The BA perspective: How to INVEST in a Good User Story?

» 5 min read

A business analyst’s role is multifaceted. Not only does it require a clear understanding of client requirements, it also necessitates a critical thinking ability to comprehend and build on existing knowledge. For every business analyst, writing a user story is like planning a workout ─ the more time they invest on mastering the fundamentals, the better would be their workout output. In other words, clarity in the process or requirements would help achieve the desired output.

Before we go ahead and describe the attributes (INVEST) that make up for a good user story, let’s figure out why it is of paramount importance to have a well-structured and well-defined user story.

The primary role of a business analyst is to act as a bridge between the client and the internal stakeholders; to seamlessly receive and transmit the message without any attenuation. In any business scenario the message is in the form of requirement and the process is called requirement gathering or elicitation. These requirements are jotted down and written in the User Story format. A user story is nothing but an informal, natural language description of one or more features of a software system.

These user stories are often written from an end user perspective; how the user would interact with the system and thereby defining the functionality, look and feel of the to-be deployed system. A good user story should also contain the acceptance criteria as a fail-safe mechanism. If the acceptance criteria are not met, the user story is considered incomplete and requires rework or modifications. To avoid such kind of impasse, business analysts must make sure they follow a checklist to assess its quality. If it fails to meet the criteria, the user story would need a re-write or in worst case, start from scratch. Therefore, a good user story should include INVEST set of checklists.

I – Independent

A user story should be independent. Being independent brings down the dependency on other stories and therefore can be worked upon individually. In an agile led system deployment process, having modular workflows with low dependence optimizes the process and brings down time to market.

N – Negotiable

Rather than a contract, a story is an invitation to collaborative negotiation. The objective is to understand the requirements as much as possible to avoid any mismatch between the customer’s expectation and the delivered product.

V – Valuable

Some people argue that the user story shouldn’t be done unless it has a value to the end user, but sometimes value can also be in the form of “non-functional” requirements. In a nutshell, derived value should also be considered while writing and prioritizing the user story.

E – Estimable

To prioritize a story, it must be properly estimated. Based on the estimation, developers can allocate their resources and come up with a desirable delivery timeline.

S – Small

A story is a small chunk of work, but the question is how small? A story should be small enough so that it can fit in one iteration.

T – Testable

Having a clear acceptance criterion in the initial stage of a user story moves QA up the ladder and can lead to an easy transition to ATDD process (Acceptance test driven development).

To sum it up, before jumping ahead to drafting a user story as soon as possible, a BA/pseudo product owner should aim for creating a collaborative environment to fulfill the “INVEST” criterion. As a Business Analyst in TA Digital, we focus solely on achieving and delighting our customers by not only meeting the expectations but exceeding them. We promote a culture that relies on open boundaries and clear communication aiding the seamless flow of information amongst different verticals.

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Mayank Trivedi

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