Man Eats Dog Food; TrueStory

You’ve probably heard the phrase “eating your own dog food” to refer to companies that use their own products. There is a lot of speculation online about where that phrase came from, including the suggestion that the president of a pet-food company used to eat a can at the shareholders’ meeting.

That’s either an excellent way to demonstrate quality or a catastrophic failure in catering depending on how you look at it.

We’ll stick to salads and sandwiches, thank you. But we do love making our own tools.

One of those is TrueStory, an online application for managing user stories. You might have seen my previous blog about estimating timescales in agile software development projects, where I explained how we use hundreds of user stories to describe the functionality a project requires. A user story might be a basic feature like enabling a user to log in or could be something more sophisticated like enabling genuine users to review a blog post. We say a story is complete when there is no more work required on it, except perhaps because of a later user story. If a feature has visual design element, we add them in before we consider the story finished too. So as we complete user stories the application gradually builds up from chunks of working, damn-near-final software features.

This tool should enable us to give clients ownership of the user stories

Keeping track of all these stories is fundamental to the project’s success but we couldn’t find a tool that was up to the job. One of the things that was most important to us was that this tool should not just be for our use internally: it should enable us to give clients ownership of the user stories, so they could flexibly re-prioritise and shape the project as it evolves, and so that they could have full visibility of what we’re doing. For the tool to be effective it had to be child’s play to use, from the very start of a project.

That vision led us to develop TrueStory. It enables you to create user stories and award them story points that describe their complexity. To change the priority of stories you simply drag and drop them. The team can pull as many stories into the upcoming sprint as they feel they can commit to. It’s a simple solution but it enables hugely sophisticated collaboration between our clients and our team here.

We’ve put it online and made it available for the project teams, clients and partners to use.

I’d love to hear what you think, so why not leave a comment below, or drop us a line? If you want to talk about how we could work together, we would be happy to tell you more over a drink or a bite to eat. I promise: no dog food.

Get involved: New Bamboo Blog – Man eats dog food; TrueStory