How to Capture, Write, Prioritize, Rightsize and Split User Stories Plus Acceptance Tests with Given-When-Then Scenarios

User Stories: A Collaboration Tool for Business and IT

How to Capture, Write, Prioritize, Rightsize, and Flesh Out User Stories including Acceptance Criteria and GWT Tests

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Preview CourseDuration: 4 hours video content PLUS quizzes and assignments
Format: Online course
Author: Tom and Angela Hathaway


See also our User Story book (Kindle or Paperback) and live classroom course

Sneak preview

What is this course about?

User Stories Demystified and Distilled for the User Community and Technical Teams

If you feel overwhelmed trying to explain what you expect a proposed digital solution to deliver, this course is for you!

If you pretend to be invisible because an IT developer looks your way, this course will increase your confidence!

If you are a developer frustrated trying to understand what the business community really wants, this course gives you solutions!

If you are anxious about attending a User Story Workshop, you really should take this course!

By the way, if you are a Product Owner, Business Analyst, or Developer working with people to get their User Stories, you definitely need this course!


About the Course

To deliver working software that the business community needs and wants, developers need to understand those needs. Fundamentally, what they really need to know for starters are:

  1. Who needs something (the role)?
  2. What do they need (to do or to know with potential qualifiers)?
  3. Why do they need it (the business value)?

In recent years, the User Story has emerged as the most common tool for answering those critical questions simply, quickly, and efficiently.

Although, many recommend a “As a …, I want …, so that …” structure, the User Story is much too powerful to be limited by artificial constraints. Its strength is its potential for leveraging the software development process to achieve the competitive advantage that is business agility.


You will learn how to determine the best structure for your User Stories based on the needs of all audiences while ensuring delivery of business value to the author of each User Story.

You will understand the core components of a well-structured User Story and defend the purpose of each. In addition, I explain why defining business needs in User Story format is a significant factor in achieving effective communication between the business user community and developers.

To ensure that business community needs and wants are met, I will present techniques for capturing User Stories from the right mix of end users and other stakeholders. You can only get a reasonably complete set of User Stories by identifying Roles, Personas, and Stakeholders that your digital solution must support.

User Role Modeling, Stakeholder Identification, and Persona Development are three approaches that I have found most helpful in different situations. The role gives developers the power to clarify the intent behind the User Story which greatly increases the chances that the business community gets the solution it needs.

How to write a User Story is a simple, easy-to-learn skill. I will introduce and explain several ideas on how to make sure your User Stories are GREAT. Following the INVEST model will help make your User Stories Independent, Negotiable, Valuable, Estimable, Small, and Testable.

Those six criteria help you avoid a lot of problems, but each criterion can be challenging to achieve. For that reason, I introduce 3 methods that you can use to implement the INVEST model and add significant value to your User Stories.

As powerful as User Stories are, they are still susceptible to misunderstanding. You will learn 6 specific methods for identifying and removing the twin causes of miscommunication, namely ambiguity and subjectivity. In line with the Lean principle of waste reduction, you should wait until the last responsible moment to ensure that your User Stories are clear, concise, relevant, and at the right level of detail for developers.

The most important tool to reduce misunderstandings and avoid any ambiguity are Acceptance Criteria, aka Conditions of Satisfaction. They provide details of functionality that help the developers understand the User Story the way the originator intended.

You will learn how to use simple checklists, Business Rules, conditional statements, Functional Features, and Given-When-Then Statements to express Acceptance Criteria. These form the basis for the essential step of Acceptance Testing which is covered later in the course.

Lean and Agile do not change the need for sound analysis and decision making. What they change is the timing of those activities. You will learn what to do and when to do it given that the User Stories live and evolve throughout the process of delivering software that wows its users. You defend the need for Product Backlogs, Feasibility Analysis, and User Story Prioritization to ensure the evolution of the product delivers business value at every step of the way.

What the business community considers a simple request can be unbelievably complex for developers. Learn when and how to right-size your User Stories to ensure effective communication from start to finish. The meaning of the INVEST criteria require constant adjustment as the product evolves. You will learn 8 simple methods for splitting User Stories while ensuring the original intent is honored.

Finally, confirm that the delivered digital solution delivers what your organization needs to thrive. You will learn how to translate User Story Acceptance Criteria in any format to Acceptance Tests using Gherkin’s GIVEN-WHEN-THEN Scenarios. This revolutionary language facilitates manual testing and gives you the potential for using automated testing tools.

Users AND Agile Teams Both Need to Know How to Work with User Stories

Communication is a two-way street. User Stories are currently the best tool for communicating business needs, assuming they accurately express the business community’s perspective. Well-written, insightful User Stories are the foundation developers need to deliver digital solutions that support your business goals and objectives.

Both sides (users and developers) need a common understanding of the User Story paradigm.

  • As a user, it is your responsibility to express your needs in the format that developers understand and need.
  • As a developer, you need to leverage the User Story paradigm to deliver digital solutions that will delight the business community.
  • As a Product Owner or Business Analyst, you need to understand both perspectives to ensure that the Agile team delivers what the organization needs.


Why Should You Buy This Course?

  • Fully updated with tons of new content.
  • Intellimated video lectures use visual representations to simplify complex concepts and associations.
  • Quizzes and assignments give you an opportunity to test your understanding of the presented material, reinforce learning, and increase retention.
  • Help from the authors to clarify open questions and provide additional information.
  • Lifetime access to the course including future updates.
  • 30-day Moneyback guarantee backed by Udemy if you are not completely satisfied with the learning experience.
  • You will gain confidence in your ability to leverage the power of User Stories to minimize miscommunication that plagues IT initiatives.

About the Instructor

  • Teaches 10 Udemy courses for Agile Business Analysis with over 50,000 students enrolled.
  • Champions lean and agile methods to meet communication challenges between business and IT communities.
  • Extensive YouTube Channel with 111 videos for 17K subscribers and 1.6M views.
  • Authored 10 Business Analysis books covering tools and techniques for Agile and traditional software requirements.
  • Consultant to a multitude of Fortune 500 companies and governmental agencies.
  • Facilitated 100’s of User Story and Requirements Gathering Workshops for multi-million-dollar projects.
  • 25+ years’ experience with instructor-led training for tens of thousands of students around the world.
  • Coach and mentor for aspiring business analysts.

Intrigued but not convinced? Take a look at our FREE previews to make sure my instructor style and delivery work for you.


Why Should You Enroll?

According to a recent survey, 69% of today’s top employers list effective communication as a required skill. User Stories are the primary mode of communication between the business and those who develop and deliver the digital solutions that are the soul of most organizations today.

You will benefit from this course if you:

  • want to get digital solutions that meet your needs.
  • want to make sure you understand what the business community is requesting.
  • want to reduce the friction between developers and the business community.
  • are invested in delivering digital solutions that provide business value.
  • want to learn simple techniques that will serve you well when you are in the hot seat.

Who should take this course?

  • Product Owners
  • Product Team Members
  • Product and Project Managers
  • Business Analysts
  • Requirements Engineers
  • Business- and Customer-side Team Members
  • Agile Team Members
  • Subject Matter Experts (SME)
  • Systems Analysts and Designers
  • Developers
  • Quality Assurance Specialists/Testing Team Members
  • AND “anyone wearing the business analysis hat”, meaning anyone responsible for defining digital solutions for the future.

What Can You Do After the Course?

Upon completion of this course, you can:

  • Seed and replenish a Product Backlog by writing User Stories that focus on the business value without dictating technical solutions.
  • Reduce time to deliver software by giving developers well-formed, actionable User Stories answering the WHO, WHAT, and WHY of a business need.
  • Identify User Story contributors using User Role Modeling, Persona Development, and Stakeholder Identification techniques.
  • Minimize miscommunication and misunderstandings between the business and the developer communities by drilling-down User Stories at the RIGHT time and to the RIGHT level of detail.
  • Save time and resources by leveraging Lean principles of waste reduction, last responsible moment, and built-in quality to your User Stories.
  • Understand the power of the 3 C’s of a User Story – The Card, the Conversation, the Criteria (or Confirmation).
  • Translate business needs into well-structured User Stories that follow the INVEST (Independent, Negotiable, Valuable, Estimable, Small, Testable) guidelines.
  • Synchronize the vision of the business and the development team with clearly defined Acceptance Criteria that clarify the intent of the User Story.
  • Learn 6 techniques to reduce ambiguity, save time in 3-Amigos Conversations, and allow your Agile Team to deliver solutions that delight end-users.
  • Ensure that your User Stories are at the right level of detail for prioritization and splitting.
  • Apply 8 ways to split User Stories, Epics, and Features in Preparation for Imminent Sprints or Releases.
  • Develop business-focused acceptance tests that prove that the solution delivers desired and defined features and functions.

Detailed Course Outline

Welcome to The Course

  • Users and Developers Need A Common Understanding of the User Story Paradigm
  • Course Overview: What You Will Learn

Introduction to User Stories: Rationale and Structure

  • Traditional IT Requirements as per IIBA
  • The 3 C’s of a User Story: Card, Conversation, and Acceptance Criteria
  • The User Story Paradigm Exposed
  • Confirm Your Understanding of the Rationale behind the User Story Paradigm
  • Three Questions Every User Story Must Answer
  • The Role Tells WHO Needs the Story
  • The Outcome or Action Explains WHAT the User Needs
  • The Value Reveals WHY the Business Needs the Outcome
  • Evaluate User Stories for completeness
  • In Defense of Other User Story Structures
  • User Stories Are Not Just for End Users
  • Identifying potential User Stories from a Vision Statement

Identifying User Story Persona, Potential User Stories and Stakeholders

  • Discovering WHO Writes User Stories
  • Three Approaches to Identify User Story Roles
  • User Role Modeling is a 3-Step Process
  • EXAMPLE: Brainstorming and Grouping Potential User Roles
  • EXAMPLE: Refine and Describe User Roles to Finish the Job
  • What’s Up with Personas in User Story Context
  • Stakeholder Identification Discovers User Roles for Internal Applications
  • A Simple Stakeholder Analysis Technique
  • The Importance of Roles in User Stories and 3 Ways of Finding Candidates

How to Write Initial User Stories for the Product Backlog

  • INVEST in Your User Stories for Effective Communication
  • INDEPENDENT User Stories Expedite Delivery of Working Software
  • NEGOTIABLE User Stories Trigger Collaborative Conversations
  • VALUABLE User Stories Are Easier to Prioritize
  • ESTIMABLE User Stories Make Planning More Reliable
  • SMALL User Stories Are Easier to Manage
  • TESTABLE User Stories Include Verifiable Acceptance Criteria
  • Assessing Your User Story INVEST-ability
  • How to Implement the INVEST model
  • What Not HOW! Keep Technology and Solutions Out of User Stories
  • Valid User Stories Are within the Product Vision or Project Charter
  • Avoid Creating User Stories that Could Cause a Cascading Change
  • Confirm that Your Initial User Stories Focus on Achievable Business Value

Remove Ambiguity in Your User Stories at the Last Responsible Moment

  • Reduce Ambiguity for Lean Collaborative Conversations
  • Ambiguity and Subjectivity Feed Misunderstanding and Waste Time
  • Avoid Pronouns, Generic Verbs, and Acronyms
  • Add Context to Clarify Ambiguous User Stories
  • Resolving Ambiguity and Subjectivity in User Stories
  • Acceptance Criteria Reduce Ambiguity
  • How to Find Effective Acceptance Criteria
  • Discover Ambiguity and Subjectivity Early with Self-Reviews
  • Peer Reviews Clarify the Most Challenging User Stories
  • Selecting the Right Technique for Reducing Ambiguity and Subjectivity
  • Example: Improving a User Story with Peer Reviews
  • Improve Your User Stories

Select User Stories for the Imminent Iteration, Release, or Sprint

  • Evolution of User Stories throughout a Lean Lifecycle
  • Product Backlogs and Other User Story Repositories
  • Evaluate the Technological, Financial, and Cultural Feasibility of User Stories
  • MoSCoW Prioritization Requires Participation by the Agile Team and Users
  • Prioritize User Stories by User Expectations using the Kano Method
  • Prioritize by Current and Future Business Needs and Wants

Simplify User Stories with Splitting and Right-Sizing Techniques

  • The Need for and Benefits of Right-Sizing User Stories
  • Epics, Features, and User Stories Are Candidates for Splitting
  • User Story Splitting Is Essential for the INVEST Model
  • Splitting Stories to Focus on a Single Thought
  • Splitting Stories to Deliver Incremental Business Value
  • Split User Stories by Acceptance Criteria
  • Splitting Stories by User Roles
  • Splitting Stories by Data
  • Splitting Stories by Business Rules
  • Split Stories by Sequence of Events
  • Split Stories by Workflow Steps or Use Case Paths

Define Acceptance Tests and Given-When-Then Scenarios

  • From User Story Acceptance Criteria to User Story Acceptance Tests
  • Gherkin GIVEN-WHEN-THEN Scenarios Explained
  • Using Background Statements Saves Time by Making Scenarios Lean
  • Scenario Outlines and Examples Test Different Data Values for the Same Scenario
  • Identifying and Writing Scenarios and Outlines
  • Write Given-When-Then Scenarios from the WHO, WHAT, WHY in a User Story
  • Write Given-When-Then Scenarios Based on Business Rules

Where Can You Go from Here?

  • Bonus Lecture: Special Offers and Related Training

Lesson Previews

Learn Lean / Agile Business Analysis Techniques

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Self-paced Course – Agile Business Analysis: Getting and Writing Lean Requirements

Lean Business Analysis for Lean Requirements: Techniques for Discovering and Writing User Stories, Acceptance Tests, Scenarios and Examples

Lean Business Use Cases in an Agile World

Lean Use Cases to identify and write Use Case models and diagrams

Chatting with Humans: User Experience Design (UX) for Chatbots

Simple Conversational Design and Science-based Chatbot Copy that Engages People

User Stories: A Collaboration Tool for Business and IT

How to Capture, Write, Prioritize, Rightsize and Split User Stories Plus Acceptance Tests with Given-When-Then Scenarios

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