Stories and Epics: How the product owner organizes and writes them

I’ll write a better thing on this with my views, but here is my outline. It’ll get better later, but I’m being agile in my posts about agile.

Here’s a link to stories and story maps. It’s worth a read, as it expressed many of the concepts that I have used as a product manager.

Here’s the summary of how I like to think about it.

  • The product owner is responsible for determining the major items for future development (I call them use cases myself, but they’re epics in agile). The personas, problem and value statement.
  • The backlog should be organized by epics (the story map concept above comes close to this when it talks about the skeleton).  Only when an epic is brought into play do the specific stories show up.  But each of these stories would be tied back to the epic, so we all remember why we’re doing this specific story. Often, the development team creates these stories, as they understand the technology better.  But the product manager/owner is involved in the process and is the sole owner of the process.
  • The backlog, rather than being one continuous list, is made of these epics.  Only the current sprint and the next sprint have stories plucked from their epics and placed into the team backlog. I’d call it a “lumpy” backlog, or a backlog of boulders, gravel and sand.

Also, you run into the issue of “who creates the user stories… is it the product owner, architect or the development?” Anyone can create a user story. The product owner can. The architect can. The development team can, either with their best understanding or when a story is split.

The Scrum guide says this pretty clearly.

“The Product Owner is the sole person responsible for managing the Product Backlog. Product Backlog management includes

  • Clearly expressing Product Backlog items
  • Ordering the items in the Product Backlog to best achieve goals and missions
  • Optimizing the value of the work the Development Team performs
  • Ensuring that the Product Backlog is visible, transparent, and clear to all, and shows what the Scrum Team will work on next
  • Ensuring the Development Team understands items in the Product Backlog to the level needed

The Product Owner may do the above work, or have the Development Team do it. However, the Product Owner remains accountable.”

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