User stories vs use cases: The basics

User stories vs use cases: Are they the same?

User stories vs. use cases. It’s a common topic of conversation among developers, and product managers. Before I go any further, it is important to understand that user stories and use cases are not exactly the same.

user stories vs use casesUser stories can be considered one of the most useful tools associated with agile methodology. Sometimes called a scenario or a requirement, the goal of a user story is to define the need of a specific user. To keep things simple, user stories are made up of a few short, but descriptive sentences. User stories are usually written by the customer. Typically, not a lot of time is put into writing user stories. For this reason, they are often vague, incomplete. Despite their inaccuracy, they are useful throughout the stages of development, as they help spark or initiate discussions with the customer regarding their needs and requests.

Advantages of using user stories vs use cases:

  • You are always talking in terms of business value
  • Keep things broad, so you don’t lock developpers into one possible solution
  • Prevents you from introducing too much detail, too early
  • Enables more “technical” members of your team to flesh out the details (i.e developers, testers etc).

A use case, also commonly referred to as a traditional requirement, is a simple way to describe to an end user how a system will be used or applied. Essentially, use cases are a group of or collection, of possible sequences of interactions that exist between a system and any other factors associated with that specific goal. Use cases are far more detailed, and contrary to user stories, are usually a collaborative effort between the development team and the customer. Unlike user stories, a lot of effort is put into the creation of use cases to ensure their completion and accuracy. Use cases help the development team paint a detailed picture of requirements, therefore eliminating the need to bombard customers with questions and requests for clarifications.

There are many business benefits associated with creating proper use cases:

  • Ability to highlight and identify current goals, define systems and understand stakeholder needs
  • Provide a detailed blueprint for analysis and design
  • Create scripts that can be used in testing
  • Help guide prototyping activities
  • Identify and weigh risks

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User stories vs use cases: Examples

Despite their differences it can be easy to confuse the two. Here are two examples to help illustrate the differences between user stories vs. use cases.

User stories
Generally a user story follows this template:

As a [describe who], I want [what], so that [why].

Example: “As a project manager, I want to create a project schedule, so that I know when all my tasks happen, so I can assign resources to them.”

Use cases :
Here’s a detailed use case of what happens when an ATM system starts up:

Example: “The ATM system will start up when the system operator switches to the “start” position. The operator will then be prompted to enter the amount of money in their cash dispenser. A connection to the bank will then be established. The operator can then proceed to serve customers.”

2 Responses to “User stories vs use cases: The basics”

  1. Lorie Vela says:

    Hi Kim, a pleasure being here.

    I think it is really time now to dig, as you very well point out, deeper into collaboration strategies; the social media and the web 2.0 are not only a revolution for human interaction and communication, but a new way to see our world, and of course, its business implications make us reflects about enterprise models. As Social Media are now to human, Collaboration is to enterprise and Business.

    Thanks again for your mention and quote

    Lorie Vela

  2. Kim says:

    Thanks for your comment. I agree, there is so much more we can say about 360 degree feedback. We do plan on elaborating more on it in future blog posts; stay tuned and feel free to let us know what you would like to read about.

  3. 360 degree feedback is known as multi functional feedback.
    You post a nice article but we can write more here. You describe only the definition of 360 degree feedback, You can also describe the little bit more on 360 degree feedback services, Evaluations, Importance of 360 degree feedback, and much more.

  4. kalpana says:

    This gives the good information about 360 Degree Feedback.360 Feedback is a good HR Software. i got one company from Google Search “CEO Info Tech”.They are providing the best HR Software Products.

  5. Kim says:

    Glad you enjoyed this post, Shep. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, and keep up the great blogging.

  6. Shep Hyken says:

    Great article and I’m flattered that you included me as part of it. At the root of the modern customer service strategies are the basics. It’s common sense, that unfortunately, isn’t always so common. Thank you again for a great article.
    Shep Hyken, author of “The Amazement Revolution.”

  7. Catherine says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the comment.

    Yes, I have seen examples of such incentive programs and I can definitely recognize their value. However, this type of interaction may be too transactional in nature and may not provide the opportunity to collect valuable insight. I think organizations need to move beyond the website “feedback form” and explore other channels of communication to capture feedback and engage with their customers.

    Keep an eye on for more development in this area.


  8. Chris says:

    Interesting blog post, all your writing got me thinking about the future of our “social product development.” While our product is transitioning between “technology” and “product” I am looking at software for gathering feedback for the near future. There is one question on my mind, and you can email me or write a post about it: “How do I incentivise customers to provide feedback?” Sure I know that some customers will provide feedback out of passion for the product, and that is great. What about the rest? Have you seen cases of: points & game mechanics, contests, coupons, future discounts, or other “rewards” to solicit feedback and thus entice client (feedback provider) adoption.

  9. jodie_microsoft_smb says:

    One option to look at as an existing CRM tool for integration is Microsoft CRM. It’s available as on-premise and online solution and integrates with Outlook, Word, Excel and other applications via 3rd party apps. The interface is similar to Outlook so users may ramp up more quickly and there are resources for self-assist training and support. This link will give you more details:

    Jodi E.
    Microsoft SMB Outreach Team

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