Early in the adoption of Agile, neither developers nor users are likely to have had much experience of collaborating with the other. So here are some key questions you can use to guide your collaboration with the users. You can ask any or all of them from either of two points of view:
- The As-Is perspective: How does the system work right now?
- The To-Be perspective: How do you think it should work?
Setting the context
Here are some preliminary questions you should know the answers to, to set the discussion in context:
- How long have you been working in this area?
- What’s your role?
- What other roles are you representing here? What about users who use the system for different things from you?
- How familiar are you with what the business is trying to do (and change) in your area?
- Do you think that the other users from your area would agree with what you’ve told me what?
- What else do you think the less experienced or occasional users in your area need?
If the answers to these questions are not what you had expected or if they mean that the user is unlikely to be able to answer all your questions fully, continue working with the user, but also make sure that the Lead or Product Owner hears immediately.
Regarding the User Story you are working on together, here are some basic questions:
- What are the goals of your work?
- Its purpose.
- Its outcome.
- Its outputs.
- Where do you start?
- What do you already have or know when you start work?
- Where in the process do you begin using the system?
- Where in the process do you stop using the system?
- What are the main steps?
- Including manual steps where you go offline.
- Including points where you are waiting for someone else to do something.
- What do you put into the system at each point?
- Information? A choice? A decision? Some other kind of input?
- What do you get out of the system at each point?
- Information? Options? A decision? Access to something? Some other kind of result?
- What controls are you aware of the system applying at each step?
- Are there points where you can go different ways?
- What options do you have?
- How do you choose between them?
- How does each one affect the overall process or outcome?
- Is all this useful to achieving your ultimate goal?
- What are the quality requirements for this work?
- How do you know you’ve met them?
- How frequently do you do this task?
- Do you have throughput targets?
- What is the most difficult part of this process to use?
- Are there bottlenecks?
- Where is it most painful?
- Would you most like to see changed to deal with this user story?
- How do you know how to do all this?
- By training?
- From personal experience?
- From reference materials?
- You are supported by local subject-matter experts?
- The system gives you on-screen instructions and help?
Answers to questions like these will allow you to shape the overall solution.