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Framework #39

User Stories

What does it mean?

In Software Development, user stories are a way to represent and break down requirements from a user perspective. They describe who the user is, their motivation and the expected outcome of their action. User stories are generally written in the following way:

As user type, I want to achieve something, so that a certain goal is met.

For instance, if we were building a contacts application for smartphone, we could be describing the search functionality in the following way:

As a smartphone user, I want to be able to search through my contact list, so that I can call the person I want.

Why do we believe it’s important?

Whilst building software, one common challenge we encounter is that when expressing what they want, customers/users tend to naturally replicate how current systems behave. User stories are a powerful tool to move past this, as it enables us to focus on users needs and motivations rather than on what they want or think they want. This empowers us to build software which truly addresses users needs and delivers value rather than a prettier version of what already exists.

User stories also help development teams break down tasks into manageable pieces of work, which have specific criteria. This is critical to successful software development, as it allows the Product Owner to write success criteria for the User Story - during an Agile Sprint retrospective, the team will demo the user story, and the Product Owner can decide whether the challenge has been met.

How do we put it into practice?

Whilst working for a global publishing and education company, we developed a web system to help a small team of power users within the organisation reach out to thousands of customers during incidents in order to explain the problem (and decrease Support calls).

By adopting the User Story approach, we built a web system leveraging existing technologies in less than 16 weeks which helped improve response time from internal teams during incidents and helped them better communicate with users, thus decreasing the number of calls related to major incidents by 75%.


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