Almost Effortless

Like a warm knife through butter.

That’s what it feels like when you’re doing what you do best. The process comes so naturally that you hardly think about it. It’s like breathing, only more fun.

Being dropped into a new project is scary for some. As a business analyst with significant scar tissue, I love it.

The initial overwhelm is normal. Exhilarating even. I’ve learned to embrace it and trust the process of discovery and assimilation that has become second nature. I slake my curiosity with new information. There are new relationships to mine — both human and digital.

Armed with patience and a quiver of questions, chaos becomes order. Wishlists get prioritized. Vague narrative tightens. Chaff is removed, revealing an MVP of wheat. Within days, makers can begin building. What was an jumble of mental wood is now neat stacks of like-sized lumber. With clarity comes the power to plan. Dreams becomes artist sketches of what will be. Activity becomes production.

A product is born.

 

Image credit: Carey Tilden (Butter) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A Tale of Two Stories

SAME USER STORY – TWO VERSIONS

Both of the following are legitimate Agile User Stories. They are very different because they would be consumed by very different types of teams. The overriding principle is know your audience and write for them.

Story 1 is appropriate for a US-based start-up team. They have a good relationship with a co-located Product Owner who can spend time with them as needed to answer questions, give guidance on design, and provide feedback on mock-ups or prototypes. This is generally considered an ideal environment for an Agile development team. Because the team has a UX designer on board and a strong lead developer, they do not want the User Stories to be prescriptive in nature. In this environment the Agile BA must give stories a light touch, but provide enough clarity to allow for estimation and prioritization.

Story 2 is for an offshore team that does all the coding but works through a BA or design lead based in the US. The team understands English pretty well and the company does not want the overhead of formal functional specifications. The developers are used to working in a short turnaround loop with a remote liaison. The cross-cultural challenge as well as the remote location and time-shifted work require more detail in the story to prevent confusion, provide consistent naming and UI, and to lower the delay caused by many back-and-forth questions.

BUSINESS SCENARIO

Internal sales staff receive new leads through a form submitted on the company website. The leads arrive by email and the staff must relay the leads to the appropriate salesperson based on the geography of the prospect. An internal sales portal is being built/configured to allow in-house staff to enter the raw information from sales leads. The system will then route the lead to the right sales rep based on geographic mapping. The user must also be able to work from a list of printed lead information.

STORY TITLE

“Enter New Sales Lead”

USER STORY 1 – STARTUP TEAM

As a sales user, I want to send a new sales lead to the appropriate regional sales rep so that the rep can quickly contact the prospect.

Acceptance Tests

  1. When I enter all required contact information, then the system saves and routes the lead.
  2. When I omit any required field, then the system informs me about the missing information without losing any of the data I have already entered.
  3. When I successfully enter and save a new lead, the system displays a success message containing the name and email of the last lead entered.

USER STORY 2 – OFFSHORE DEVELOPMENT

As a sales user, I want to enter personal information about a new sales prospect and save* it to the sales lead database so that the appropriate regional sales rep can quickly contact the prospect.

Required Fields:

  • First Name (20 characters)
  • Last Name (20 characters)
  • Email Address (validate format as user@domainName.tld)
  • Phone Number [formatted as (NNN) NNN-NNNN after entry]
  • City (30 characters; minimum of 3 characters)
  • State (drop-down list of US States, showing abbreviation and name, sorted alphabetically by Abbreviation, display format: AA – XXXXXXXX; Data source: http://www.50states.com/abbreviations.htm)
  • Zip Code (10 characters; minimum of 5 characters)

Acceptance Tests:

  1. When I enter all required contact information, then the system saves* the record.
  2. When I omit any required field, then the system informs me about the missing information without losing any of the data I have already entered into the fields on the screen.
  3. When I successfully enter and save a new lead, the system displays a success message containing the name and email of the last lead entered.
  4. When a new lead is saved, the entry screen is cleared and reset, ready for a new lead to be entered.

 

* You’ll note that the language of the second story and related tests has been made more limited. My experience with offshore teams suggests that requirements should be narrowed to prevent unwanted work. Whereas the co-located team would likely spin off a new “Route Sales Lead” story, a remote team that earns money by the hour might choose, without asking, to make the ‘routing’ part of the original story. You can argue that the original story be treated as an Epic and automatically split into smaller bites, but that is beyond the scope of this small article.

Feedback Please (but really, go away)

Yes, it’s the end of 2016 and forms like this really do exist.

What’s your take — do they want my feedback or not? The size of the buttons are telling, I think.

That, and the absence of an attachment option. I mean, describing technical issues is always better in text than with a screenshot, right?