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The INVEST Scale

Breaking Down User Stories

16 January 2014

The INVEST scale is a simple yet effective measure of user story feasibility in the current sprint, based on the INVEST principle.

Here's what to do: List the business requirements or the user stories in a tabular fashion. Put the INVEST columns next to each story. Have the product owner, or anyone who has business knowledge (with decision-making capabilities), fill out the matrix. Create a rule for a cutoff total to determine whether to accept the user story as is.

INVEST Scale 1 - 5
1 - Definitely not
2 - Not sure

3 - Maybe
4 - Looks like / Kind of

5 - Definitely

For example:
User Stories / Business Requirements Independent Negotiable Valuable Estimatable Small Testable TOTAL
Broker portal must be capable of receiving and processing HIP actuarial files with benefit sets and rates 1 2 1 3 2 1 10

Add HIP legacy plans to plan modeling page
4 4 5 4 5 5 27

Allow brokers to submit new business proposals containing HIP legacy plans; proposals may contain EH and HIP plans
2 4 1 1 2 3 13

Allow brokers to create and email proposals with HIP legacy plans
5 5 5 5 5 5 30

Allow brokers to view benefit details of HIP legacy plans
1 3 5 5 3 4 21

A score of <18 is not an acceptable independent user story. Break it down further!

In the example above, I've used the rule that a user story with a score of fewer than 18 points needs to be broken down further to derive any meaningful benefit. The cutoff total limit is up to the team; that total can vary based on the project or the team's needs.

This INVEST scale has provided lots of benefits to my current project:
  • Gets the product owner to think through the entire project
  • Product owner will be ahead of the game
  • Easier to get buy-in from stakeholders reluctant to venture into new projects
  • Simplifies the "monster" project into small, "thinkable" deliverables
  • Unknowns can be converted into knowns
Please share your thoughts.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 4.2 (12 ratings)


Michael Kuesters, CSP,CSD,CSM,CSPO, 1/16/2014 4:29:09 AM
Mohammed, thank you for sharing this insight.

The INVEST scale is definitely useful when PO's have a tendency to dump poorly defined stories on the team.

I would add a small notion to your article: considerung the SCRUM artifact "Definition of READY" - this is a very specific pattern to implement this artifact.

As a question: Do you have a tool for tracking INVEST from within the backlog - or is it something the PO does in addition to the backlog?

Kamal Hasan Kotapati, CSM, 1/20/2014 11:12:01 PM
This Good article to verify the INVEST level of each user story. My understanding is that we should do this inspection in following scenarios:
• PBI is not met the DEEP principle
• When Definition of Ready is properly met for those user stories
• Velocity of the team is not consistent (considering team capacity) - one of reason is user stories are not properly defined or analysed
Matt Chocqueel-Mangan, CSM, 1/27/2014 6:25:03 AM
Thanks Mohammed - very useful.
Kamal- what's the DEEP principle?
Fabio Leme de Almeida, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 1/28/2014 9:38:15 AM
Very great article. Congrats.
Sameer Chudaman Patil, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 1/28/2014 9:55:31 PM
We are following same from last 2 years it its really helped lot for accepting higher scale stories in Sprint, fow low scale we ask some powerful questions ,some brainstorming and in terms of constraints ,of we do add some spike to investigate further
Scle we use
Strongly dis agree-1
Not agree-2
Strongly agree-4
Mohammed Naveed, CSP,CSM, 1/30/2014 11:02:06 AM
Michael - That's the goal of the INVEST scale, let not the POs dump it on you. The PO should critically think beforehand & provide the inputs to the scale in addition to the backlog.

DEEP refers to Detailed appropriately, Estimated, Emergent and Prioritized (DEEP) for the Product Backlog. So what Kamal is rightly saying is that use your discretion to create the INVEST scale depending on DEEP, user stories readiness & team velocity.

Thanks for all your comments & feedback. As Sameer has pointed out, INVEST scale works!
Neil Ordiers, CSM, 10/7/2015 9:12:39 AM
Great suggestion for INVEST, since we do not always get the stories complete and this is a great way of getting the Product Owner more involved.

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