Skip to main content

Splitting User Stories vs. Rally's "split" feature (that has nothing to do with it!)

Agile tool Rally has a "split" feature it recommends to handle "unfinished work" in a Scrum Sprint:

Manage Unfinished Work - Split user stories (new link)

Below are my observations on the "Split" feature in Rally (followed by a few excellent articles on Splitting User Stories):  
This "split" feature in Rally has numerous problems:
1. Nothing to do with Splitting User Stories
It has nothing to do with "Splitting a User Story" which is an advanced but fairly well-understood field in Agile, and a tool for Product Managers to use in one of the two scenarios:
  • The Product Manager does it before an Iteration commences (i.e. during backlog creation or release planning) to create User Stories by business value that are right-sized, i.e. they can be comfortably implemented inside an iteration;
  • The Product Manager does it in Iteration Planning or in the middle of an Iteration to reduce scope by removing/simplifying acceptance criteria, in response to the actual progress of the team or other factors (including external factors).
2. A clumsy accounting gimmick
The "Split" feature in Rally is a misnomer that has nothing to do with the elegant and valuable technique of Splitting User Stories Agile teams use to deliver valuable product functionality iteratively. The Rally "Split" is a clumsy "accounting" tool (and a bad one at that), meant to attach value artificially to completed tasks and incomplete User Stories! It has nothing to do with splitting a user story intelligently by a Product Manager for business value.
3. Not doing User Stories anymore
Even if the goal is to do this so called "split" merely for accounting reasons, there are several problems with it:
  • You could be double counting the points! Some teams gets double the credit for a User Story when it doesn't finish it in an Iteration.
  • You're not doing User Stories any more. You just have two shells that wrap two groups of related tasks.
  • It establishes a bad precedent, incentivizes bad behavior and does not challenge a team to get better:  
4. Why bother with:
  • Spending time & effort thinking your User Stories through
  • making them follow the INVEST principle
  • keeping them small enough so that they can be DONE within an iteration
  • pushing the envelope on how far you can take your "Definition of DONE" (from Dev complete to Live in Production - and beyond)
  • responding intelligently to change in business or realities of a team's velocity
- when you can simply chop a story at the end of the iteration with one button click AND get credit for tasks completed (waterfall anyone?) that don't deliver any business value AND get double points for the User Story when it does get completed?
NOW, here are some really good articles and sources for good ways to Split User Stories:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

User Stories: you're not Agile without them

Failure to effectively transition to Agile development is often based on a fundamental failure to understand what a User Story is.

Allow me to explain.

The most important aspect of a User Story is that it's an independently *schedulable* unit of requirement (feature). The key to achieving the "independently schedulable" characteristic of a user story is that you express it in terms of how a "user" would use it. This leads you to a unit of functionality that's implemented end-to-end (UI to backend) that a user can actually interact with.

Not surprisingly, because of the focus on how a user would think about a feature, a user stories are highly readable - and could very well be written by the users themselves. However, the other important and less obvious aspect of a User Story is the emphasis on communication with the end-user and getting confirmation on the acceptance criteria.

Describing all the requirements as User Stories for a decent sized product is rigoro…

To dream or not to dream? How about keeping your mouth shut?

Here's a really nice quote from one of my dear friends in response to one of my dreams.
Between the bigger things you cannot do,and the smaller things you don't want to do,you may end up doing nothing The problem with quotes and analogies is that they are almost always approximately appropriate, but rarely if ever exactly applicable . A quote is by definition a generalization. Also, we are by nature biased with our prejudices, biased by our own very personal and unique experiences, and biased, by nature, against those who are near and dear to us. While we want them to succeed and would eventually be happy if they succeed big, our natural instinct is to "help" them "stay grounded".

I disagree with this helping nature, of course. I can - and will- expound on the virtue of dreaming big and having a big mouth. But that will be another day.

Today I'm going to present a few quotes on the flip-side of my friend's quote. Feel free to add yours to the list…