Writing User Stories

Andrew recently recommended a good article on user stories in XP Projects. It was written by Granville Miller. Although this process is not the best fit for our virtual team, I gained some insight from the concepts on team Velocity and keeping estimates under control.

We work strictly in weekly iterations, but it takes a lot to carefully plan and maintain each week. User stories help uncover many of the unknowns that come up as you start to design. Lately we have been refining the balance between short iterations and long-term plans. It’s important to focus on the big picture goals while breaking down the short-term iterations that lead up to those goals. Since weekly iterations are so flexible these goals are constantly changing.

In the beginning of the article he compares the process to visiting a foreign country, which explained the decision making and uncertainties in a software project well. Here is one of the excerpts:

At the beginning of our journey, we want to create our itinerary. Time constraints may prevent us from being able to visit all of the places that we might like to. Some places may just be too costly or risky (such as the top of Mount Everest). Still, we will not know where we can or cannot go until we articulate our desire.

To me, this illustrates what much of us have difficulty in explaining to clients throughout a project. You can climb Everest, but do you have the tools, resources, and are you willing to take the risk?

Enjoy the article.

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