The Importance of User Stories in Cyber-Physical Product Development

Posted by Maziar Adl
Maziar Adl
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product team leaderProduct development at the smallest scale requires clear, consistent communication to ensure everyone involved in building the product is on the same page. The more complex a product gets, the more opportunities there are for communication to break down. Manufacturers of complex products will turn to scaled agile frameworks to keep their teams aligned and working efficiently on big projects. 

Development teams can also incorporate different tools to ensure effective communication between them. One crucial tool that software development teams use is the user story. With cyber-physical product development, hardware teams can also take advantage of user stories to define what the customer needs, prioritize work, and enable cross-collaborative development


The Purpose of the User Story

Due to the complexity of cyber-physical products, the user stories help product development teams stay on track. With the large scope of a complex product, user stories allow teams to focus on each component without losing sight of the big picture. Cyber-physical product development teams rely on the product managers, product owners, and even the scrum masters to ensure the user stories are accurate and delivered in the right order. 


How to Structure a User Story

checklistThe user story not only tells the hardware team what they need to achieve, but it can also help them see what the user needs from both the hardware and software components of the product. Each user story needs to be brief, containing a high-level description of a requirement that focuses on the value or benefit the feature offers the customer. 

A user story can be written in one line, including who the user is, what they want, and why they want it. Many companies will develop a formula that follows the same pattern for easy reading and understanding. 

User stories are meant to be a brief, high-level description of a requirement, focusing on the value or benefit the feature provides to the user. The flow of the formula will depend on the focus of the team. 

User stories Templates

Here are some examples of different user story formulas:

Basic template 

As a {user type here}, I want {user goal here} so that {user reason here}


As a {persona here}, I want {persona goal here} so that {persona reason here}


In order to {user benefit here}, as a {user goal here}, I want {user reason here} 


As a {user type here}, I want {user goal here} in order to realize {user value here}


Formulas for user stories provide an easy structure for communication that all teams can recognize, understand, and work with. They also help product teams maintain the focus on the customer. 


How to Improve the Development Process for Cyber-Physical Products with User Stories

There are many tips to ensure that product development happens smoothly, efficiently, and according to plan. With cyber-physical products, there are certain steps that require careful attention to keep everything in alignment and keep the timelines in sync. Creating and using user stories is one piece of the puzzle to creating a smooth product development process. 


Understand the Market

demographic segmentationResearching the market and the ideal customer is an essential part of product development, whether it's a digital product, a physical product, or a combination of the two. With cyber-physical products, development teams need to dig deeper into their market research to understand how the product will be used in the physical and digital aspects. 

What does the customer want from the physical portion of the product? Do they value aesthetics and design, or do they care more about durability? With the software portion of the product, it's important to consider if the user wants a sleek user interface to match the design or if they want simplicity. 

Once the market research is compiled, user stories can be crafted with accuracy and purpose based on the true end user. When written correctly, user stories can help convey what the end-user needs and wants to inform the designers and engineers on how to approach each component. 


Test and Validate Often

Due to the complexity of a cyber-physical product, it's crucial to plan for rigorous testing and validation of the product. Testing can take place in the form of a digital prototype to plan the best design possible from the start. Once a minimum viable product (MVP) is ready, more testing can take place to ensure functionality and interoperability between the hardware and software. 

Companies using Agile development methodologies will be following a frequent testing and validation process as part of the product development cycle. This is also an opportunity to assess whether the prototype aligns with the user stories. 


Focus on the User Experience

design thinkingWhen product teams focus on the user experience, you'll have more opportunities to wow your customers and provide a product they actually want to use. This is where the user stories are vital. Each suggestion, idea, or approved feature needs to solve something for the customer. When development teams know at the beginning why they are designing a certain component, they'll have the clarity to focus on delivering value in a specific context. 

Designing a product with the end user in mind can generate a seamless user experience with cyber-physical products. When all the features interact intuitively and effectively, the user will have a much easier time with the product and, therefore, be more satisfied. 


Ensure Regulatory Compliance

There are many cyber-physical products designed for important industries, such as medical technology, transportation, and scientific research. The sensitive nature of these industries requires products to follow specific regulations. These rules may be in place for safety reasons or government oversight. Whichever case it may be, product developers need to be aware of the regulations and ensure their design complies with them every step of the way. Key details of these needs can be captured in user stories or in tandem with the user story.

Failing to follow specific industry regulations can result in much more than unhappy customers. Companies whose products don't match the laws of the industry can damage their reputation, face serious fines, and put their users at risk. Knowing the rules that must be met enables product development teams to sort out any problems during the testing and validation periods long before the end result is available to the market.


Embrace Scalability and Flexibility

Choose PathAny product that features a digital component needs to be ready for updates, innovation, and continuous improvement. The rate at which digital technology is evolving means that software developers face the ongoing challenge of staying up-to-date while trying to innovate ahead of the trends. Keeping user stories up-to-date also helps product teams match the evolving needs of their end users. 

Software development teams must keep scalability in mind when they work on their components. In tandem, the hardware teams need to be flexible in their designs to match the scalability of the software. Having a physical design or platform that allows room for additional features, components, and expansion will increase the life cycle of that product model, reducing the need to launch a new physical product each time a new update needs to be released. 


Strive for Continuous Improvement

Gone are the days of designing and launching a new product every five or more years. With cyber-physical products, new features roll out annually. Sometimes, there could be new features multiple times a year or major improvements every two years. It all depends on the type of product and the pace of the competition. 

The most important thing is to ensure that your produce development teams adopt a new approach to product roadmapping and embraces the mindset of continuous improvement. Every launch should be an attempt to put the best possible product on the market. When companies embrace a culture of incorporating feedback and iterating on both the physical and digital elements of the product, the higher their chances of dominating the market will be. 


Cyber-Physical Product Roadmap Management Software

At Gocious, we have designed Cyber-product roadmap software to help cyber-physical product managers and the product teams to stay aligned with their big goals and keep the user in mind when creating their cyber-physical products. Book a free demo to see how Gocious can help your teams stay in sync.

Topics: Product Development, Cyber Physical

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