User Stories Should Be *Valuable*

Get insights in your inbox

I recently quoted the ‘Invest’ acronym as a way to remember and assess what makes a good User Story.

The *V* in ‘Invest’ stands for *Valuable*.

It is often said by people in the agile community that User Stories should be of value to the user.

Whilst that is mostly true, some User Stories are not of value to the user, but rather of value to the customer or owner of the system.

Therefore it is more accurate to say that, “User Stories should be of value to the user, or owner, of the solution”.

A good example of this is advertising space on a public web site. Ads can be of value to the user, if they are highly relevant and positioned in a place sensitive to the user experience. For example on Google. On the other hand, very often the ads on a web site are of little value to the user and interfere with content, creating a poor user experience. Of course I would never advocate creating a poor user experience, but regardless of the debate about value to the user, they are certainly of value to the owner of the solution.

User Stories should be focused on features – not tasks. And written in business language. Doing so will enable business people to understand and prioritise the User Stories.

For example, a User Story to ‘comply with OWASP security standards’ should be written something like this: ‘As a user, I want my data to be secure, so I can use the system without my personal information being misused’.

This brings me to the question of non-functional User Stories that in effect span all other User Stories. For example the above story about security, or maybe a user story about the solution’s performance. These can be captured as User Stories to ensure the requirement is not lost. But actually these requirements are possibly better served by writing a series of standard test cases to be applied to all User Stories.

So let’s take a look at my recent Example of a User Story in terms of being Valuable to the user or owner of the solution? An agile consultant saw this example and said it was not a good example because logging in to the solution is of no value to the user.

But in this case I disagree.

It is of value to the user, because only by logging in can they gain access to features and content that are available to subscribers only. And it’s also of value to the owner, as it prevents people from accessing premium areas of the solution unless they have paid to subscribe.