When to Prepare and Write User Stories?

Writing user stories

One of the major tasks of product managers in every software company is defining product roadmap and features which finally leads to user stories.

What are user stories?


I would say that:

User stories are the story a user is going to have when using your product. This story includes what user is going to do. There is a common framework for writing user stories.

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A user story has the following format.

As a [product user persona] I want to [action] so that I [expected result]

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Example of a user story:

Imagine you are writing user story for a login page of your mobile application. Based on this framework your use story will be like this:

As a user I want to login into the application so that I can write my notes.

Every user story needs some acceptance criteria which tells the developer about the expectations you have as the product manager for this story.

Who writes user stories?

Product manager is responsible for the future of the product and holds the vision. He is the person who definitely knows more about the future than everybody else in the company. He has done tons of research and is always thinking and planning for the next steps. The steps to bring the product closer to success.

Since he is the one knowing about the next steps of the product he is the one who is mainly responsible for defining and writing user stories. But this is not a must, there are also many other people with different roles in the team who also know about next actions.

As a product manager it is your role to communicate the vision and talk about the next steps with your team movers so that they can also help you.

Letting them know about the next steps will bring their support to you. The support is not only about doing their job well. This support could be about helping you by giving you their opinions and thoughts about the product.

Another aspect is helping you doing your typical daily tasks. One of the tasks that really drain your energy and you must be doing it on a daily/weekly basis is writing user stories. Letting them know about the next steps and user scenarios makes it possible to ask for their help. You can talk about the feature you are going to have in the next sprint and then ask them help you in writing user stories. A good point is that when they are the consumer of user stories, you can also learn from them how they like the user stories be and you can follow their method for the following user stories.

When to write user stories?

User stories are being used during scrum sprints. In fact prior the beginning of each sprint you need to have a list of user stories to choose from during the sprint planning meeting.

In fact you should always have a warehouse of user stories so that whenever the sprint planning is close you can easily choose from them. Meaning that you should put some time for writing your future sprints’ user stories during each sprint.

There are different point of views to this subject.

1- Put some time every day

You can put some time every day and by the end of each sprint you have your required user stories ready to be consumed for the sprint planning.

This method follows the compound effect which is demonstrated as doing things in small portions for a long time so that at the end you have it finished on time. If you are going to try this method you need to put a period of time during each day when you have the most focus. Writing user stories requires complete focus on the job because you need to be aware of every action you are going to design for the product. Sometimes the action you are initiating might affect other parts of the product and you absolutely need focus in order to make it right and consider all other aspects.

This is a method that most of product managers use. This help you complete each epic of the product over the time. The point is that you can think about the user stories during the day and prepare for changes if required after thinking or talking to other people regarding the problem you are going to solve.

2- Set a whole day per week

You can set a whole day each week for writing user stories only.

Some product managers choose this method because it lets them laser focus on the job and go into the dept of each user story when writing it. It also allows you to consider other aspects when defining the user stories. This way you have to free up your entire day from meetings, calls, decision makings, etc. in order to have the mind focused on the task. You start from the beginning of the day and tell everybody that you need to focus, so please do not disturb unless it is really critical and needs my cooperation.

If your scrum sprints are 2 weeks each, you have two days to write the user stories.

What is your preferred way of preparing and writing user stories?

I have personally tried both methods. I can’t say which one is definitely better to use or to always use. I have taken a combination of them. Depending on the time and criticality of the sprint or next actions or even next deadlines I choose a different method.

If you are ahead of your plan (I mean you have already prepared the user stories for your next three sprints), you might choose the first method which is putting some time aside each day writing user stories. This way you are OK that you have time to think more or even do more research before writing the user stories.

Otherwise, if you are out of plan and don’t have enough time before the sprint planning meeting begins, you might choose the second method and free up your self a whole day preparing user stories for the upcoming sprint planning meeting.

The fact is that:

All the rules and frameworks exist to assist us and let us do our job well. As far as it works for you, it’s fine.

Just do it.

I’d like to know about how you do prepare, define and write user stories in your startup/ company. So, leave comments.