User stories are one of the main format to record user needs in the Agile world. There is however a debate on the amount of information that should be available to the Scrum team before starting the sprint. In this article, Zuzi Šochová recommends to minimize the size of user stories and to define simple conditions of satisfaction instead of writing acceptance criteria.
Agile reminds us that the focus of any set of requirements needs to be on an outcome rather than a collection of whats and whos. Storytelling is a powerful tool to elevate even the most diehard requirements analyst from a discussion of individual requirements to a discussion of outcomes. Outcomes are the big picture that acts as an anchor for whole efforts and which is continuously broken down into more and more detailed product backlogs.
We all know the “Definition of Done” used in Scrum for items that should be potentially shippable to the customer at the end of the sprint. In his book Essential Scrum, Kenneth Rubin discusses the “Definition of Ready” that applies to product backlog items that should be ready to be developed before the start of the sprint.
If user stories are the start of the conversations to define user requirements, Scrum teams can also use other tools to obtain a more precise definition of these requirements. In the article “When and How to Create Customer Journey Maps”, Kate Williamson presents the concept of customer journey map, the visualization of the process that a person goes through in order to accomplish a goal, and when and how to use them.
It can be complicated to involve the whole team to facilitate product backlog refinement and take part in requirements discussions. I would like to suggest a structure of the PBR (product backlog refinement) meeting that will encourage everybody to speak up and share their ideas on functionality.
The creation of Agile approaches was also a reaction against huge and useless requirements documents, either textual or using modeling techniques like UML. All the values of the past should however not be discarded in the requirements activity. In his book “Agile Software Requirements”, Dean Leffingwell explains how user stories are different from use cases and software specifications.
Story mapping is a technique invented by Jeff Patton that order user stories along two independent dimensions. The “map” arranges user activities along the horizontal axis in rough order of priority. On the vertical axis, it represents increasing sophistication of the implementation. In his blog post, Sunit Parekh explains how you can apply story maps to build your product backlog in a visual way.