Cheap User Stories Are the Agile Achilles Heel

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Anton Oosthuizen explains how cheap user stories are the agile Achilles heel with Joe Newbert, the problems caused by builds with the least story points.

Anton Oosthuizen is a Senior Business Consultant at SITA Inc, and a certified PMI-PMP and PMI-PBA with a passion for business change.

From being part of the first automated workflow distribution system implementation in South Africa during the early ’90s to consulting at some of the biggest airports in the world, he has applied his skills across many different business landscapes and diverse cultures. This has provided him with a unique perspective of how tools, techniques and methodologies are being implemented in different scenarios.

Congratulations on your talk at the 2016 Business Analysis Summit Southern Africa, it was well received by many. For those who weren’t fortunate to attend, could you give us a synopsis of what your presentation was about?

It was a real privilege sharing my thoughts with the business analysis community in South Africa. My presentation stems from a paper that I wrote that explores a phenomenon I call ‘Cheap User Stories’. I look at how we end up with cheap user stories, but more importantly, what we can do to prevent it. The term is a bit a misnomer since the result is really the cheap part but since the user story is normally blamed for the bad result, the ‘cheapness’ is pushed back onto the user story.

The topic is clearly an area that you are personally passionate about. Why do you feel this subject is relevant and important for the business analysis profession?

It is definitely something I’m passionate about because I have first-hand experience of what the result, and cost of cheap user stories are. While agile, and the different frameworks related to it, has proven its worth, there seems to be a tendency to bend some of the agile concepts just a little bit. When you do traditional long term planning you have a bit of space to bend a few rules, but when you are working to deliver just in time, barely sufficient work products the results of not following the rules are much more severe. Since the business analyst traditionally fly the end user/customer flag, the impact of this can be devastating to the efforts of the business analyst to implement improvement.

Having shared your ideas with the business analysis community. What key points would you like people to take-away, reflect and act upon?

Probably most important is the fact that the phenomenon of cheap user stories is not an agile weakness per se. It is the result of a poor implementation of agile.

If you want to implement agile you need to follow the rules or pay the price.

Fortunately it is avoidable, or at least manageable, if the business analyst understands what signs to look out for. Since the business analyst owns the solution it is imperative that they must act with a strong mandate and a strong mandate can only be bestowed by management.  It is the responsibility of each business analyst to demand this.

Business analysis summit spoiled in terms of the learning and networking opportunities. What was your greatest personal insight taken from the business analysis conference?

What really stood out for me was the quality and depth of business analysis skills available across the board. Instead of having a lot of ‘been there, done that’ moments I took away something useful from every conversation I had during the conference. Business Analysis is definitely rising in the southern tip of Africa. And obviously the job done by the IIBA-SA team, with the help of their generous sponsors, was world class.

Having been a regular speaker at international business analysis and project management events. What words of encouragement do you have for people who may be considering presenting in future?

Publishing papers on you area of expertise or interest is a great way of refining your content and weed out any fluff. You need to remember that you are addressing your peers and you have as much opportunity of learning from them than they have of learning from you. So have a conversation with them, it is not a class or lecture.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

As business analysts it is our duty to challenge the current state. It does not always mean we will change it but the opportunity to do so should be explored. Conferences, like BA Summit, are a great way to network and find out how others do business analysis. It should be a must do for everybody in the profession – see you in 2017!

Cheap User Stories Are The Agile Achilles Heel with Anton Oosthuizen

Download Anton Oosthuizen‘s slide-deck from BA Summit SA 2016 to learn how Cheap User Stories Are The Agile Achilles Heel, and share your agile user stories with @Disrupted_BA and @Newbert over on Twitter.

About Joe Newbert

Joe is a consultant, a writer, a speaker and above all a teacher, who spends most of his time at the Business Change Academy helping people to grow their skills, bring meaningful change and see their career soar.

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