Better User Stories

Course:  BUS
Duration:  2 Days
Level:  I
Course Summary

Requirements define the functional and physical needs of a system or product. In a sense, requirements serve as the roadmap for product development, providing product development teams guidance for what is expected of the product.

Traditional requirements documents may not contain complete and accurate requirements due to rapidly changing business environments. This can result in product and system failures.

Extreme programming (XP) introduced the practice of expressing requirements in the form of user stories: short descriptions of functionality told from the perspective of a user that are valuable to either a user of the software or the customer of the software.

A common challenge with writing user stories is how to handle a product's non-functional requirements. These are requirements that are not about specific functionality (As a user of a word processor, I want to insert a table into my document), but are rather about an attribute or characteristic of the system. Examples include reliability, availability, portability, scalability, usability, maintainability. Think of non-functional requirements as constraints we put on the system.

User stories are part of an agile approach that helps shift the focus from writing about requirements to talking about them. All agile user stories include a written sentence or two and, more importantly, a series of conversations about the desired functionality.

User stories are short, simple descriptions of a feature told from the perspective of the person who desires the new capability, usually a user or customer of the system. They typically follow a simple template.

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Topics Covered In This Course


  • Introduction to the workshop
  • Identify the challenges you will face when implementing an Agile method
  • Plan for a successful transition from waterfall or other traditional software development approaches
  • Steps to creating a successful User Story Workshop
  • Introduction to Themes vs Epics vs Features vs User Stories

User Stories Overview

  • What Is a User Story?
  • Where Are the Details?
  • How Long Does It Have to Be?
  • The Customer Team
  • What Will the Process Be Like?
  • Planning Releases and Iterations
  • What Are Acceptance Tests?
  • Why Change?

Writing Stories

  • Independent
  • Negotiable
  • Valuable to Purchasers or Users
  • Estimating Process
  • Small
  • Testable
  • Developer Responsibilities
  • Customer Responsibilities

User Role Modeling

  • User Roles
  • Role Modeling Steps
  • Identifying the Customer
  • Identifying Some Initial Roles
  • Consolidating and Narrowing
  • Adding Personas
  • Role Modeling

Gathering Stories

  • Elicitation and Capture
  • A Little Is Enough, or Is It?
  • Techniques
  • User Interviews
  • Questionnaires
  • Observation
  • Story-Writing Workshops

Working with User Proxies

  • The Users? Manager
  • The Development Manager
  • Salespersons
  • Domain Experts
  • The Marketing Group
  • Former Users
  • Customers
  • Trainers and Technical Support
  • Business or Systems Analysts
  • What to Do When Working with a User Proxy
  • Can You Do It Yourself?
  • Establishing the Customer Team

Acceptance Testing User Stories

  • Write Tests Before Coding
  • The Customer Specifies the Tests
  • Testing Is Part of the Process
  • How Many Tests Are Too Many?
  • The Framework for Integrated Test
  • Types of Testing

Guidelines for Good Stories

  • Start with Goal Stories
  • Write Closed Stories

Put Constraints on Cards

  • Keep the UI Out as Long as Possible
  • Some Things Are Not Stories
  • Include User Roles in the Stories
  • Write for One User
  • Write in Active Voice

Estimating User Stories

  • Estimate as a Team
  • Estimating
  • Planning a Release
  • When Do We Want the Release?
  • What Would You Like in It?
  • Prioritizing the Stories
  • Prioritizing Infrastructural Needs
  • Selecting an Iteration Length
  • Creating the Release Plan

Planning an Iteration

  • Iteration Planning Overview
  • Discuss the Stories
  • Breaking into Tasks
  • Estimate and Confirm
  • Creating Epics
  • Product Backlog

Measuring and Monitoring

  • Measuring Velocity
  • Planned and Actual Velocity
  • Burndown Charts During an Iteration

What Stories Are Not

  • User Stories Are Not Use Cases
  • User Stories Are Not Scenarios

Why User Stories?

  • Verbal Communication
  • User Stories Are Comprehensible
  • User Stories Are the Right Size for Planning
  • User Stories Work for Iterative Development
  • Stories Encourage Deferring Detail
  • User Stories Encourage Participatory Design

Potential Story Problems

  • Stories Are Too Small
  • Interdependent Stories
  • Goldplating
  • Too Many Details
  • Including User Interface Detail Too Soon
  • Thinking Too Far Ahead
  • Customer Has Trouble Prioritizing: Customer Will Not Write and Prioritize the Stories

Handling Non-Functional Requirements

  • Reliability, availability, portability, scalability, usability, maintainability, security, performance, robustness and so on.
What You Can Expect

Performance-Based Objectives

This workshop will provide you a thorough understanding of User Stories and their benefits. You will learn a new outlook on the way you write and use User Stories. You will be introduced to practical examples of good and bad User Stories. You will take away the knowledge necessary for incorporating User Stories into your working environment.

At the end of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Demonstrate how to create a product vision statement, so that you can establish a guiding light for the product, with the help of your stakeholders
  • Learn to capture stakeholder business needs
  • Demonstrate how to establish user roles, so that you can ensure that you do not miss an important stakeholder business needs
  • Describe the User Story format, so that you can clearly comprehend the importance of each section.
  • Understand the importance of quality Acceptance Criteria, so that you can produce effective User Stories
  • Practice writing User Stories, so that you are more comfortable when you start doing it for real
  • Explain how to tell a good user story from a bad one, so that you can create a better product backlog
  • Understand Themes vs Epics vs Features vs User Stories
  • Understand the concept of story mapping, so that you can use it as a method to gather User Stories
Who Should Take This Course

The User Stories workshop is for Business Analysts and Product Managers/Owners and anyone who will be involved in the writing of User Stories.

This course focuses on how to gather Agile requirements and document them as User Stories. This is a very hands-on course and features many exercises that solidify key course concepts. Whenever possible, real-world examples are brought in from the course participants work to jumpstart their next Agile project.

Recommended Prerequisites


Training Style

Instructor-led, group-paced, classroom-delivery learning model with structured hands-on activities and case studies.

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Every student attending a Verhoef Training class will receive a certificate good for $100 toward their next public class taken within a year.

You can also buy "Verhoef Vouchers" to get a discounted rate for a single student in any of our public or web-based classes. Contact your account manager or our sales office for details.

Schedule For This Course
There are currently no public sessions scheduled for this course. We can schedule a private class for your organization just a couple of weeks from now. Or we can let you know the next time we do schedule a public session.
Notify me the next time this course is confirmed!
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