Houen's Blog

Thoughts on life, startups, tech & code

The three most important words in a User Story

A Product Owner (PO) / Product Manager  (PM) comes to my development team. She or he tells us: We have a business request. We have identified the next important business need. We know who it is for. We know what they need. We would like a good technical solution to it. This is perfect.

Here is the general structure of this:

As a [user role] (Who)
In order to [satisfy need] (Why)
I would like to [desired behaviour] (What)

It is short. It is concise. It contains a clear Who. A clear Why. A clear What.

The Who, Why, What

The Who, Why and What is the core of any user story. And it is routinely overlooked by Product Owners in tech startups.

  • Who are we building this for. Who are we trying to make happy with this
  • Why are we building it. Why is Who unhappy without this change
  • What are we building. What can we do to solve the Why?

We must know for Who we are doing something. How else can we make the best decisions for them?

We must focus on Why we are doing something. How else will we know if it worked?

Lastly, we use these two as reasons for the What we are building.

There is a saying in Software Development: The only constant is change. Everybody knows this saying. Everybody is tired of it. It is still true.

Change is the reason the Who and Why are just as important as the What. Often they are more important. Who and Why is the only way to judge the What. The What may be fitting right now. It will be ever more obsolete in the future. The Who and Why give us focus for the next What.

Let us finish an example of what the above might look like in real life:

As a new user

In order to learn how to set up my first project

I would like to be shown an on-boarding message when I first log in

There. The foundation is set. Now we can continue to flesh out the Who / Why / What as much as we want.

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