ALCMY™ Sessions: Stories About Stories

User stories is a great tool to foster learning and collaboration in software development teams. However, it’s not particularly easy to write and develop an effective User story.

We recently hosted ProductTank Birmingham to discuss key insights on User stories.

What is a User Story?

A User story is a short and simple description of a product feature from the perspective of the user. User stories help to build a shared understanding, facilitate conversations and create alignment between the key stakeholders in the product lifecycle.

Most of us are familiar with setting a product vision where you translate business strategy into product strategy at a very high level. However, for many businesses, a major pitfall is breaking down the strategy into a set of features, User journeys and technical solutions that will deliver real value to end users.

Throughout the lifecycle of developing your product, it’s important to keep the end user at the centre and absolute top priority of your development process. You need to anticipate what their needs and preferences are so that you can create a better experience for them, encourage them to continue using your product and promote it to their friends.

Right now you’re asking yourself;

  • How do I go about translating my product vision into a set of User stories?
  • How do I prioritise this set of User stories so that I can test, measure and learn my business assumptions quickly?
  • Where do I start?

User Story Mapping is one of the solutions that will point you to the correct start line in your product journey discovery.

What is a User Story Map?

User Story Mapping is a technique that provides you with the tools that you need to envisage the entire product as a series of tasks, activities and goals your intended users will need to complete a job.

This technique will help you to walk through the User’s journey, thereby keeping them in the driver’s seat and helping you not to get lost in long-winded product feature discussions as your users will be the front and centre of every decision you’re making.

User Story Mapping involves building a grid of User stories which are laid out under key activities that represent the user’s experience moving through your product. The key activities represent part of your core value proposition to your end users. Each activity is broken down into component user stories giving you context and clarity on the tasks that need to be completed to deliver value to your end users.

This user-focused approach will lead to more satisfied customers and will help visualise user stories that deliver value.

Here are 5 key things you need to ensure effective User Story Maps:

Build a clear picture of your user profiles.

You need to be able to build a comprehensive understanding of your users both at a demographic and psychographic level.

You will need to understand the following about the users :

  • Jobs To Be Done
    What jobs are your primary users hiring your products to get done? ( See talk below: Jobs To Be Done by Clayton Christensen)
  • Pains
    What Pains are your users trying to solve with your product and services?
    What are the bad outcomes, risks and obstacles they are trying to avoid in relation to the jobs to be done?

Understand your value proposition.

After you have identified your customer profiles, you will need to look at each profile as objectively as possible to pinpoint the key pains and gains you can solve with your product. You will need to establish the different aspects of your product activities that are Pain relievers and Gain creators.

Breakdown user activities to a set of small achievable User Stories.

Once you have identified the key activities that are Pain relievers and Gain creators, you can now start breaking down the activities into a series of small achievable tasks that will eventually deliver value to your end users.

Prioritise your stories in order of impact to the end user.

You can now start to rank the key user activities with their corresponding User stories in order of impact to the end user i.e. from the most impactful to the least impactful.

Identify, Discuss and Solve (IDS) problems.

As the User Story Map starts to form, watch out for missing information, bottlenecks and potential issues that might arise further down the software development cycle, in order to start identifying solutions.

The User Story Mapping exercise provides the framework that you need in your team to facilitate conversations, and visually represent ideas about how to best deliver the most value to your users and the business as early as possible.

One thing to remember is that the User Story Map is not set in stone and should always be considered as a work in progress. Through your test, measure, learn and adapt cycles, the User Story Map should be changed and adapted accordingly.