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13 April 2015

It's the little things | An Innovation on User Stories that matters

One of the great things about working at Aconex is that no two teams work in an identical way. Each team has it's own methods and techniques that it has developed.

We try to share good practices across the teams in various forums and channels, but that just keeps teams looking for their own new innovations to keep themselves distinct.

Let me share an example.  Below is a User Story card, a pretty straightforward artifact.

The front has the common "As a, I want" form, which is a default pattern across the industry.  This team use it regularly (but not dogmatically.) You'll see common signals that this is a team that interacts with the card - the size estimate has been adjusted from perhaps small to medium (M!). There is an icon that says this card is about revenue on the top right.

So far so good, but nothing super interesting...

But wait... there's more...

On the back of the card, and we are still in the land of common patterns here, we see the acceptance criteria for the card. Look closely at the picture ladies and gentlemen...

What do you see? Four, possibly five sets of handwriting.

"So what?" you ask. It may seem small, but it's a thing that we see all too rarely out in the wild.

Think for a second things we believe to be self evident truths;
  • When you write down notes you are more likely to remember what you were talking about because of the physical act of writing
  • When you put things in your own words you are internalising and then externalising the idea which does a better job of validating your understanding.
    • The alternative is that someone else says something and you have to acknowledge you understand or don't in a much more binary and less nuanced way
  • You can doodle and brainstorm ideas as you write
  • You don't have to wait your turn to speak and possibly miss out as the moment passes
  • You are better able to remember the context of what you have written days or hours later than if you simply read what someone else has written

So what are the implication of this innovation?  Why don't we see more whole team authorship of User Story cards?

Is it an anti-pattern that product owners and business owners are delegated the task of card writing?
Does the usual pattern of the BA/PO writing cards actively impede communication of ideas to developers who are going to execute the work? It's worth mulling over isn't it?