Writing User Stories for Back-end Systems

This post is from mountaingoatsoftware.com by Mike Cohn.

I was asked recently how to go about writing user stories for a back-end financial system. This is an interesting example and is a question I get asked a lot, so I thought I should answer it here. This example brings up a couple of key interesting challenges:

  • While there may be users of the system they are not often not direct users (i.e., with hands on the keyboard waiting for something to happen)
  • The functionality is often larger than will fit in one iteration

So that we can deal with these challenges, let’s make up some more context for the example. Suppose our financial system takes in a lot of daily data and produces flat files that will be sent to banks and other partners at the end of the day. Some of the files are simple formats. Other files are in more involved formats with multiple record types within the file and possibly with multiple lines for some of the transactions. This would be a fairly standard batch-processing type application. I want to write user stories in the template I recommend in the book: As a , I want so that . So, let’s deal with these challenges in order and first try to figure out who the user will be in our stories? Given the context provided above the user, is probably a bank or business partner. This will let us write stories like “As a bank, I want…” It’s entirely possible that we will want to get more specific and sometimes write stories for more specific users:

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