Skip to content Product Ownership Blog Series, Part 3: Discovering Vertical Slicing and Behavior-Driven Development

Product Ownership Blog Series, Part 3: Discovering Vertical Slicing and Behavior-Driven Development  

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If you’ve been reading our Product Ownership blog series, you know that in the last installment, Part Two, we discussed Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and User Story Mapping. If you haven’t read the blog post, catch up here. In each of our blog posts in the series, we’ve been explaining Agile techniques Product Owners can implement and providing practical tips for those in this role, or those who hope to one day to become a Product Owner. Read on to learn about two other helpful techniques: Story Decomposition Through Vertical Slicing and Behavior-Driven Development.


Curious about what Story Decomposition, Vertical Slicing, and Behavior-Driven Development are? Find out in this blog written for Product Owners. 


What is Story Decomposition Through Vertical Slicing? 

Story Decomposition represents the requirements of a solution at the appropriate level of detail and is aligned to outcomes desired by the Agile team. The point of Story Decomposition is to help team members keep big-picture context and goals in mind. It also assists with release-level planning. With Story Decomposition, it’s important that Product Owners write “just enough and just in time” so that they don’t revert to giving detailed requirements right up front.  

Vertical Slicing is a technique that aids Product Owners in Story Decomposition. A vertical slice is a deliverable that provides something to a customer, independent of technology. It’s similar to Minimum Viable Product (MVP). However, unlike with MVP, the feedback could come from an internal customer.

According to Midgley and Serra, “‘Vertical’ refers to the technology stack. A vertical slice doesn’t have to change each technology in the stack. One person doesn’t have to implement a vertical slice on their own.” 

Vertical Slicing is valuable for several reasons. For example, it:  

  • Decreases risk  
  • Builds confidence 
  • Improves predictability 
  • Reduces lead time to value

You can keep Vertical Slicing methods, such as Spike, Line, Interface, CRUD, End User, and Rules, fresh in your mind by remembering the acronym SLICER. Learn more about Vertical Slicing/Story Splitting in Mike Cohn’s video training for how to split user stories effectively. Also, you can find additional articles on Story Splitting here, in the Agile Alliance glossary.

Why Behavior-Driven Development is Important for Product Owners to Learn  

Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) is a technique used by Product Owners to ensure better outcomes and help the Agile team succeed. “Behavior-Driven Development is a collaborative approach to identifying intended customer behavior using real examples in a customer-readable, domain-specific language,” Midgley and Serra explained. This approach is used when teams are attempting to figure out the conditions of acceptance for user stories.  

Product Owners often implement BDD to ensure the Agile team develops only what is needed and that the requirements and tests are built together with no translation required. But they must be sure to keep the examples UI and technically agnostic if they want them to have optimal reuse potential. Product owners should also keep the examples as simple and focused as possible.  

There are many benefits to collaborating with BDD. Behavior-Driven Development can create shared understanding, for example. This helps the Agile team know what to do next. This approach also creates shared understanding for those who support the product. Other benefits include: 

-- Helping the current Agile team find the correct solution. 
-- Enabling the next Agile team to improve the solution.  

Want more information about BDD and how it can help you as Product Owner drive better results? If so, check out Specification by Example: How Successful Teams Deliver the Right Software, by Gojko Adzic. Software developers wanting to learn more about this approach should look no further than BDD in Action: Behavior-Driven Development for the Whole Software Lifecycle, by John Ferguson Smart.  

Don’t miss Part One, Part Two, and Part Four (the final part) of our IIBA Product Ownership blog series to find information about additional techniques that will contribute to your success as a Product Owner.  


Interested in Product Ownership Analysis? 

Learn about this new discipline, how business analysis integrates with Product Ownership and the POA Framework. Download a FREE copy of the Introduction to Product Ownership Analysis.

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About The Author:
Emily Midgley

Emily Midgley is the President of the Cleveland Chapter of IIBA and has 13 years of business analysis experience in the insurance industry. She led business analysis for programs to implement leading-edge technology like big data and mobile apps. As an Agile coach, Emily brings BA practices to product managers and product owners throughout the enterprise to increase focus on customer value.