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INVEST in Your Stories – 4 Huge Benefits if You Do

INVEST in your stories to create better user stories
INVEST in your user stories to improve the information detail, allowing the team to create higher quality work. In turn you will deliver business value on your software projects.

Writing the user story is key in Agile software development. A valuable framework to help write good stories is INVEST. With this, you will write clearer stories. Stories that enable teams to go execute on the work. What does it mean to INVEST in your stories? In the following, I will define each piece of INVEST. I will then list out some benefits of using this with your stories. INVEST in your stories to see improvement in product delivery.

INVEST In Your Stories — What Does It Mean?

Table of Contents

Independent

The work can stand on its own. It can be coded, tested, and implemented. Without being dependent on other work or other factors. This helps the team to keep timelines small. While still delivering progress along the way. A key idea in incremental software delivery or progress. Organize the user story so it is stand-alone, and it will enable the team to complete the work. Deliverables can be met without being tied to other work.

Negotiable

Work is flexible to the point where it can be modified in scope. This allows effort to be reduced as needed. In turn, it promotes alignment of work to team capacity. It will happen where you need to decide what work can be done and what can’t be done. Decisions that determine the work, so that work can be completed. This requires you to remove features or move out of the sprint. Allowing other work to be continued. Which in turn allows for higher priority work to be completed.

Valuable

The work will deliver or prompt gain in measurable benefit. By completing this work, you will gain something. Value is key in driving priority of the work. The work being done should be able to demonstrate value. If there is not a clear value to the work, it may need to be refined or possibly move o the product backlog. It can be done at a later time, and not put off other higher-value work. Prioritize the high-value work first.

Estimable

The work effort can be understood. This includes all work to complete the task. Coding, testing and implementation of the work. Allowing the team to understand the work it takes, allows them to plan for that work. Thus being able to place work into sprints, or iterations, and deliver according to a plan.

Small

Work effort is small enough. Where the time to deliver the work is manageable. Typically where the work can be done in a sprint or iteration. Another key idea in incremental and iterative delivery. Building progress via small pieces of work. Keep work smaller in order to achieve this building in pieces. Agile teams will thrive when they have many smaller work items they can go execute on that add value.

Testable

Knowing how to tell if the work was implemented and working. Or if it was successful in meeting its goals. Also, this is how you tell if you gain what you expected from the work. Quality software can’t be built without testing effort, and if the work done is not able to be tested, it is very difficult to know if it brings value. Being able to test changes is never something you look back on and wish you hadn’t done, but the opposite often seems to happen.

Benefits If You INVEST In Your Stories

  1. Understand the work — The team understands the work better. By following these concepts, the work is built out with details that help work to be done. More clear and concise Agile requirements and acceptance criteria help the team in so many ways. Mostly, they help the team understand the user story and more easily deliver the work.
  2. Incremental progress — The progress will be able to be seen in pieces. As pieces of Agile project work are completed, they stack together. Achieving smaller goals, but also working towards larger goals. This incremental progress is a big gain when you INVEST in your stories.
  3. Deliver on goals — INVEST in your stories to improve delivery. All aspects of INVEST help the team to be able to complete work. Then, if that work is valuable, which is part of INVEST, you are then delivering valuable work.
  4. Efficiency in delivery — With the team able to understand the work and the team working on incremental work, efficiency is increased. Agile teams will start to take on incremental work, start it, finish it, and move on to the next task. The speed of this will increase as their practice on these concepts increases. Cross functional teams are skilled in creating software, and with better stories, they will be even better in delivery. Reducing time-to-market of your most important product development.

Last Thoughts

If your team is having issues with story writing, this concept will help. It is a powerful framework to help shape the information presented in stories. Agile development requires enough information to paint the picture on goals and allow the team to get started. But if you try to get too much information, you grind the entire process to a halt. Creating stories according to these ideas will enable the team to see continuous improvement in story quality and enable that to translate into better work on your software projects.

In systems development, INVEST is one of the more powerful Agile tools you can use. As an Agile method, it helps to find that balance in creating user stories. Use it, and INVEST in your stories to see improvement!

Additional reading and Books