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Slicing For Better Results – Ready User Stories

The biggest issue faced in product development is effective communication between the team of the developers and the customer. The needs of the ever evolving products keep changing. Estimation of work, keeping track of the requirements, knowing the conditions of satisfaction, delivering on time even as new requirements surface in are some of the challenges faced. The biggest issue is bulky requirements which are not easy to understand and are not prioritized well enough to be comprehended by the development team. The best way to solve this is by applying splitting techniques to break the user stories into smaller easily understandable and prioritized fragments.
An optimum slicing technique would be the one that can be used in all problem domains. The first step towards slicing is Ready User Stories. These are small, understandable, valuable user stories. A ready story is essentially needed for estimation, planning, commitment and delivery. The ideal time by which the ready story should be in place is just before planning as a part of the backlog grooming. The team of developers should collaborate with the product owner to groom the backlog for changing requirements and prepare user stories for upcoming cycles.
The process of slicing includes an overall pattern called expand and contract. In the expand phase the product owner first elaborates all the possible options detailing about each of the options. Then in the contract phase team and the product owner sit together and contract the options based on their values. The result is a crisp story ready for development. For the expansion phase the owner need to analyze who the user is, actions needed to meet user’s goal, data objects used, business rules to be applied, interfaces needed, quality issues etc. In the contract phase looking at rational criteria like return on investment, feasibility option, risk etc. the product owner along with development team selects options. Through the process the product owner gets to know how about the efforts and risks for implementation in turn making him more aware of the technical aspects of the development process. The development team also learns about the options and the requirements. For example assuming that the users for the product are Individual Buyers, Corporate Buyers, Club Member Buyer and Employee Buyer; ask the product owner to prioritize the user role type options by determining which role has the highest business value for the next iteration. Next explore the possible states.
Assuming the options for individual buyers are New, Existing, Anonymous and Archived. Again the contraction of the options has to be done. Further assuming that the user priority is anonymous and further action options are Verify Cost, Calculate Tax, Calculate Total Amount, Apply Discount, Apply Wrapping Fee, Secure Payment and Generate Receipt. Then determine the minimum options for the next delivery and defer all the infrequent ones for future deliveries. Similar process is then followed for all the further options. The slicing should be done the “just enough, just in time” way. This is a fast, efficient, repeatable technique that streamlines planning and jointly engages the customer and team in optimizing value.

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