Thomas Immich

Getting User Stories Right

How to bridge the gap between what users need and products serve
User stories are well-accepted organizational units among agile software teams. However, most user stories are nothing more than disguised tasks or feature requests. In the talk, I will outline why and how not only Product Owners, but also UX designers and UX researchers can create more sustainable user stories that make it „into the sprint“ (and beyond) even when being initiated very early in the process.
Most agile approaches, especially Scrum, rely on having a team of „developers“ working together. However, designers oftentimes do not feel as being an integral part of that team, but rather as being locked out by the engineers (especially after some kind of „design handoff“ took place). Therefore, UX most of the time is not applied continuously throughout the entire product lifecycle. Looking back at a wide range of real-world projects, I realized that most user requirements that me and my team were faced with were not expressing real user needs, but in fact were a crude mix of system specs, solutions drafts or feature requests. In my talk, I will compare three main types of requirements and – by example – I will outline what risks and damage they can do to the product, more particularly the user experience. I will also deep-dive into the so-called INVEST principle, which serves as a guiding light for writing proper backlog items, regardless of the level of detail on which these backlog items play or how they are called among the team members. As each letter in the INVEST acronym stands for one key characteristic of a proper backlog item (being Independent, Negotiable, Valuable, Estimable, Small & Testable), I will introduce each of these key characteristics in the context of user-centered thinking while using catchy examples. As a highlight of my talk, I will present the so-called „user booklet“ method as an organizational metaphor to collect UX work results and artifacts for user stories in a vertical rather than horizontal manner. I will show the benefits of the method by demonstrating an inspiring sample case that helps the audience understand how to apply the method in their own projects, when working with user stories as their central backlog items. At the end of the talk, participants will have learned a lot about user-centered requirements engineering, user story definition and agile user needs analysis in order for their interdisciplinary teams to effectively combine UX with agile.

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Thomas Immich

Centigrade GmbH

Thomas Immich is the owner and director of Centigrade, one of the leading UX companies in Germany. He has his roots in the gaming industry and finished his computer-science studies with an award-winning thesis on user interface prototyping. Since then, Thomas Immich concentrates on user-centered design methods with respect to their technical feasibility and tool support. During this time, he worked as a senior UX advisor and trainer in numerous client projects, supporting agile development teams with the challenge of combining UX and agile. He is a frequent speaker at relevant conferences and has received several awards.