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

Source: (www.umsl.edu)

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.”
(Source: www.accelerateddeliveryplatform.com)

One Response to “User stories vs use cases: The basics”

  1. Kimberley Chan says:

    Gillian – Yes, that’s right. The stats have spoken, and while we don’t like to think about it, that’s the reality. Hopefully this video will make people realize this, and try different approaches to project management.

    Craig – thank you for watching the video, glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Craig Brown says:

    Gillingham, I read that as an ironic comment, but I think you are pretty on target there with your analysis.

    Don’t forget it targets the wrong thing more often than not.

    Nice video guys.

  3. Kimberley Chan says:

    No problem Elizabeth, you deserve it!

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Wow, thanks for including me on this list!

  5. Steve and Tom,
    Appreciate your comments. If companies truly recognise the value of strategic product management then they will benefit from the huge up-side.

    Cheers, Natalie

  6. Tom Evans says:

    Thanks for sharing Natalie
    These benefits are best realized when the PM focuses on the strategic aspects of the role and doesn’t get bogged down in the tactical aspects But too many companies lose this benefit because they relegate PMs to managing features and other tactical duties.

  7. Nice post, Nat. We so often focus on the activities of #prodmgmt that we forget the ROI of #prodmgmt. Thanks for the reminders.

  8. Thanks for the link, Scott. I see you are also on Quora- I hope you do not mind that I added your profile to the list.

    Cheers,

    Catherine

  9. Scott says:

    Congrats to my friends and PM colleagues Rich, Scott & Geoffrey. I look forward to learning more about the other folks.

    FYI it is Mironov http://www.mironov.com/

  10. Keep up the great questions/answers on Quora, Geoff! Do you have any other product people you would like to add to the list?

    Best,

    Catherine

  11. Thanks for sharing, Geoff!

    You are right- there are definitely many great posts that are valuable for different reasons! Hope you have a great 2013.

    Best,

    Catherine

  12. Way too many great posts from the Cranky one. But the one on the sales droid brain is the one I remember vividly.

    http://crankypm.com/2011/12/brain-sales-droid-visual-guide/

  13. Dan says:

    I agree with Alan, but with more footnotes.

    I think the point the article/stripe are missing, is that the need for dedicated Product Management is dependent upon manner factors, not least number of engineers, number of customers and skill set of current employees.

    As I’ve heard many product managers say – ‘Whether or not you have Product Managers, someone’s doing Product Management’. As the article says “The founders or (head honchos) of Stripe, all have extensive experience managing products”. So, in this case, despite not having the title, it would seem that the founders are somewhat filling this role.

    To answer the articles title, ‘do we need product managers?’ The answer is yes. The question you have to ask your company is do you need them as a dedicated function.

    I do believe that some product managers can be blind to the capabilities of other people in their company. Depending on the skills of the people on the team, it is more than possible to be successful without a dedicated position. You don’t need a dedicated person to ‘listen to the market’, but you do need domain experts of that market on your team.

    There can be benefits that dedicated positions can bring. Once you team starts getting too big, it gets harder to have a coordinated strategy if everyone gets to innovate how they see best. Yes, people such as Founders can help with that, but at a certain point the people running the business need to ‘work on the business, not in the business’. At this point, they will need to delegate the responsibility of resolving divergent opinions and coordinating product direction. Hmm, that sounds like a familiar position…

  14. Great point, Alan. Still, it will be interesting to see how long they will be able to sustain this.

    Thanks for your insights!

    Catherine

  15. Alan Klement says:

    1. Stripe is a very small startup.
    2. Stripe is just getting started.
    2. Stripe’s product is just an API for developers to use. There’s actually no GUI – at all.

    Let’s come back to Stripe when they have 10,000+ customers, any kind of GUI and is at least 1 year old.

  16. Hi Cat – Good article. Parents should be applauded for supporting their children in this way, because very few children will follow through on these important feedback issues without encouragement. Have you thought of reaching out to local parenting associations/publications with this message? Also, the investigative reporter in me still wants to know why Hasbro created the gender bias; I guess the mother is equally frustrated. This touches on using “high-brow” language when dealing with consumers, too. A lot of great points made. I suspect most marketers need re-educating on the value of effective customer communications. The Internet has changed everything.

  17. Katie Parvin says:

    I completely agree. You have to have the right tools in order to be successful. I’ve seen so many businesses struggle, even though they have a great product, but they aren’t equipped with the proper tools necessary to succeed.
    Thanks for the post!

  18. Thanks, Peter. Spoken like a truly passionate product manager. Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts on Quora and Twitter.

    Cheers,

    Catherine

  19. Very thoughtful post. There are so many challenges with the Product Management discipline that it’s difficult to pick the most difficult stage of software development. That being said, I would not want to be working in any other role.

  20. Andrea Lucas says:

    This seems like a great idea for your business. Whether you’re in your office or on the road, it seemed this service may help you keep up-to-date on meetings and tasks. Good post.

  21. [...] OneDesk’s Blog reveals that the most important factor is to know your customer’s needs and understand how they prefer to communicate. You need to have a system that track customer behavior and through close collaboration between employees and customers, be able to sufficiently and effectively comply with the customer’s needs. The right customer service technology should be able to grant access to past customer interactions and map communication channels so that customers easily find answers to their questions. [...]

  22. [...] in this as well. The two I am familar with are Planisware (http://www.planisware.com/) and Onedesk (http://www.onedesk.com/product-t…). Both seem promising when fully adopted. I would love to hear people's experience with either [...]

  23. [...] information? Your customers have ideas and they want to be heard. In the OneDesk article “Innovation and Product Development Tips,” by Catherine Constantinides, Constantinides writes: The social customer is here to stay, [...]

  24. [...] OneDesk sponsors the PDMA’s 35th Product Innovation Management Conference | OneDesk OneDesk, an industry leader in social product development, is proud to be a sponsor of the 35th Product Innovation Management Annual Global Conference organized… Source: http://www.onedesk.com [...]

  25. [...] The development process and some scary facts | OneDesk We thought we would talk about some of the scary things companies are doing when approaching their product or service development process. Source: http://www.onedesk.com [...]

  26. [...] Co-working and how it stimulates innovation | OneDesk Co-working allows a global community of people to employ the values of collaboration, co-creation, community, openness and accessibility. Source: http://www.onedesk.com [...]

  27. Hi Aly,

    Yes, crmoutsiders.com is indeed a great site. Thanks for sharing this with our readers.

    Best,

    Catherine

  28. Aly says:

    Hey Catherine and Chris – Another great blog is crmoutsiders.com. It’s not strictly Social but write frequently and have great insights into the industry.

    All the best – Aly

  29. [...] Collaboration suite: Connects every role | OneDesk A collaboration suite is software that provides businesses with a set of applications, all integrated with a layer of online collaboration tools. Source: http://www.onedesk.com [...]

  30. Thanks for your suggestion, Chris.

    Best,

    Catherine

  31. Chris Butler says:

    Also lots of Social CRM stuff on our blog at wecando.biz.posterous.com

    Regards

    Chris Butler
    CEO
    WeCanDo.Biz

  32. You are most welcome, Aly. Social CRM has been a hot topic and it is important to provide relevant and timely information to our readers. Paul Greenberg’s blog is definitely an excellent source for all things Social CRM, and its impact on the Enterprise.

    Do you recommend any other Social CRM blogs?

    Best,

    Catherine

  33. Aly says:

    Hi Catherine – Thanks for sharing the blog list! As a CRM supplier and consultant in Texas, I like to keep up with the latest goings-on in the industry. I already read Paul Greenberg’s blog which is full of great information but the others are new to me, so I’ll definitely me checking them out!

    All the best – Aly

  34. Kimberley Chan says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Aaron! That’s right, engaging with your community can be a lot of fun. It’s also one of the best ways to learn about your brand, products, industry and even competitors. We sure would like to see more people following the 80/20 rule.

  35. Aaron Eden says:

    I’m with you both when it comes to social media automation – where one must do it responsibly. In a good way, social media automation can save you time from the non-productive work of posting news on your niche that your peers may find interesting – so you can use that time saved in focusing on real conversations with them instead. If you ask me, I took Pareto’s principle into a whole new approach, where I’m following the 80/20 rule of social media marketing: as in 80% conversation and 20% automation. I guess, everything’s a chain reaction of events– and social media automation tools can help alleviate the woes of social media fatigue. Besides, the point of getting social online is to engage and have fun doing so, isn’t it?

  36. Kimberley Chan says:

    Hi George,
    That’s a very good question, very thought-provoking. Thank you for bringing it up! I do not know the what kinds of studies there have been on the subject, but I am curious to find out. Let’s keep each other updated on our findings.

    I also encourage all our readers to provide information on this subject.

  37. george says:

    I was wondering if there have been studies that quantify the value of customization. From a very real example, we know that you can purchase a plain T shirt for under $5 retail or you can pay $20 for a similar T shirt that has a Nike Logo on it. For some people, the Nike Logo may be worth more than an image they create themselves. Different product categories will enjoy different premiums for different reasons. I was wondering if anyone has ever studied this and if there is any information available on the findings. Thanks for your help.

  38. Kimberley Chan says:

    Hi Jim,
    Thank you for letting me know about your blog. I took a look at it and I think our readers can learn a few things from you. As you can see, I have added your blog to my list.
    Thanks!
    Kim

  39. Jim Holland says:

    Feel free to add my blog to your list. I focus on building product management best practices while using 20 years of B2B product management and product marketing experience

  40. Your discussion about 360 degree feedback has great importance in these days. Because the most people seeking for selection right channel and for business feedback. As you mentioned in your article 360 degree feedback understand all sides of business and 360 evaluations. Every business management wants to get desired feedback, which is only possible through 360 degree feedback & 360 evaluations.

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