In the Agile team, the role of user is fundamental – and also fundamentally different from user roles in other approaches.

  • Users are full members of the team:
    • Active from Iteration Planning, if not earlier.
    • A full participant in all team activities.
  • Users are involved throughout the entire delivery process.
  • Users are active members of the delivery team – not just:
    • Requirements writers.
    • Occasional informants and SMEs.
    • Reviewers.
    • Testers.
  • They have authority over the stories they work on.
    • Explaining what they mean, agreeing changes, agreeing how they are implemented.

These complexities create significant challenges, for the User, for the team as a whole, and for the user community and business area where the User usually works.

  • Agile is exceptional in the level of involvement it expects from users. This involvement is fundamental to the whole Agile approach. For details of why user involvement is so important to Agile and the many benefits it brings, click here.
  • Agile is even more strange to users than to developers. Click here for more on preparing users for Agile.
  • Close collaboration is not something many developers or users are familiar with. Click here for more on how to collaborate.
  • Users have many other responsibilities, so setting the level of user involvement is essential.
  • User involvement is not a panacea; it does not even completely solve the problem of representing what users really want. Click here for more on the limits of user involvement.

Key responsibilities

As an active member of the Agile team, the user is intensively involved throughout the development & delivery processes.

Within the Agile teamWith the user community

Creates stories

  • Drafts stories.
  • Articulates, interprets & evolves stories.
  • Story SME throughout.
  • Evaluates, challenges & agrees changes to stories.

Implements stories

  • Collaborates with developers to implement their stories.
  • Evaluates models, sketches and prototypes.
  • Tests & verifies the story at every stage – not just UAT.
  • Agrees story implementation.

Represents the user community

  • Including users with different levels of experience.
  • … and possibly other functions & responsibilities.


  • Feeds back to business domain on development, changes, etc.
  • Champions the team’s solutions.

Key knowledge & skills

 Professional characteristicsPersonal characteristics

Change management

  • They need to understand what is needed to make the story truly effective.
    • I.e., the full range of factors, as well as just systems changes.

A skilled communicator

  • Especially to non-users such as Agile developers.
  • Analytical.
  • They need to articulate the ‘back story’ and ‘context’ of the stories they represent.


  • Able to articulate issues & opportunities.
  • Able to shape & evaluate potential solutions.
  • Willing to accept change.

What do Users do each day?

Users are constantly involved, throughout the delivery process, making a critical contribution to successful delivery.

Here is a summary of a User’s regular tasks within the Agile team.

Before each iteration
  • Supporting Iteration Planning.
    • Expressing business & user priorities.
    • Explaining & articulating epics, themes & stories.

During each iteration
  • Explaining & elaborating stories.
  • Collaborating with developers.
  • Participating in Daily Stand-Up Meetings.
  • Selecting from emerging design options.
  • Advising on usability, etc.
  • Defining test requirements.
  • Testing software.
  • Confirming that stories have been correctly implemented.
  • Refining the Backlog.

At the end of each iteration
  • Attending Showcases.
    • Providing user perspective.
    • Explaining options, choices, changes & choices.
  • Attending Retrospective.
    • Identifying lessons and impediments.
    • Proposing improvements in user relationships & involvement.

Between iterations
  • Creating stories.
    • Including Acceptance Criteria.


The right person for the job

User involvement in an Agile project is a serious step and should be treated as such. Users need to be the right person and their involvement needs to be of a very specific kind that is quite unusual in their normal work environment.

  • They will experience a level of accountability and responsibility that many people find difficult.
  • They will be expected to express and articulate what they want from the development in ways, and at a level of detail, that requires an exceptional level of awareness.

They will also tend to possess certain key professional and personal attributes:

Professional characteristicsPersonal characteristics
  • Senior:
    • Empowered to interpret stories.
    • Empowered to accept changes and innovations without management approval.
    • Deeply experienced in all aspects of the area they represent.
    • Broadly experienced enough to represent the full range of users who will use the solution they are helping to develop.
    • Technically expert enough to evaluate the implementation of stories.
  • Deeply familiar with the project:
    • The business strategy and plans.
    • The aims of the specific developments in which they are involved.
    • The individual stories they will be working on.
    • Any current problems and issues with the area they represent.
  • Available:
    • For realistic lengths of time.
    • At the right times (i.e., when the team needs them).
  • Actively supported in their ‘day job’ throughout their involvement with the project:
    • E.g., by their managers back-filling their other roles and responsibilities.
  • Confident of their own knowledge.
  • Articulate.
  • Flexible.
  • With a positive attitude towards the work and IT generally.
  • A team player.

Click here for advice on preparing users for Agile.

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