Thursday, October 26, 2006

User Story Cards and Traceability

In Agile practice it's customary to use user story or task cards as a quick and easy organization tool. On the face of said cards it's also customary to include a concise description of the story or task, some kind of estimate of how long it will take to complete, and perhaps some initials of who is responsible.

I keep a stack of blank cards and a Sharpie at my desk so that if I'm talking to the client or a member of the project team and a new story/feature/enhancement/task/whatever begins to surface I grab a card and start writing. I fill out all of the above, but I also like to flip the card over and jot down the current date and time as well as the person I'm talking to. That way I have traceability for each requirement.

Incidentally, I'm hesitant to add any "required fields" to cards as folks tend to get carried way (as in this example) and over time what was supposed to be a light weight, easy system takes on so much complexity and beuracracy and card police that it misses the point. Mike Cohn put it well when he said (and I'm paraphrasing) that story cards are not full blown use cases--they're reminders to have a conversation with the needed subject matter experts on a given topic.

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