User Stories - INVEST

Ensure quality in your user stories - the INVEST-Principle

by Pete R.

The INVEST principle allows teams to work effectively on a good user story. To understand INVEST better, one has first to understand what the mnemonic stands for.

INVEST

I - Independent

It means that user-story should be independent and not be dependent on any other story.

N - Negotiable

A product backlog item show allows for negotiations to take place.

V - Valuable

It should provide value to all the stakeholders involved.

E - Estimable

The team must be able to estimate the item.

S - Small

The size of a product backlog item should be small to ensure there is fast progress.

T - Testable

It should allow for others to test it.

The 3C’s

If you want to benefit the user story, the 3 C’s style should be followed. A user story needs to have a card, conversation and confirmation or else it would lose the point of the user story as it accurately captures all of the essential components in a user story.

Card

It is just like a note, and it allows the user story to have a tangible form.

Conversation

There should be a conversation among the team members and all involved in a project to supplement documentation.

Confirmation

It means that the process should be more formal, confirming the goals of the conversation.

The format of the user story depends on what the team agrees on, and it is not necessary that all sides would focus on the INVEST principle. They might focus on the conversation. It takes time for a team to figure out which user story format is the best for them to work with. It is a natural process. However, using the INVEST principle will ensure quality for the user stories. To follow the INVEST principle; there are certain things to keep in mind.

Making the Decision is Not Up to One Person

It takes time for a team to agree on one thing and one person does not make the decision regarding the user story format but rather, the entire team is involved in making the decision. It can be quite tricky to match all of the INVEST principles to a user story.

Not Necessary to Match All Principles

It isn’t necessary for the user story to match all of the INVEST principles. It can be challenging to get a user story to be wholly independent and is, therefore, one of the hardest principles. This is why if you want to make the most of the independent rule then it is recommended to get the user stories into a small size so that the team will be able to estimate it comfortably. When the user stories become more extensive, it gets exponentially harder for the team to assess and there are more chances of misunderstandings.

Combination with Planning Poker

It is a common practice for teams to combine user stories with planning poker which is an effective agile estimation technique. It allows you to determine when a user story would need to be broken down further. Typically, a scrum team would not be able to handle user stories which are above 13 points and would often break them down into 8 or 5 points. The Importance of 3 C’s.

When practicing user stories, the 3 C’s remind you of what is essential, namely conversation and collaboration, it isn’t precisely a format but rather a way of getting the user story made. A user story plays a vital role as it can be a business proxy or an end user.

One should use acceptance criteria to define all of the inner workings. By focusing on this, the format would be better able to match the INVEST principles. Remember that user stories require a collaborative activity and one should not go about it on their own.

When you ensure that there are conversation and collaboration at play, then the results would become visible to you and the team. Let each of the members provide their point of view.


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