Why User Stories Matter in Cyber-Physical Manufacturing

These documents help ensure that manufacturing teams are all working toward the same goal.

I Stock 1173740499

Bringing any new product to market requires clear communication and consistent collaboration between different stakeholders. Simply put, it’s important for everyone involved with the product, from the inception to sales and marketing, to be on the same page. The more complicated the product, the more essential it is for everyone to be in alignment (and the more challenging it is to sustain that alignment).

There are a number of tools that cyber-physical manufacturing companies can use to keep their teams working in harmony. One oft-underrated tool is the user story. What are user stories exactly, and what makes them so meaningful in cyber-physical product development?

User Stories Explained

User stories are brief, high-level documents that detail the value or benefit that a particular product offers to the end customer. These documents help ensure that manufacturing teams are all working toward the same goal and meeting all the requirements for the user to derive maximum benefit from the product.

Sometimes, user stories are just one or two lines. They cover a few pieces of essential information, including:

  1. Who the user is.
  2. What the user wants.
  3. Why the user wants it.

Often, manufacturing companies will develop simple formulas or templates, ensuring each product has a user story that is similarly formatted for ease of reading.

Examples of User Story Templates

Consider a few examples of what a cyber-physical manufacturing company’s user story template might look like.

  • For a very basic template: “As a [user type/description], I want [user goal] so that [reason for user goal].”
  • For a benefit-focused template: “In order to [user benefit], as a [user type of description], I want [user goal].”
  • For a value-focused template: “As a [user type or description], I want [user goal] in order to achieve [user value].”

Again, the point is to have a clear, succinct, and simple way for manufacturing teams to communicate internally about the end user goals for a particular product.

How User Stories Can Enhance Cyber-Physical Product Development

Ultimately, as manufacturers try to keep their cyber-physical product development timelines in sync, user stories can play a critical role. Consider a few tips for integrating user stories into an existing product development process.

It All Starts with Market Research

User stories are only as good as the data they encapsulate. Make sure you’re investing plenty of time and attention into market research, gaining a better understanding not only of the users you’re targeting but the specific ways you think those users will interact with a product, the value they hope to achieve, and the pain points they hope to overcome.

Test and Validate Consistently

It goes without saying that manufacturers subject each new product to multiple stages of iteration. For example, after making an initial prototype, it’s important to test that prototype rigorously, revising it multiple times in accordance with test group feedback. Throughout the testing process, make sure you’re referring to the user story on a regular basis, verifying that the prototype remains aligned with your started product needs and goals.

Focus on the User Experience

User stories can help manufacturing teams keep their focus on the actual experience of the end customer. In other words, throughout the testing and validation process, a user story can reiterate the need for a seamless, convenient, and intuitive interface. As they seek a particular benefit or value, users want to have a frictionless experience, something that can only be achieved through a thoughtful approach to product iteration.

Think in Terms of Scalability

User stories can also help cyber-physical manufacturers think in terms of long-term product flexibility or scalability. For example, if you identify user needs or goals that may change or evolve over time, you can start planning early on for software updates, or for cross-promoting ancillary products.

Aim for Continuous Improvement

Your user story helps you identify some big-picture goals, and your initial product may meet those goals. That doesn’t mean you can’t continue to fine-tune or enhance your product. User stories can provide some direction, reminding you of the ultimate benefits that users are after even as you seek better ways of delivering those benefits.

Product Roadmap Management Software Can Provide Clear, Meaningful User Stories

For cyber-physical manufacturing companies looking to develop and implement clear, meaningful user stories, there’s no need to start from scratch. Product roadmap management (PRM) tools often come with built-in functionality for developing user stories, and for incorporating them into the different stages of product development. To implement user stories in your manufacturing process, a good first step is to start sourcing the best PRM software solutions.

More in Software