In this episode, we’ll explore Agile requirements and answer the question “Are User Stories requirements?”


After listening to this episode, you'll understand:

  • How requirements in Agile differ from Traditional environments
  • Why User Stories are a popular approach
  • How to be effective with User Stories
  • Whether or not User Stories are requirements


We’ve explored the differences in approaches to requirements elicitation and management in an Agile environment compared to a traditional approach before.  While you can use many of the same tools and techniques, the focus is different.

In an Agile context, we adopt a Lean mindset and value outcomes over outputs.  We want to achieve positive business outcomes while minimizing the amount of outputs (e.g., documents) we create.  This may mean a shift from large Business Requirements Documents (that no one reads) to whiteboard drawings, conversations, pictures, and minimal documentation.

Making this change requires a mindset shift and a change in our approach.  Instead of eliciting all of the requirements up front, we discover thinks in small increments.  This allows us to create fast feedback loops and adjust as we deliver solutions.

Through progressive elaboration, we increase the level of detail of the requirements incrementally.  Near term items will be more detailed and better defined than items that are farther away or lower priority.  This approach avoids the waste of detailing out information that will likely change as we learn more.


Types of Agile Requirements

There are many different approaches to articulating requirements in an Agile environment.

Some teams use Jobs To Be Done or Job Stories, which create an understanding of your customer’s goals or purpose when using products.  Other teams may use Use Case 2.0, which is a way of developing use cases to show system interactions that is well suited for an Agile environment.

Hypothesis Driven Development is gaining in popularity as a way of discovering the true needs and desires of your customers.  By starting with a hypothesis and crafting experiments, you are able to test assumptions about your products and customers.

The most popular way to document and create a shared understanding about what you’re building and why is User Stories.  However, you may also have technical stories and other enablers in your backlog as well.


User Stories

User Stories are powerful because they move us from writing requirements to discussing requirements.  They allow us to have a customer-centric focus and maximize outcomes while minimizing outputs.

When we think about applying User Stories, we keep the Three C’s in mind.  Card, Conversation, and Confirmation.

Card refers to the 3×5 index card upon which you would traditionally write your User Stories.  This means that User Stories are intended to be small.  They are placeholders to have a conversation in the future or a reminder of a conversation you’ve already had.

The second C, Conversation, is critical.  We can’t write something down, hand it off to someone, and expect them to develop the solution you intended.  We need to have a conversation.  That’s why User Stories are intentionally small and concise.

The final C is Confirmation.  This refers to the acceptance criteria.  The acceptance criteria (conditions of satisfaction) helps us to clarify understanding, lets us know when the User Story is done, and makes sure it’s testable.

Note that although User Stories are small and conversations are key, you can still include supporting artifacts with User Stories if needed.  Artifacts can include pictures of whiteboard drawings, critical specifications or design decisions, and mock-ups.


Listen to the full episode to find out more about requirements in an Agile context and whether or not User Stories are requirements.



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