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Zahmoo for developers: keep track of the big-picture

“In his role as family caterer, Mr Carrington buys potatoes at the Tuesday Market, completing his shopping-list for the day.”

The phrasing conforms to the structure for an Agile ‘user-story’; it even conforms to the structure we recommend for general story-capture, with people, place, time, context and event. But we’d have to admit that it’s not much of a story!

One of the risks for developers – whether developing process, software or community – is getting lost in all the detail, with all the myriad of tiny user-stories like this one.

So to make sense of what’s going on – and to avoid delivering something that’s technically correct but of little real value – we need to be able to keep track of the big-picture. And link all of the small-stories back to that big-picture.

One of the most useful guidelines we’ve found for this is a quote from enterprise-architect Chris Potts, in his book recrEAtion:

“Customers do not appear in our processes – we appear in their experiences”

Or, from a story-perspective, “we appear in their stories“.

In Zahmoo, collect stories that start from this ‘outside-in’ view:

  • Who are our equivalents of Mr Carrington?
  • What are their bigger-picture roles, equivalent to Mr Carrington’s role of ‘family caterer’?
  • What are their needs, their drivers, their experiences, their stories?
  • At what time, in what place, with what events, and with what results, does each part of their experience take place?

Perhaps even more important, because it describes how we can add value (or fail to add value):

  • Where do those roles and experiences touch our processes?
  • What works for them, in their experience of our process, or someone’s process?
  • What doesn’t work for them? In what ways are they forced to ‘fill in the gaps’ in someone’s process?

The more we can make their story seamless, and the more we can reduce the frictions and irritations in their experience, the more perceived-value we’ll create for them. Yet we’ll only be able to see that value if we can maintain the link to their big-picture story.

Over time we’d work our way down from the big-picture ‘epics’ to the necessary fine-detail of the Agile-style user-stories. And we’d record all of these types and layers of story within Zahmoo.

But as we do so, we’d also remember to use the metadata and the linkmechanisms to maintain those links between stories. That’s the way we make sure that we don’t lose track of the big-picture – and ensure that we do deliver real value through our development-project.

Image credit: Buying potatoes by Anthony Albright under a Creative Commons BY-SA-2.0 licence.

April 30th, 2012 by Zahmoo
Filed in: For Business, For Community
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Zahmoo is a story bank for collecting and sharing your family and business stories.