Blog: How To Write Good User Stories

December 19th, 2019 by inflectra

In the following blog post, Sriram Rajagopalan - Inflectra's Enterprise Agile Champion explores how-to's of writing good user stories and gives practical recommendations on how to achieve just that.

This blog complements Inflectra's December 17th webinar on the same topic, with the webinar recording available inside. 

Good User Stories: Success Seeds

The utility of Agile framework in building good software products is continually increasing. This statement is being repeatedly reinforced by how the Project Management Institute (PMI) incorporates adaptive and hybrid approaches to project management in their latest project management book of knowledge. At the same time, some organizations following the agile framework have introduced additional nuances, such as the scaled agile. Regardless of the specific project delivery framework, the project delivery teams focus on creating more value for the customer, increasing quality of products, reducing time to market, and drawing down cost to operations. These four elements are the sine qua non to defining good requirements.

Yet, if the teams struggle to deliver their iteration commitments, one possible impediment may be the failure to adopt good practices for writing good user stories. As the saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out!” While numerous other risks may impede iteration goals, adopting some good practices can engage appropriate stakeholders and promote team collaboration to sow the good requirement seeds for successful product development.

User Stories - it's all about relationships

In the latest (13th) State of Agile survey released by Version One, the top five agile techniques continue to be:

  • daily standup (86%),
  • sprint/iteration planning (80%),
  • sprint/iteration review (80%),
  • sprint/iteration retrospectives (80%),
  • and short iterations (67%).

Consequently, industries emphasize the indispensable nature of all these agile ceremonies. Among many other things, the one important aspect that connects and relies on almost all of these five techniques is the user story.

We discuss the details behind the user stories as the team estimates and commits to them in the iteration planning, continue to discuss progress to the tasks that make up the user stories in the daily standup and demo the functionality represented in the user story during the review for product owner acceptance. The short iterations become the container within which we decide what types of user stories can be accommodated based on the minimum viable product considerations. The retrospective can also focus on the people, process, technology, and organizational considerations that impact the successful delivery considerations for the user stories.

Source: State of Agile Surveys. Version One.

If a successful delivery includes the increasing value to the customer and quality to the product and reducing time to market and cost to operations, then, looking at the market needs for technical, operational, and environment feasibility analysis through proper use cases can not be ignored. This goes hand in hand with an understanding that agile thrives on iterative and incremental feedback from multitude of users. This relationship between needs and agile approaches is demonstrated in the diagram. The process itself should not become an overhead in the delivery while adhering to company policies.


Recommended Practices

Synthesizing some of the best practices for both successes and failures that I have encountered, I have come up with four important practices. These practices include:

  • creating a persona of the user community, holistically seeing the strategic business need while focusing on tactical delivery,
  • iterating needs through “Get Ready” for estimation and planning
  • iterating needs through“Get Done” for acceptance criteria
  • promoting team collaboration throughout the agile lifecycle.

Each practice has either a strategic focus as well as a tactical tip that helps in the practice of writing good user stories to strengthen the product for stability, manageability, and sustainability. If you would like to get insights into these practices, please review the associated webinar.


If you'd like to learn more about other agile webinars Inflectra is hosting, please visit our events page

How To Write Good User Stories blog Sriram Rajagopalan

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