Miscommunication in software specifications.

There are often misunderstandings in software specification documents. The solution we typically choose is to make more detailed specifications. Unfortuantely that doesn't lead to better results
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An experience I recently had

I was waiting online to chat with a service representative. Of course I ended up chatting to a bot for a while which wasn’t very helpful in my case. After a while I was transferred to a real human being. While I was waiting this was my experience in WhatsApp (see image). Waiting time in these messages should have been the time you still have to wait, according to the text. The developer has seemingly implemented it as the time you are already waiting…..

That makes for a pretty bad customer experience:

    1. The customer expects to be answered very quickly

    1. The customer receives a WhatsApp message every minute


Origin of User Stories

In my Product Owner training I always emphasize that the job of a Product Owner is not to write better User Stories, but to tell better stories from users.

User Stories originated when Kent Beck, the founder of eXtreme Programming (XP), received feedback from a user who was so excited to receive new functionality that the idea arose to try to predefine the user’s response. What is the response you hope to get from the user when they are able to use the new functionality?

To make it easier, Ron Jeffries has created a template for it. If you work with Agile or Scrum, you have probably seen it.


As a <type of user>
I want <some function>
So that <some value>


They describe WHO, WHAT and WHY (please note; not HOW).


Misuse of User Stories

The mistake that is often made is that this template is seen as the new way to record requirement specifications. By trying to capture requirements in the template that have no relation to the user at all. For example:


As a Developer I want a Database so that I can store my data.
As a Product Owner I need a report so that I can show it to the CEO.


Entire documents and blocks of text are also attached to items in Jira, TFS, etc.

That is not what User Stories are intended for, they are the basis for Social Requirements gathering, or having better conversations with each other about the users and functionality between developers and users. As an alternative to users, you can also use representatives or also called stakeholders for this, but they must really understand and be able to represent the users.

As Coach of the first XP team, Ron Jeffries introduced the 3 C’s: Card, Conversation, and Confirmation.

    • Card: An index card with title and one or two sentences of explanation.

    • Conversation: Discussion with the entire team about what is desired

    • Confirmation: Record how to determine whether it complies

User Stories don’t have to be perfectly defined before the conversation takes place with the team. During the #BacklogRefinement, the definition of the User Story can be adjusted and Acceptance Criteria can be rewritten or added.


How we can help

If you are interested to have better conversations, take a look at our User Story Mapping Workshop

We will also discuss this in our Certified Scrum Product Owner training, see our schedule below.



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