INVEST Mnemonic in Scrum User Stories

Instructor: Fernando Garrido Vaz
The INVEST mnemonic provides a set of guidelines to help Scrum team members write better user stories. Learn what the mnemonic means and how to apply it.

Why Do We Need Good User Stories?

Scrum teams must have good user stories to work with to be successful. User stories describe an interaction of the user and the system.

Many issues commonly identified as problems with Scrum teams originate from poor user stories, either because the work is badly divided when large items are broken down into individual stories, or because the stories are just poorly written. Here are some of the most commonly seen problems that can originate from poor user stories:

  • Teams have difficulty re-prioritizing work from one sprint to another because of dependencies between stories. A sprint is a term for a work cycle in which work is completed and made ready for review.
  • Sprints end without delivering value to the end-users.
  • Stories get rejected by the product owner because they lack clear testable requirements.

INVEST Mnemonic

If you find yourself facing these problems, or if you want to avoid them in the first place, the INVEST mnemonic is a set of guidelines that helps guarantee the quality of user stories in Scrum and other agile development processes. The letters in INVEST stand for:

  • Independent
  • Negotiable
  • Valuable
  • Estimable
  • Small
  • Testable

If you follow the INVEST principles when breaking down the work to be performed and when actually writing your user stories, you will go a long way towards avoiding the issues mentioned above. While not mentioned in the Scrum Guide, the official text written by the co-creators of Scrum, the INVEST mnemonic is a very useful guide that has gained widespread adoption. Let's take a closer look at INVEST principles.

Independent

User stories should be written in a way that makes it easy for them to be moved around - reprioritized within a sprint, or moved to a different sprint altogether. This means you should split up the work so as to create as few dependencies as possible between the stories.

Negotiable

All stories in a Scrum backlog should be negotiable - that is, they may be changed, reprioritized or even removed altogether due to a number of reasons.

Valuable

One of the principles of Scrum is to deliver value to the end-user as soon and as often as possible. Therefore, user stories that do not deliver any direct value to the end user should be avoided and re-written. This is particularly important to consider when dealing with technical debt.

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