Prioritizing user stories: using value to users as a key criteria

Product development in agile is always at risk of favouring velocity and developer's skills.

Favouring velocity means that when it's time to select stories, the team will elect to do many short stories to keep velocity on the rise, or stable.

Favouring skills mean that easy implementation may be selected, or sometimes tricky solutions which will give the developper the satisfaction of solving a difficult problem.

The outcome of the story's execution and value to users is an important criteria, and I'd like to introduce you in this session to a technique that helps prioritize against two sets of criteria: technical difficulty and value to users.

Using Personas, a tool from product design which I will explain, and a simple grid, this technique makes prioritization incredibly easy - which then enables the team to focus on getting stories done, rather than figuring out which stories.


Outline/Structure of the Workshop

Introduction: why prioritize on outcomes

Part 1: Introducing user personas and when and how to use them

This section will introduce user personas, with a brief overview of their value, their elaboration and where a team can source them if they don't have them. You will learn how personas are made, take a quick spin at crafting an ad-hoc persona and understanding first-hand the complexity of this exercise. I will conclude this section with an overview of their usefulness and relevancy at the various stages of product design and development.

I hold personas critical to developing user-valuable products, and will demonstrate why so you can walk out with a greater appreciation of their value to a development team in particular. 

Part 2: The prioritization grid and exercise

Using the freshly learned value and purpose of personas, we will look at applying them to prioritizing stories. This prioritization require technical evaluation along with an estimate of user value, so the product owner will have to conduct this exercise with his team, shifting part of the work from sprint planning to prioritization meeting. I will introduce the grid to use, the roles needed to conduct the prioritisation, and the process in order to enable you to replicate this with your team. A variant of the classic Business Prioritization grid, this grid embeds value to users as a key criteria for presentation, which requires an understanding of users hence the first part dedicated to personas.

Conclusion: what happens when this process is applied


Learning Outcome

Participants will be equipped with a new way of prioritizing stories, and the method to do so as well as a solid framework of reasoning to encourage adoption and tips and tools to help practicing this method.

Using this approach, prioritizing becomes easier, and products benefit from aditional clarity by shifting the discussion to one of value to end users.

Target Audience

product owners, agile coaches, scrum masters

schedule Submitted 5 years ago

Public Feedback

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  • Joel Tosi
    By Joel Tosi  ~  5 years ago
    reply Reply

    Hi Sophie,

        Could you please help me understand what the two exercises of the workshop are?  Is the first creating personas and the second is prioritizing based on personas?



    • Sophie Freiermuth
      By Sophie Freiermuth  ~  5 years ago
      reply Reply

      Hi Joel

      I've updated the description to answer your question. 



  • Jerry Rajamoney
    By Jerry Rajamoney  ~  5 years ago
    reply Reply


    Thanks for the topic. The "Part 1: Introducing user personas to the process " - Is this is something Jeff Pattern used to do? Are you going to refer the same?

    Also, "The prioritization grid and exercise" -> Can you please provide some more details or an external link to have a look at?


    • Sophie Freiermuth
      By Sophie Freiermuth  ~  5 years ago
      reply Reply

      Hi Jerry

      Personas are a classic design tool that Jeff indeed has spoken a lot about. I still find them underused, misunderstood and unappreciated though, and endeavour myself to inform on their value as they are very helpful to the design process.

      In regards to your question about the grid, that's the entire point of the presentation. I've updated the copy to detail further this.

      Thanks for your input,