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The INVEST Scale

Breaking Down User Stories

01/16/2014 by Mohammed Naveed

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.