Agile: Who Writes a User Story?

5 min read

Making sure our clients understand the ins and outs of Agile (especially those of our clients who haven't completed an agile project before) is a key factor to ensure that a digital project goes smoothly. An important part of this is deciding on user stories. In other words, breaking a sprint down into bite-size tasks. This blog will go through who exactly decides on the user stories in a project team.

What is a user story?

There are few ways to understand what a good user story is. One helpful way to remember is the acronym: INVEST.

Independent - can the team complete the user story independently without being dependent on another team.


Negotiable - the user story needs to be a collaborative negotiation between all members of the team.


Valuable - the user story needs to add value to the project. Ideally, the user stories that are most valuable should be prioritized.


Estimable - the user story needs to be able to be estimated for value and the length of time it will take to complete it.


Small - the user story needs to be small enough to be completed within a sprint.


Testable - this is dependent on the acceptance criteria of the user story being clear and agreed upon so that the user story can be tested properly before it is considered ‘done’.

Examples of a good user story

Here’s a basic template of a user story: "As a [who] I want [what] so that [why]."

This is an example of a user story from the Cancer Society we built that follows the above template: “As a user, I can see stories on the homepage so I am engaged with the Cancer Society.” Keeping to this sentence structure means that we can create user stories that are clear, focused, and manageable. In this case, the user story is referring to creating a place on the homepage where a user can see stories from people who have been affected by cancer creating a more engaging experience when on the Cancer Society website. This user story is flexible enough that the team can figure out how best to achieve it.

We’ve worked on projects from small content websites all the way through to complex data-rich websites like the Metlink website and App. No matter the size of the project it always makes things seem much more manageable when you start to break it down into user stories.

Who is responsible for writing a user story

In theory, anyone on the project team can write a user story. We encourage the Product Owner to come up with as many user stories as they can since we want to make sure that the project fulfills their business requirements. Plus since the Product Owner is the key representative of the company they act as an intermediary between the stakeholders and the project team. Our Scrum Master, though, will help to refine the backlog of user stories with the design and development team to make sure that a sprint is manageable.

Backlog grooming and sprint planning sessions with the whole team are integral to make sure that everyone is on the same page and that the business requirements can be met within the timeframe. It always works out to be a very collaborative process spearheaded by the Product Owner and Scrum Master but with a lot of input and recommendations from the designers and developers. As a project progresses things can change once things are being built so a user story could be written by any member of the team.

The Product Owner ultimately has a say on which user stories have priority. At the end of the day, we want to build something that works best for your company and of course your customers and users!

Conclusion

In order for projects to be successful it’s all about communicating as clearly as possible what needs to be done. If everybody is on the same page, from the development team to the Product Owner, then the chance of completing a project with a working solution is exponentially higher. Creating user stories that are clear and achievable is a great starting point and gives us at Somar Digital heaps of confidence going into a project that we can make something great for our clients.

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by Somar Digital