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Question Stories: Extending User Stories for Data

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A question story is a specialized user story specific to data-oriented requirements. A question story should be small and ideally implementable within a few hours or days by the person(s) taking on the work.

The following are examples of question stories:


Why Question Stories?

Question stories are used to capture requirements for data-oriented initiatives, in particular data analytics and data warehouse (DW)/business intelligence (BI) solutions. Because data initiatives exist to help people leverage data to make better-informed decisions, to answer questions, it makes sense to identify what questions people hope to answer. This enables you to focus on the outcome, answering questions, rather than the implementation, the structure of the data.


How to Capture Question Stories

Question stories are written in one or two formats:

As a [Role] I want to know [Something] by [Timeframe] because [Reason]
- OR -
As a [Role] I want to know [Something] because [Reason]


Are Question Stories Complete Requirements?

No.

To paraphrase Ron Jeffries, a question story is a reminder to have a conversation with your stakeholders. I consider a question story as a start at an understanding of what your stakeholder needs you to provide. You need to collaborate closely with them to explore what they really need to answer, why they need to answer this question, when they need the answer, and how they would like the answer provided to them.


How to Identify Question Stories

Question stories, like other agile models, are best identified with your stakeholders. Better yet, because question stories are so straightforward, your stakeholders themselves can often write them. Never underestimate the power of active stakeholder participation.

To identify question stories, I will often ask people:


Definitions of Ready (DoRs) for Question Stories

Many agile/Scrum teams have a DoR that defines the minimum level of quality of the work that needs to be put into a story before the team is willing to work on it. This is true of question stories as well as of more general user stories. The DoR for a question story may include, but is not limited to:


Question Stories in Context

The following table summarizes the trade-offs associated with question stories and provides advice for when to adopt them.

Table 1. Question stories in context.

Advantages
  • Captures data needs in an implementation-neutral manner.
  • Simple, easy-to-learn technique.
  • Supports active stakeholder participation.
  • Useful to small, vertical slices of value.
Disadvantages
  • Needs to be supported with other assets to capture data source information, calculations, access control concerns, and potential visualization strategy.
  • Not the data model strategy that traditional data professionals are used to.
When to Adopt Question Stories When you are identifying stakeholder needs for information.

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