Back in 1902, a collection of stories and poems for children – the Just So Stories written by Rudyard Kipling – was published. For those of you struggling to place Rudyard Kipling, he was the author of The Jungle Book. Check out the Disney movie of the same name if you’re still not sure – or ask your children!
Kipling knew a thing or two about the written language. Tucked away in one of the Just So Stories were a group of words which have become the basis for information gathering, criminal investigation, scientific research and news reporting around the world – Who, What, Where, When, Why. These have become known as the 5 Ws.
The 5 Ws can also give user stories a greater depth of meaning by expanding on the business functionality required by the user.
“As a who when where, I want what because why.”
Here’s an example:
Now you might consider that some of the information in the above example is obvious and needn’t be stated – of course an operator will be in the call centre when they’re answering calls. But what if the operator is in another office in the building and logs in? Do you still want them to be able to access potentially confidential information outside the secure environment of the call centre? Suddenly this 5 Ws user story can also be a trigger to review access and viewing permissions when separate information threads are combined on one screen.
For specifying complex functional requirements, user stories won’t be replacing use cases any time soon but the 5 Ws approach will result in a more specific statement of business need. This in turn will help developers understand more about the context of the functionality that needs to be provided.
P.S. If you have the time to read Kipling’s poem (The Elephant’s Child) you’ll notice that it’s actually 5 Ws and a How. But we all know that business analysis is about the what rather than the how… don’t we?
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