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User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development [Paperback]

by Mike Cohn
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 11, 2004 0321205685 978-0321205681 1
The concept of user stories has its roots as one of the main tenets of Extreme Programming. In simple terms, user stories represent an effective means of gathering requirements from the customer (roughly akin to use cases). This book describes user stories and demonstrates how they can be used to properly plan, manage, and test software development projects. The book highlights both successful and unsuccessful implementations of the concept, and provides sets of questions and exercises that drive home its main points. After absorbing the lessons in this book, readers will be able to introduce user stories in their organizations as an effective means of determining precisely what is required of a software application.

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User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development + Agile Estimating and Planning + Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Agile requirements: discovering what your users really want. With this book, you will learn to:

  • Flexible, quick and practical requirements that work
  • Save time and develop better software that meets users' needs
  • Gathering user stories -- even when you can't talk to users
  • How user stories work, and how they differ from use cases, scenarios, and traditional requirements
  • Leveraging user stories as part of planning, scheduling, estimating, and testing
  • Ideal for Extreme Programming, Scrum, or any other agile methodology

Thoroughly reviewed and eagerly anticipated by the agile community, User Stories Applied offers a requirements process that saves time, eliminates rework, and leads directly to better software.

The best way to build software that meets users' needs is to begin with "user stories": simple, clear, brief descriptions of functionality that will be valuable to real users. In User Stories Applied, Mike Cohn provides you with a front-to-back blueprint for writing these user stories and weaving them into your development lifecycle.

You'll learn what makes a great user story, and what makes a bad one. You'll discover practical ways to gather user stories, even when you can't speak with your users. Then, once you've compiled your user stories, Cohn shows how to organize them, prioritize them, and use them for planning, management, and testing.

  • User role modeling: understanding what users have in common, and where they differ
  • Gathering stories: user interviewing, questionnaires, observation, and workshops
  • Working with managers, trainers, salespeople and other "proxies"
  • Writing user stories for acceptance testing
  • Using stories to prioritize, set schedules, and estimate release costs
  • Includes end-of-chapter practice questions and exercises

User Stories Applied will be invaluable to every software developer, tester, analyst, and manager working with any agile method: XP, Scrum... or even your own home-grown approach.


Boston, MA 02116

ISBN: 0-321-20568-5

About the Author

Mike Cohn is the founder of Mountain Goat Software, a process and project management consultancy and training firm. With more than twenty years of experience, Mike has been a technology executive in companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 40s, and is a founding member of the Agile Alliance. He frequently contributes to industry-related magazines and presents regularly at conferences. He is the author of User Stories Applied (Addison-Wesley, 2004).

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (March 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321205685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321205681
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mike Cohn is the founder of Mountain Goat Software, a process and project management consultancy and training firm. Mike specializes in helping companies adopt and improve their use of agile processes and techniques in order to build extremely high performance development organizations. He is the author of "Agile Estimating and Planning," "User Stories Applied for Agile Software Development," and "Succeeding with Agile: Software Development using Scrum."

With more than 20 years of experience, Mike has previously been a technology executive in companies of various sizes, from startup to Fortune 40. He has also written articles for Better Software, IEEE Computer, Software Test and Quality Engineering, Agile Times, Cutter IT Journal, and the C++ Users' Journal. Mike is a frequent speaker at industry conferences, is a founding member of the Agile Alliance, and serves on its board of directors. He is a Certified ScrumMaster Trainer and a member of the IEEE Computer Society and the ACM. He can be reached at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
63 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The user story bible July 25, 2004
'User Stories Applied' was a book that long stood on my Amazon wish list with a 'must have' rating. I'm not disappointed. I loved the book. Now let me explain why.

First of all, running the planning aspect of an XP project, for example, well is essential for reaping the benefits of agile software development. Yet, relatively little has been written to guide practitioners in doing that. I, for example, have made all the mistakes Cohn enumerates in the chapters for guiding the user towards writing *good* user stories (usually more than once). These sorts of things make you realize you shouldn't put the book on the shelf to gather dust! The author doesn't cover just writing good user stories, but the whole spectrum from putting together the customer team to estimating stories to discussing the stories to writing acceptance tests for the stories.

Second, it's a pleasure to read. The structure makes sense, each chapter is followed by a useful summary, and there's a set of questions -- along with answers -- to make sure you understood what the chapter talked about. Usually these kinds of Q&A sections simply force me to skip them over. The questions in this book did not. I read each and every one of them and I think there was only one set of questions that I did 'pass' with the first try, usually having forgotten some rather important aspects to consider (concrete evidence of their usefulness to me). To finish, the last part of the book, an example project, nicely ties together all the threads.

As usual, there were some things I experienced not so well. I believe the chapter on applying user stories with Scrum could've been left out without breaking the plot.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This excellent book is a must-have for anyone on an agile team - developers, testers, business experts, analysts - and for anyone who struggles with requirements, planning, or estimating on any software project.
User Stories Applied is easy to read and digest. As the title suggests, its techniques are easy to apply and deliver huge value. Each chapter summarizes developer and customer responsibilities, and has questions whose answers are provided in an appendix. The book is full of real-life, concrete examples, allowing you to learn from the successes and failures of others.
This book will give you many tools to help your projects succeed. Just a few of the most valuable topics:
When are user stories too big, too small, too detailed, too general, too open ended, when are they not user stories, and how to correct all these.
Why use user stories.
How to handle requirements for infrastructure, performance, qualitative aspects, UI.
How to ask questions to elicit requirements.
How to cope when you don't have `on-site customers'.
Practical ways to estimate stories.
Monitoring velocity and progress.
When to keep and when to discard artifacts.
Mike explores the differences between stories and other techniques for delivering requirements: IEEE 380, use cases, scenarios. He points out many positive side effects of user stories, such as encouraging participatory design and tacit knowledge accumulation.
I particularly like that the book emphasizes the team's responsibility to successfully complete each iteration. I enjoy Mike's illuminating bits of wisdom, such as the "everything takes 4 hours" example. I love the comprehensive example in Part IV. No matter what your level of experience, you'll put the ideas in this book to immediate and productive use.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For XP enthusiasts November 4, 2005
By Ugo Cei
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Writing user stories is one of the twelve practices of the XP software development methodology. User stories summarily describe features of the software that must be developed, from the point of view of the user. This means that no implementation detail is present on stories.

As with all the XP practices, the emphasis is on traveling light, producing only those artifacts that are absolutely necessary. Thus, user stories contain a brief description of the feature as a reminder, to the developers and to the customer, that sometime in the future they will need to meet and flesh out the details. This is in contrast to techniques like use cases, which might seem similar but are much more formal and rich.

User stories also play a fundamental role in the planning game, one of the other XP practices. During the planning game, the development team and the customer together discuss the stories, the developers estimate the time necessary to implement each story, in terms of story points and the customer prioritizes them. During the next iteration, developers will implement those stories that the customer deemed more urgent, up to a number whose total sum of points does not exceed the estimated team velocity.

All of this is explained in a couple of the XP series books, namely Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change and Planning Extreme Programming You'd better have already read at least the former of those before picking up Mike Cohn's book.

User Stories Applied does a good job explaining in detail what user stories are, what goes into them -and what doesn't -, how they should be estimated and what to do with them after the stories have been implemented.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A personal favorite
Versatile, easy to understand language, strategic and tactical.

It delivers a "how to" for beginners, vital information for journeyman story writers, and it is... Read more
Published 10 days ago by JBooks
5.0 out of 5 stars good book for beginner
Great purchase just started very information easy to read. Would purchase other books in this series. If you are just learning highly recommended.
Published 22 days ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars Not very good
Take an anecdotal approach to marketing, breed it with the brothers Grimm, tell it in the droning voice of an undead middle manager, and you will get close to the kind of... Read more
Published 1 month ago by John W Burgoon
1.0 out of 5 stars good
Worked perfect and I love the product. I am happy and will buy more if need be. Keep it up
Published 1 month ago by Desire Nyathi
5.0 out of 5 stars Good companion to Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using...
This is a good companion to Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum, there is a fair bit of duplication but not so much that you feel you could have just bought... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Han van Loon
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding text that is easy to read and understand.
Mike Cohn's clear and digestible writing style makes him my favorite Agile author. This book continues that tradition. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for software devs
Great book. Only problem is that Part 2: Estimating and Planning are pretty much covered by modern web apps like Pivotal Tracker. Understandable as the book is from 2004. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Kevin Monk
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent "how-to" book for learning or reviewing user stories for...
Well written and easy to read. Review questions for each chapter help in preparing for certifications. Continually focused, succinct while thorough, and not "wordy."
Published 4 months ago by Devappler
4.0 out of 5 stars Good points concerning user stories
This book gives a fast overview of how and when to write user stories. But good or bad - also what is not considered as user stories
Published 7 months ago by Kirsten Jeppesen
4.0 out of 5 stars Delivers its promises
This short book promises to explain what User Stories are, what they aren't, how to create and utilize them within an Agile/XP approach, and finally how to bring everything... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Emre Sevinc
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