Sunday, September 25, 2011

User Stories Applied

Author:        Mike Cohn
Published:    2004
Publisher:    Addison-Wesley Professional
Paperback:  304 pages

The entire business of software development (for that matter any product development) starts with a user need (whether inherent or created by innovative marketing !) which gets expressed in form of documented requirements.  This holds true for both the traditional and the agile methods. But the difference lies in the manner in which these requirements get documented. The traditional methods like waterfall method recommend a Big Requirements Up-Front (BRUF) approach where the entire set of requirements are documented by  the analysts and passed on like a relay race baton to the development team. The agile methods zealously espouse the cause of short and "just enough" documentation of requirements which encourages conversation between the developers and the product stakeholders. User Stories , the subject matter of this book, are one such way of documenting requirements, highly recommended by most of the agilists.
Mike Cohn, the author of this book, is an oft cited authority whenever the topic of user stories arises in Agile related discussions. Here he provides a very practical approach towards effectively using User Stories in the software development projects.
The book is in three parts consisting of twenty odd chapters.

Part I: Getting Started - Introduces the concept of User Stories , describes how they can be used and provides guidelines for writing good user stories.

Part II: . Estimating and Planning - Deals with estimation of User Stories in terms of Story Points; creation and subsequent refinement of release plans for high priority stories at the start of each iteration; tracking the progress of project and replanning based on the learnings from each iteration.

Part III: Frequently Discussed Topics— How User Stories differ from other requirements specification methods and the advantage User Stories have over such methods; How to identify the bad implementation of User Stories; How to address non-functional requirements through User stories.
Part IV: An Example— An extended case study running through five chapters provides an excellent example of how user stories are created, estimated, allocated to release plan and acceptance tested. 

All the chapters in the first three parts of the book have a set of exercise questions to test the understanding of  User Stories. The answers for these questions are also provided in the appendix. 

Most of the chapters also have a section on what are the Customer Responsibilities and Developer Responsibilities towards successful implementation of User Stories.

This book was published in 2004 and does not seem to have an updated edition yet. Therefore a couple of  User Story techniques developed by Mike Cohn which became popular later do not find a mention in this book.
For e.g., 
The Planning Poker - though a short description of this method is provided, it has not been named as such.
The popular template of writing a User Story - As a , I would like to so that .

But these are very minor limitations. Overall if you want to know anything about the User Stories, this is the GO-TO book !

Links to Extracts from this book
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