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In my University of Applied Science we got taught that user stories are a part of Scrum, and when reading things on the internet it seems that everyone indeed uses User Stories when using Scrum. The accepted answer at this question for even speaks of "Scrum User Stories", and the accepted answer of this question also mentions user stories are part of Scrum. Also, everyone I speak to at my internship company thinks User Stories are part of Scrum.

However, I can't find any mention of User Stories in the Scrum Guide. Only of "backlog items" which could be anything. Even "Design a logo" could be a backlog item, if I understand the Guide correctly, but that's absolutely not a User Story.

To what framework do User Stories belong, if they don't belong to Scrum? And what caused them to be regarded as a core part of Scrum?

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The earliest reference that I could find were that the terms 'story card' and 'user story' were used when Alistair Cockburn visited the Chrysler C3 project. Kent Beck and Ron Jeffries were responsible for this project, and this is an early instantiation of what would become Extreme Programming (XP).

Many people pair Scrum with the Extreme Programming practices. Scrum tells you what to do, while XP gives you methods for doing those things that pair well with it. The Planning Game from XP pairs well with backlog refinement and Sprint Planning from Scrum. Continuous Integration and an emphasis on testing (from XP, TDD) enable Scrum's delivery of a potentially shippable increment at the end of every Sprint. XP's idea of the customer always being available pairs well with Scrum's Product Owner, who is given the authority to speak on behalf of the stakeholders. While Scrum provides a framework for Project Management, XP provides a set of principles and practices to deliver software that can (pretty easily) fit into this framework.

So you are correct. Scrum only speaks of "Product Backlog Items", which may be user stories. Extreme Programming is what gives us User Stories. But because of the synergies between XP and Scrum, you often see XP practices (including User Stories) in implementations of Scrum.

  • You say "The Planning Game from XP". Is it really part of XP? I couldn't find it in the XP rules. – ONOZ Nov 29 '18 at 14:09
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User Stories are part of several Agile methodologies, including Scrum and XP. Agile software development derives from the Agile manifesto and related writing (see http://agilemanifesto.org). Detailed methodologies such as Scrum or Chrystal or XP are based on those principles (and on what the methodology developers, and its practitioners, find useful). They are like screwdrivers--vital parts of most toolkits, but not necessary for having a toolkit.

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    Do you have any source on user stories being part of Scrum? I failed to find any. – Bart Apr 9 '18 at 22:41
  • User Stories aren't an official part of Scrum--you won't find them explicitly mentioned in the Scrum Guide, for instance (scrumguides.org). But they are described in most books =about= Scrum, e.g., "Agile Learning" (which covers them as part of Scrum, even though they are more associated with XP, which is covered later in the book). Scrum provides a framework for managing ongoing product efforts. User Stories are a related tool, often used as an excellent way to capture the details of "what needs to be done." – Ari Davidow Apr 10 '18 at 14:04
  • I was just reviewing Mike Cohn's "User stories applied" and think that the takeaway is that User Stories are the most common Agile approach to describing work that needs to be done (in a way that facilitates defining the work, and in defining what constitutes "done"). So, as others have pointed out, most (all?) Agile methodologies assume User Stories. But, the goal of the Agile software movement isn't to prescribe each technique. You don't need to use User Stories or Planning Poker, or many other tools with Scrum: You need to use what is effective for your team. – Ari Davidow Apr 10 '18 at 14:11
  • Mike Cohn, the For Dummies series, and many others often misrepresent practices that can be used within the framework as activities required by the framework. The benefit of a framework is that each situation has its own context and can thus apply the techniques best suited. User stories as a requirement are one common misunderstandings regarding the Scrum framework. The Definition of "Done" defines when the effort for each chunk of work is complete; Acceptance Criteria (not user story specific) define the specifics for each chunk. – Alan Larimer Apr 13 '18 at 16:02
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As to what caused User Stories to be considered part of core Scrum: Scrum has a focus on delivering value each sprint. It requires the development team to produce a potentially shippable product increment at least once per Sprint and (implicitly) to ensure that this new increment provides higher value to the user than the previous one. This can be achieved well through the use of User Stories, because if your PBIs are User Stories, each one of them will add value for the user to your product. Whereas more technical PBIs may lead to an increment that has no added value.

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