What Is Story Decomposition In Agile Business Analysis?


Agile Business Analysis is a method of breaking down complex tasks into smaller parts in order to achieve a desired outcome. Story decomposition is a key concept in Agile Business Analysis, as it helps to identify and address the underlying issues that are associated with a task. In this blog post, we will discuss what story decomposition is and how it is used in Agile Business Analysis.

What Is Story Decomposition?

Story decomposition is the process of breaking down a complex task into smaller, more manageable parts. This allows for a more thorough understanding of the task, as well as a better ability to identify and address any underlying issues. Story decomposition can be used in many different types of projects, from product development to customer service. 

According to the IIBA:

Story decomposition is used to represent the requirements for a solution at the appropriate level of detail and is aligned to desired outcomes.

The Agile Extension to the BABOK Guide further breaks this down between the initiative horizon and the delivery horizon as follows:

Initiative Horizon

Used to support decisions about which feature to deliver, in what order, and how much of the feature needs to be delivered in order to reach the desired outcome.

Strategy Horizon

Used to decompose epics into individual stories.

An important aspect of the product backlog grooming is story decomposition. Sprint backlogs with many small user stories improve the flow of the sprint, enabling the team to regularly deliver business value. It makes for a more efficient burndown and reduces the risk of the sprint failing. The user story should be a self-contained increment of value.

How To Decompose A Story

There are several methods that can be used to decompose a user story, including:

The CRUD Method

Create, Read, Update, and Delete operations in the stories. These stories can be decomposed into four or more product backlog items. If a user story uses the word manage, it is an indication that it could benefit from CRUD.

The Business Rules Method

Here the idea is to work with customers, stakeholders and the team to identify business rules, implicit or explicit, that drive the scope of work and testing. Then split the story based on the business rules that share the same conditions or that produce different outcomes.

Platform (Input Options) Method

Here the idea is split stories based on the various input options or platforms that users may interact with.

Workflow Steps Method

Here you use the workflow steps or the step-by-step process to decompose the stories. Each step can be a self-contained increment that can be delivered on its own.

Advantages Of Story Decomposition

Story decomposition is a great way to gain a better understanding of complex tasks. It also allows for more effective communication between stakeholders, as each story can be discussed and debated separately. In addition, story decomposition:

  • Helps to keep the big picture context
  • Focused on the project’s goals and objectives
  • Traceability
  • Release-level plans
  • Helps in coordination of external activities

Limitations Of Story Decomposition

  • Knowing when to stop decomposing
  • Teams can get lost in decomposing based on process, architecture, or procedure

In Summary

User stories should be decomposed when the original story is too complex, covers too much functionality or is too vague. The idea being to gain clarity in order to better estimate and improve the sprint burndown rate. It will also reduce the potential to overthink or over design.

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