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New Post 9/21/2011 8:34 AM
User is offline bernard
18 posts
9th Level Poster

How do I create meaningful User Stories 

Hi all,

Well, since my last post I've landed a new a new company.

Some background information:

I've picked up a project half way through and as fas as I can tell, the user stories don't make much sense, and as such the development is a little wobbly and at the moment confused about where to go next.

The team are using scrum over 4 countries (UK, India, France and Spain). India is the dev team, BA based in UK and users across all.

An example of a user story that I have inherited is:

"As an Administrator I want the ability to create a Customer Order in order to capture the details of a customer order."

As far as I can see - the creation of a customer order could be split out to about 20 others which would include user stories on how to apply discounts, create new accounts, search for accounts / contacts etc

So we're now looking at another module and I'm trying to create user stories that make sense. I've looked on all sorts of websites about the methods etc, but I can't find anything how to help me out with being half way through.....

Should I start again? Create "child" user stories? Anyone been in this situation and can offer some guidance?

And could someone give me help with a user story for the following scenario:

The system must have the ability to set up a "buy 2 get 1 free" discount across multiple product types and apply the discount to the cheapest product when qualifying products are selected...

As you can see from the ramble above - I'm (well, the project is)  in a mess and need some help

New Post 9/25/2011 2:45 PM
User is offline Skawn
4 posts
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Re: How do I create meaningful User Stories 
Modified By Skawn  on 9/25/2011 6:45:01 PM)

 Hi Bernard.

Starting again is probably counter productive but, from the looks of things, your current stories are too big to work on (creating an order could be weeks of work, I want my stories to be in the order of a couple of days of effort) and pretty badly written.

I'd start by rewriting your existing stories so that they make sense and correctly caupure the what and the why of the feature.  In your example, the administrator doesn't want to create an order so that they capture customer details, if anything, they want to capture details so that they can create an order. (that is unless you're sending free products with the intent of getting market data in which case capture of data is indeed the 'why').  You might find it useful to flip the story statements to make the value more implicit.  For example:

  • In order to create a customer order
  • As an administrator
  • I want to be able to record a customers name, address and the products they want 

Once you have rewritten your stories to be more meaningful, take the next couple you plan to work on and figure out how they can be split up to make them a reasonable size to work on.  In your example, you already identify a few possibilities for doing this.

Finally, for what you think might be the next couple of iterationsworth of stories, write acceptance criteria for each of the stories and get the developers to indicate whether they're small enough to be completed in a couple of days.  If not, break them smaller until they are.

(p.s. why is it the admin creating orders and not a sales person or, in the case of a web app, the customer?)


For buy two get one free, an example story might be:

  • In order to pay less for products
  • As a customer
  • I want one product free when I buy three items in a 'buy two get one free' promotion

Acceptance criteria might be along the lines of:

Given oranges (£0.50) and apples (£0.30) are part of a buy two get one free package, when I add two oranges and an apple to my basket, the total price is shown as £1.00 and a discount line shows I have saved £0.30

Given oranges (£0.50) and apples (£0.30) are part of a buy two get one free package and pears (£0.40) are not part of the same package, when I add an apple, an orange and a pear to my basket, the price is shown as £1.20 and no discount is indicated

I'd have separate stories for setting what items are valid together as an admin user.

New Post 9/25/2011 5:35 PM
User is offline Tony Markos
493 posts
5th Level Poster

Re: How do I create meaningful User Stories 



Sounds like your main problem is properly decomposing.  If you see your problem as such, you need to focus on a technique to properly partition (decompose into children).  Is this proper decomposing downward your problem?



New Post 8/1/2012 5:52 PM
User is offline ibtisam.jawad
15 posts
9th Level Poster

Re: How do I create meaningful User Stories 
Modified By ibtisam.jawad  on 8/1/2012 6:58:02 PM)

Hi Bernard,

Before you start doing anything, identify "who" that Administrator is and then go talk to him. Ask him what he puts on the Customer Order, how he gets it, where he puts it, what's essential, what's nice to have, what he can live without and so forth. Once you know that, you can revisit your stories.

You also mention that you can split out to 20 other stories. Try to identify whether any of these is required to fulfill a business function.

One more thing ... your acceptance criteria is way too specific as it describes particular examples. Try to abstract it one level higher i.e. identify the discount function(s). May be you need to create a story for implementing the "discount function".

New Post 8/2/2012 7:44 AM
User is offline Tony Markos
493 posts
5th Level Poster

Re: How do I create meaningful User Stories 


Do many of the 20 possible permutations of customer orders require significantly different processing - either in uniqueness of tasks or task sequencing?  If yes, then, bascially, you have a decomposition (i.e., partent, child) problem.     I often run into situations where one generic, high-level data flow, such as your customer order, need to decompose three to five levels downward.  

Important:  Iif you need to decompose down more that a level or so, and from your description, such appears to be the case,  you need a strong decomposition tool like data flow diagrams.  User stores are a weak decomposition technique because they offer no guidance in the most important part of decomposition: partitioninng per level of decomposition.   With DFD's the BA is actually guided through partitioning by looking at interface (data flow) complexity per process/task and making adjustments when necessary.   With user stories, the BA just trys to imagine what is right and hopes for the best..

As far as you specific example goes, the same basic question applies:  Are there many potential data flows, or is there just one common-to-all product type flow?   If many, you need to decompose.


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