer/user to work through user stories, the one who really writes the story (most of the time) is you.

Is it always that way? No. I’ve described three conditions that must be satisfied for ideal user stories. Thus, I will briefly describe two cases which I think will help you in using user stories.

Case 1: "The Ideal Case"

All three conditions are satisfied. That is, the user is motivated, has enough time available to assist in the creation of a user story, and they have some experience or knowledge with user stories. In this case, you will probably end up acting more as a guide than as a scribe.

Case 2: Dev as Scribe

No matter the reason, in this case, you will have to act as the scribe. Less experienced analysts/developers will have to take notes and pictures from diagrams gathered from discussions and then, perhaps in his or her own workplace, he or she will have to write down a user story template.

More experienced analysts/developers will write the user story in a template in real-time.

Final Words

I have here discussed a user story template in a very light way. But don’t get me wrong, a user story template is essential to improve the process. So, use them!

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Topics:
user stories ,requirements analysis ,agile

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