Scrum: How to split a large user story
March 18, 2013 8:27 AM   Subscribe

As part of the backlog items for a website, our team has been asked produce a web movie with an outside agency. The user story behind it it is huge - how can we split it?

The context is a recruitment website for a company. Here's the story, well, epic: "As a job seeker, I want to see a movie about the role I'm applying, so I can imagine what the job is about and what kind of people work in this role."

The biggest problem I'm facing is the difficulty to split the story while maintaining a useful increments for the customers. A movie is a movie - I can't publish half a movie, a storyboard or script, or just the soundtrack.

On top of it, we are producing the movie with an external agency. They are familiar with scrum, so I'm sure they would be open to help us in structuring this in a good way, but that doesn't change the fact that it takes a long time to get all the aspects of a movie together (from scripting to casting to production to post...)

One way I can imagine approaching this is to include internal decision makers as customers (e.g. our head of HR), so we can split stories presenting milestones towards the movie. But somehow that feels like cheating.

Any ideas?
posted by lord_yo to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The biggest problem I'm facing is the difficulty to split the story while maintaining a useful increments for the customers. A movie is a movie - I can't publish half a movie, a storyboard or script, or just the soundtrack.

Why not? It seems from this comment that you already have some natural breakpoints in which to split the story, as you will have a product to present - a script a storyboard, a soundtrack. Each of those things is an increment that will get you closer to completing the epic.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 8:47 AM on March 18, 2013

Perhaps it would be useful to look at the structure of a compelling narrative. Perhaps crib from some screenwriting books.
posted by Good Brain at 9:25 AM on March 18, 2013

per the bf: "Scrum isn't only about publishable(releasable) items. Why couldn't you have a task for storyboards, scripts, rough cut w/o sound, and final cut? There would be acceptance criteria for each step, and the ability to iterate on each step until it is accepted goes to the next step?"
posted by brilliantine at 9:34 AM on March 18, 2013

@BigRedKitty & @brilliantine: Thanks - your answers show me that I'm approaching this too dogmatically and it *is* possible to split stories without releasing. It's still good to formulate the story in terms of "use for the customer" (i.e. "As a viewer of the job video, I want compelling music in the background so that I get an emotional impression of the overall 'tone' of the job" - even if you don't publish the soundtrack, you could show it to a customer if you had the opportunity).
posted by lord_yo at 9:41 AM on March 18, 2013

When I try to pare down/split off user stories, I try to think of it in terms of "what's the smallest useful standalone piece of this project?" So if you are covering multiple jobs, and could conceivably ship 3 mini movies, one for each job, there are your user stories. If your boss came in and said, "sorry, we slashed your budget by 50%, cut your project back...maybe you'll get more money to finish it next year," that's your user story split. You want to have something that is shippable for your first user story, and work outwards from that.

So, without knowing more about your movie, I'd probably say:
- story 1: Our Company, and why it is awesome!
- story 2: a day in the life of a programmer
- story 3: a day in the life of a UX designer
- story 4: a day in the life of a product manager
- story 5: in conclusion, we are awesome, and here is where you should send your resumes.
posted by instamatic at 10:02 AM on March 18, 2013

@instamatic: Thank you - unfortunately, even the smallest pieces of a movie make a huge amount of work. So we're basically at the story level you're describing, and they are still too big. If you take the scrum/architecture metaphor: "instead of planning and building a whole house, build a room, inspect, build another room", the rooms would still be too big and I couldn't build them within a sprint. So it seems I need to concentrate on parts of the room (picking tiles, painting a window frame) without being able to assemble them.
posted by lord_yo at 10:11 AM on March 18, 2013

"Do the simplest possible thing that will work". Is your job to make a website, or to make project management artifacts? disclaimer: I hate Scrum
posted by thelonius at 10:45 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, but those things have to be written, right?

Make a requirement: "Make and post an Online video about jobs at WidgetCo." Then branch user stories off that requirement for each sprint.

Examples: "As a filmmaker, I need a storyboard, so that I can make the movie." "As an actor, I need a script, so that I know what to say at what point in time."

Then your final user story under that requirement can be the one you have: "As a job seeker, yada yada..." and then for that one you can just merge the final products of each of the other user stories.
posted by tckma at 1:37 PM on March 18, 2013

« Older I would like to be minus a sinus condition   |   Resume help! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.