Gautam Ghosh explains how stories can be effective tools for diagnosis. Although Gautam discusses from the perspective of a HR and OD consultant, the need for diagnosis and understanding the business is equally important while developing software.
Not to confuse with the user stories in XP, these stories can help bring to forefront some aspects that usually documentation misses. In fact, it has been beneficial by not having a formal question-answer session with the user, but just let the user talk. In traditional interviews, the questions are from the perspective of what we, the software professionals, want to know, which differs a lot of times from what the user wants to tell. The user has a bigger picture in the mind, that lets you into the business side, the purpose of the activity. And this is where the ROI is going to impact, not in the code.
What also comes out of such talks is the passion for various aspects of the project. They provide a good sense of reality about the urgency of deadlines or the crunch of the budget. It is difficult to trap these in formal interviews. The user has a homogeneous view of the problem, which we decompose when we ask questions and lose the global impact of the problem. Decomposing is necessary to understand, but only after the user explains the problem.
Of course I still believe that we are the solution experts, and that the user knows what he/she wants, not what he/she needs. That is our job, to provide a solution to the user’s problem. However, the solution has all the potential of going haywire if the problem is not understood. Stories are the easiest way of avoiding this, and first step towards identifying ROI of the software.