Hi there!

Last post 11:27 am August 20, 2014
by Charles Bradley
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05:31 am August 20, 2014

Hello fellow Scrum practitioners!

I've been searching for months for a scrum/agile related forum so im really glad to find a site like this.

Looking to pick the brains of other like minded individuals and get stuck into the discussion. I've recently discovered Agile scrum methodology so im fairly new to it but have learnt alot over the past 4 months or so and am now a true Scrum fanboy.

I wanted to start things off with a question about user stories. Getting them right seems to be a bit of an art form and while i understand all the key principles and have constructed a backlog from them there is one thing i am struggling with.

In our application we have some sizeable wizards that can take a single developer a long time to complete and at the moment there is a chance these get rolled over to the following sprint. Now while rolling over is fine im just wondering if there is a way of breaking down these user stories so that more than one developer can work on the same wizard while still keeping the sections they work on separate as outlined by the user story.

For example: "As a Care home manager I want to complete a pre-assessment for an enquiry so that I can see if they are eligble for my home"

This is a user story for the pre-assessment wizard, which obviously consists of multiple pages. If this cant be broken down any more then thats fine i understand, but i just want to know whether im doing it right or it could be improved upon.

11:27 am August 20, 2014

Ben,

Welcome to our forums. Based on your question, we need to start with some first principles:

1. User Stories are not part of Scrum. They are a "complementary practice" to help with representing Product Backlog Items. Other "complementary practices" in this area are: Use Cases, Acceptance Tests, Scenarios, etc. User Stories are a very popular and proven practice, though, so it's ok to use them with Scrum.

2. The sentence you described is not a user story. It is 1/3 of a user story. See more here:
http://www.scrumcrazy.com/User+Story+Basics+-+What+is+a+User+Story%3F

3. Rolling a story over is not "just fine". The point of Scrum is to create Potentially Releasable Increments(PRI) *every* sprint, and you likely cannot release unfinished stories. You might be able to release a small, thin, slice of a story, that is at least usable, but might not contain the full user experience you're going for. Including thin, tested, slices in a PRI is ok. So, to avoid "rolling over", get good at creating small, thinly sliced, stories. This is usually not a hugely easy skill to pick up for people who are not used to it -- but those of us who have persisted in our learning have learned how to do it.

4. Once you get stories small enough, then you might not need more than one programmer to work on the story, though swarming on stories is also a good practice. Get good at slicing stories small first, then consider trying to improve the swarming capability of your team. Leave it up to the programmers to figure out how to divy up tech tasks.

The real trick with breaking a User Story down is a collaboration between the PO and Dev Team. Often times, it is much easier to break a story down once you've established the acceptance criteria. That gets pretty difficult over the internet.
See here: http://www.scrumcrazy.com/It%27s+Difficult+to+Give+User+Story+Advice+ov…

The best advice I can give based on what you've given us here is this: Try to create an end to end version of the wizard that handles only the most basic case -- maybe that's the happy path, or maybe that's an error path. Slice there, then continue adding slices and more functionality. More info on slicing stories here:
http://www.richardlawrence.info/2012/01/27/new-story-splitting-resource/

And finally, please remember that the "As a <user>" template is not part of the User Story practice itself. It is a technique some guy added later, and a lot of trainers teach it because it's simple to teach and because they don't really understand the User Story practice. That sentence itself is not a user story. It's 1/3 of a user story, and my general advice is to NEVER spend anything more than about 60 seconds crafting the sentence, if you even both to do so. It's especially damaging and wasteful to require that every story have a template sentence. Said another way, a user story only requires a title, a "memory peg" if you will, so that conversations and estimates can be tracked along with it. That title need only be a few words like "Pre-Assessment wizard part 1", then later slices can be "PA Wizard part 2", "PA Wizard - part 3", etc.