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User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development

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The concept of user stories has its roots as one of the main tenets of Extreme Programming. In simple terms, user stories represent an effective means of gathering requirements from the customer (roughly akin to use cases). This book describes user stories and demonstrates how they can be used to properly plan, manage, and test software development projects. The book highl The concept of user stories has its roots as one of the main tenets of Extreme Programming. In simple terms, user stories represent an effective means of gathering requirements from the customer (roughly akin to use cases). This book describes user stories and demonstrates how they can be used to properly plan, manage, and test software development projects. The book highlights both successful and unsuccessful implementations of the concept, and provides sets of questions and exercises that drive home its main points. After absorbing the lessons in this book, readers will be able to introduce user stories in their organizations as an effective means of determining precisely what is required of a software application.


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The concept of user stories has its roots as one of the main tenets of Extreme Programming. In simple terms, user stories represent an effective means of gathering requirements from the customer (roughly akin to use cases). This book describes user stories and demonstrates how they can be used to properly plan, manage, and test software development projects. The book highl The concept of user stories has its roots as one of the main tenets of Extreme Programming. In simple terms, user stories represent an effective means of gathering requirements from the customer (roughly akin to use cases). This book describes user stories and demonstrates how they can be used to properly plan, manage, and test software development projects. The book highlights both successful and unsuccessful implementations of the concept, and provides sets of questions and exercises that drive home its main points. After absorbing the lessons in this book, readers will be able to introduce user stories in their organizations as an effective means of determining precisely what is required of a software application.

30 review for User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development

  1. 4 out of 5

    Aleksander

    User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development is a decent introduction to user stories. The book could have benefitted from more depth on user stories and a little less breadth on adjoining topics. It is from 2004 and is starting to show its age. The user story is a frequently used tool in agile software development methods such as eXtreme Programming (XP) and Scrum. It is used both for documenting the existence of a requirement and as a worm package for use in scope planning and schedulin User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development is a decent introduction to user stories. The book could have benefitted from more depth on user stories and a little less breadth on adjoining topics. It is from 2004 and is starting to show its age. The user story is a frequently used tool in agile software development methods such as eXtreme Programming (XP) and Scrum. It is used both for documenting the existence of a requirement and as a worm package for use in scope planning and scheduling. This is possible due to the incremental nature of agile methods. Work is decomposed into work packaged along user goal and contain all or at least most of the steps in the software development lifecycle. This in contrast with sequential methods where the work is decomposed by type instead. User stories with the addition of conditions for satisfaction (high-level acceptance test cases) is the most important artefact in the communication between the customer team and development team. This interface is probably the hardest to get right in IT and being to able to write good user stories would be a great boon. The book is from 2004 and is beginning to show its age. I think Cohn might have changed his mind on some things since then, for instance on the use of ideal days as the measure of a story point. Scrum no longer insists on 30-day sprints. The Wideband Delphi technique for estimating user stories described by Cohn is now usually referred to as planning poker. The age becomes apparent in another way as well. For some reason Cohn writes a lot about subjects only tangentially related user stories. There are even introductions to both Scrum and eXtreme Programming in there. That might have made sense in a time where these were not as well known as they are today. Despite this, the book is a decent introduction to user stories, what they are, how to write them and how to use them, complete with a case study. It is pretty short, not a bad thing per se, but it also tries to cover a great range of topics. This means there is not much space left to go into detail on the user stories themselves. I would have liked more both on developing roles and personas and on the "trawling" for user stories. As it is, anyone already familiar with agile methods will find them selves skipping big parts of the book. As always with Cohn, the book is well written and easy to follow.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael Staten

    Written from an engineer's perspective, it provides a good overview of the Agile Methodology but an uninformed approach to requirements gathering / needs assessment.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nahuel Franchi

    Works well both as an introduction to agile practices with a focus on user stories and I can strongly recommend it if you are new to Agile as a whole. Works very well also in case you have experience with agile practices, but less theoretical background on why certain practices work the way they do, I also recommend if you have previous experience in Agile, software development or project management. Very well written and easy to follow.

  4. 5 out of 5

    M_moatassem

    One of the best books I have read about Agile approach. Focusing on the User Stories as the center of the Agile methodology, it provides very useful and practical information; regarding how to write good stories, and how to use them as a reliable tool for estimation and planning.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Thuys

    Dig very much down into user stories, but just part one seems enough to know what they are, everything else is the matter of managing product development process which applies user stories, not really about the user stories themselves.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gavin

    I recently learned a fundamental dichotomy in expressing oneself: you use either the 'esoteric' or the 'exoteric' mode. (The exoteric writer says exactly what she means, minimises ambiguity and tries to do everything with explicit reasoning, for the largest audience they can, with imagery and irony only as decoration. The esoteric writer – distinct from, but often coextensive with the woo-woo mystical metaphysics fans also called esoteric – does the converse. Most ancient writers wrote esoterica I recently learned a fundamental dichotomy in expressing oneself: you use either the 'esoteric' or the 'exoteric' mode. (The exoteric writer says exactly what she means, minimises ambiguity and tries to do everything with explicit reasoning, for the largest audience they can, with imagery and irony only as decoration. The esoteric writer – distinct from, but often coextensive with the woo-woo mystical metaphysics fans also called esoteric – does the converse. Most ancient writers wrote esoterically, which is one reason that undergrads and other fools, like me, think that ancient writers are vague and low on content. Up to now, I have been confusing the rhetorical stance - see Heidegger, Deleuze, Derrida, Caputo - with the magickal crap. But so much of the Analytic / Continental divide can be explained in this single distinction! [The revival of the distinction is due to that lionized demon Leo Strauss.] Maths is an interesting border case, but its clarity and attempt to destroy ambiguity make it exoteric, I think.) The exoteric intention strikes me as firstly just good manners and important for intellectual honesty (accountability, critical clarity). But one thing I dislike about studying computer science is that all the materials are utterly exoteric. I crave art and irreverence in formal contexts, and those are always at least somewhat esoteric. The ‘Agile’ software thing strikes me as good, a way of making the hag-ridden and monstrously expensive dev process work. But all the material around Agile, LEAN (and the wider business-marketing-HR-systems theory blah that represents most employed adults’ only engagement with passably academic work) is so exoteric that something in me rebels.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Clay Siefken

    I returned to this book recently when there was some questioning about what made a user story, a "good" user story. The "INVEST" acronym originated here. Returning to the book these days almost feels quaint because of the references to Extreme Programming (XP) which has declined in practice. While the user stories concept still holds sway in hearts and minds of software professionals everywhere, there isn't much academic rigor in here. The humble user story is very much at the heart of the Agile I returned to this book recently when there was some questioning about what made a user story, a "good" user story. The "INVEST" acronym originated here. Returning to the book these days almost feels quaint because of the references to Extreme Programming (XP) which has declined in practice. While the user stories concept still holds sway in hearts and minds of software professionals everywhere, there isn't much academic rigor in here. The humble user story is very much at the heart of the Agile movement, so it's good to return to these roots and remember where this all came from -- a desire to be nimble and lightweight. (Ironically the lack of rigor to this idea and the overuse of jargon has created something of a cargo cult that has been a disservice to the adoption of DevOps because Agile has not traditionally concerned itself with implementation specifics.) The term, "epic," which is literally just a big user story, also originated here. It's quite a long book for how simple the concept is. Reads more like a textbook. The book is good as an archaeological dig but the Patton book on Story Mapping is way better for practical understanding what stories are truly good for - placeholders for shared understanding of a need.

  8. 5 out of 5

    John Tangney

    Fantastic! I was very impressed with how this subject was treated. Very clear, plenty of background explication, just the kind of clear approach that I wish I was better at. I generally point ppl to Bill Wake’s INVEST acronym and leave it at that :-( He even goes into roles, which is something that I started doing back in the 80’s as I learned about what we used to call “user-centered design”. Mr. Cohn did a good job. However, some subjects are no longer relevant in modern agile dev, such as esti Fantastic! I was very impressed with how this subject was treated. Very clear, plenty of background explication, just the kind of clear approach that I wish I was better at. I generally point ppl to Bill Wake’s INVEST acronym and leave it at that :-( He even goes into roles, which is something that I started doing back in the 80’s as I learned about what we used to call “user-centered design”. Mr. Cohn did a good job. However, some subjects are no longer relevant in modern agile dev, such as estimating using story points. And Scrum’s heavy-weight process is definitely not required. One more nit: Almost all non-functional requirements can and should be expressed as Stories; Mr. Cohn glosses over this with a silly example. If a requirement exists - functional or otherwise - it must deliver value to a customer, which means it can be expressed as a Story. If not, you really should question whether it’s needed. But I digress. Overall, the book does what the cover suggests and it does it well. I’m recommending it to my new team. I might even buy them each a copy...

  9. 5 out of 5

    Emre Sevinç

    This short book promises to explain what User Stories are, what they aren't, how to create and utilize them within an Agile/XP approach, and finally how to bring everything together in a short, yet relatively realistic case study. It delivers exactly what it promises and the exercises at the end of the chapters, although not always very well crafted, help the reader to capture the essence of each chapter, as well as focus on the pitfalls. It is not repetitive and does not try to be everything fo This short book promises to explain what User Stories are, what they aren't, how to create and utilize them within an Agile/XP approach, and finally how to bring everything together in a short, yet relatively realistic case study. It delivers exactly what it promises and the exercises at the end of the chapters, although not always very well crafted, help the reader to capture the essence of each chapter, as well as focus on the pitfalls. It is not repetitive and does not try to be everything for every type of software developer, and that I consider another positive point. No matter what methodology you use, software development is a challenging task, and even if your favorite method is Agile or a variation of it, you'll need hard earned experience and probably more than just one book, but if I had to recommend only one introductory book to someone who wants to get the essence of creating User Stories to capture most of the aspects of end user software, then this book would be it

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ben Clohesy

    Overall, it's not too bad - I'm on the 3.5 rating really (4 stars for me is "yes I'll read again). I'll probably refer back to it every now and then, but am more likely to go to Mike's website if I want more specific information. I came at this as a BA with a fair bit of experience and was looking a quick light and easily digestible overview of stories - which this is. However, as another reviewer has noted, this book is definitely coming at the topic from the perspective of a software engineer, Overall, it's not too bad - I'm on the 3.5 rating really (4 stars for me is "yes I'll read again). I'll probably refer back to it every now and then, but am more likely to go to Mike's website if I want more specific information. I came at this as a BA with a fair bit of experience and was looking a quick light and easily digestible overview of stories - which this is. However, as another reviewer has noted, this book is definitely coming at the topic from the perspective of a software engineer, not a BA or requirements person. So if you're a BA and reading this book, check your chip on your shoulder at the door, then just plow through it. The book is pretty well written and very easy to read - there feels to be a little bit of padding but that's fine. Feels a little out of date in some ways, but would recommend as a primer. - B.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bart Decaigny

    Two stars might not seem much... but I honnestly don't think it should be much more. It's worth reading for having a baseline of the concept of user stories, but a whole book about a (simple) concept is quite a lot, especially as the example used throughout the book is pretty shallow. In practice, half of what is gone over quickly (e.g. non-functional requirements, refactoring): that simply doesn't work out with user stories. Good for somebody just starting with some agile concepts, but too simp Two stars might not seem much... but I honnestly don't think it should be much more. It's worth reading for having a baseline of the concept of user stories, but a whole book about a (simple) concept is quite a lot, especially as the example used throughout the book is pretty shallow. In practice, half of what is gone over quickly (e.g. non-functional requirements, refactoring): that simply doesn't work out with user stories. Good for somebody just starting with some agile concepts, but too simplistic to even consider using stand-alone. Fortunately (albeit too slowly) methodologies used have started taking the shortcomings into account and use a fuller framework.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sicofonia

    This book is from 2004 and I found it has aged a lot. Reading for the first time in 2019, I find it barely scratches the surface of User Stories. Don't get me wrong, it is a good introduction to the topic. But I would combine it with User Story Mapping, as mapping the stories provides an excellent way of having that first story workshop that will generate stories. Another aspect I didn't like was the fact the book is full of typos!! All in all, a good introductory book to one requirements gathering This book is from 2004 and I found it has aged a lot. Reading for the first time in 2019, I find it barely scratches the surface of User Stories. Don't get me wrong, it is a good introduction to the topic. But I would combine it with User Story Mapping, as mapping the stories provides an excellent way of having that first story workshop that will generate stories. Another aspect I didn't like was the fact the book is full of typos!! All in all, a good introductory book to one requirements gathering tool. Just make sure it is not your only tool. I cannot recommend it though, I know Mike Cohn now has an online course on this. So maybe that is something to check.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tolique Iurkin

    It answered on many questions I collected over the years by writing stories in a very simple manner. Here are my top findings: - Stories should be as a slice of a cake. Story should fit in the sprint and should include all layers of the application; - Story should be closed with an achievement; - Keep the UI Out as Long as Possible; - Keep user stories short, and don't forget their purpose as reminders to hold conversations; - INVEST story principals: independent, negotiable, valuable to the user, s It answered on many questions I collected over the years by writing stories in a very simple manner. Here are my top findings: - Stories should be as a slice of a cake. Story should fit in the sprint and should include all layers of the application; - Story should be closed with an achievement; - Keep the UI Out as Long as Possible; - Keep user stories short, and don't forget their purpose as reminders to hold conversations; - INVEST story principals: independent, negotiable, valuable to the user, small, testable. - Accepting Responsibility. At the end of an iteration no one can say "I finished my work, but Tom still had a few tasks left.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Aditya Kulkarni

    I believe as I am reading this in 2018, there are some inherent biases I have about how to write a user story. While it made me revisit the basics of a user story, it is worthwhile to mention that readers WILL need a grasp of their own organization/team members in order to implement these practices. All in all, a good read indeed, for those who are just starting with user stories, this book will definitely help. I liked the part where Mike has explained the core of story-pointing. When estimating I believe as I am reading this in 2018, there are some inherent biases I have about how to write a user story. While it made me revisit the basics of a user story, it is worthwhile to mention that readers WILL need a grasp of their own organization/team members in order to implement these practices. All in all, a good read indeed, for those who are just starting with user stories, this book will definitely help. I liked the part where Mike has explained the core of story-pointing. When estimating the stories, I am going to use those tips for sure!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mario Sailer

    A classic about User Stories and iteration planning that is a bit outdated. For someone new to the field this book might be a good introduction into User Stories and iteration planning. For someone familiar with the topics it is a good refresher but there is nothing tremendously new and innovative. The content is geared toward agile development teams performing an IT project without to much dependencies. Questions that arise when one has to deal with bigger organizations (two or more teams. prog A classic about User Stories and iteration planning that is a bit outdated. For someone new to the field this book might be a good introduction into User Stories and iteration planning. For someone familiar with the topics it is a good refresher but there is nothing tremendously new and innovative. The content is geared toward agile development teams performing an IT project without to much dependencies. Questions that arise when one has to deal with bigger organizations (two or more teams. programs, end-to-end processes, etc.) are not handled her.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dalan

    Lucidly written. Great way to wrap your head around the topic. Has a good amount of examples to help one understand the concepts and process well. Book feels a bit dated with (now laughable) lines like "Most software projects will do best with a new release every two to six months. Certain website projects may release even more frequently" but nonetheless most of the content felt useful even in 2018.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Iryna Lomachynska

    Great book for those who are new for User Stories. It explains clearly and with many examples the User Stories lifecycle: from the user roles identification, creating personas, brainstorming the stories, making decomposition to esrtimation and progress tracking.

  18. 4 out of 5

    TruongSinh Tran-Nguyen

    Most parts are good, coming from the author's own experience and opinion. However, this book refers to oudated, sometimes contradicted concept of the latest 2017 ScrumGuide. I expected some budgeting and financial planing for projects and releases but didn't see them in this book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Steven Ricks

    This book has largely become unnecessary since it's initial publication. The contents are still accurate and relevant, but an hour or two on Google and Wikipedia (or a couple of days attending agile ceremonies) will entirely preclude the need to read this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Marianna

    This book gives some practical info about user stories and the examples included can help you understand how to write good user stories. Despite my concern that it might be a bit outdated, I feel like I will refer back to the book from time to time.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Francisco

    Very good book This is an essential lecture book for all professionals that wants to get a better understanding of user stories and how to apply it. I think that today is a classical book in the library of everyone dedicated to agile.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Artem

    I found it interesting and useful. The book well describes the essentials of user stories and application of it. The examples are given from the the perspective of customer vs development team. To me, the missing part is model when the development team is also an owner of a product they create.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ankit Agrawal

    Great read, a complete insight into user stories with questions and an example project !! What else could you ask for ....

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hung Cao

    Must read for BA doing agile

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tiago Palhoto

    GReat book from the master of the user stories.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ana Schiopu

    I’m not a big fan of self teaching books, but this one is an interesting read to anyone learning/using agile developement in their current job. Quite well defined terms, rules, roles, workflows etc.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chandan Khatwani

    Another great book by Mike. Get your client on board with user stories.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    Torn between a 3 or a 4. This is a good book for the beginner. I feel the book may be a little outdated. I expected a little more in-depth detail from an entire book about user stories.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marco Bizzarri

    Nice book about user stories from XP; it includes a chapter on how to adapt the User Stories to Scrum.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Chogsom

    Good reference point and insight for junior product managers.

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