Recently, Henning Schwentner and I finished our book Domain Storytelling: A Collaborative, Visual, and Agile Way to Build Domain-Driven Software. Checking sources and re-reading referenced books started a thought process that is still ongoing. In particular, I consider these two books as classics on the topic of software requirements:

Here’s why I think you should read them:

User Stories Applied describes guidelines, techniques, and pitfalls for discovering and handling requirements.  Mike Cohens advice is rather universal and not bound to user stories: Working with user proxies, acceptance testing, etc. All this seemed like common knowledge to me until I was recently reminded (once again…) that there a plenty of people who equate user stories with Jira issues or with the Connextra template (“As a … I want to… so that…”). I think that many people would profit from reading one of the early books on user stories to clear up some misunderstandings.

Writing Effective Use Cases shows how to follow an agile path from domain knowledge to software. Even if you do not apply use cases (I rarely do), the book contains highly actionable advice: Which questions to ask, how to write down what you have learned, etc. The description of the use case format can be used as a checklist for any kind of requirement document, especially for scenario-based approaches.

However, the idea that resonated most with me are “goal levels” – a guiding metaphor for finding the right level of detail for a requirement: What is the user’s goal? When should you focus on why it is a goal? When and how do you work out the details of how the user’s goal is achieved?

Henning and I borrowed the idea and applied it to Domain Storytelling. It proved to be very helpful when talking about the granularity of a domain story. If you see us drawing clouds, kites, ocean waves, and fish in our workshops to signify different levels of granularity, you can thank Alistair Cockburn for that.

Figure 1: Risk management in a leasing company as a fine-grained (wave level) domain story.

By the way: Our own book is now available in print and as e-book. It is part of Addison-Wesley’s new Vaughn Vernon Signature Series. Check out  for buying options.