Using the DEEP principle in Agile

DEEP principle in Agile

The DEEP principle in Agile is an acronym that represents a set of characteristics that user stories or product backlog items should possess to be considered well-refined and ready for development. DEEP stands for:

  1. Detailed Appropriately: User stories should be detailed enough to provide a clear understanding of what needs to be implemented without being overly prescriptive. They should strike a balance between too much detail (which can stifle creativity and flexibility) and too little detail (which can lead to misunderstandings and assumptions).
  2. Emergent: The details of a user story can emerge and evolve over time as the team gains a deeper understanding of the requirements. Rather than trying to specify every detail up front, Agile encourages teams to embrace change and refinement as new information becomes available.
  3. Estimated: User stories should be estimable, meaning the team can provide rough estimates of the effort required to complete them. This helps with planning, prioritization, and resource allocation. Estimating can be done using techniques like story points or time-based estimates.
  4. Prioritized: User stories should be prioritized within the product backlog. This ensures that the most valuable and important features are worked on first. Prioritization is typically the responsibility of the product owner, who considers business value and user needs.

DEEP vs INVEST in Agile

DEEP is a complementary concept to INVEST in Agile. While INVEST focuses on the quality and characteristics of individual user stories, DEEP deals with the overall quality and readiness of items in the product backlog. When user stories or backlog items exhibit the DEEP characteristics, it indicates that the team has a clear and well-maintained product backlog, which can lead to more effective Agile development and better outcomes for the project.

If we had to summarize the differences between DEEP and INVEST, it would be:

FocusDEEP primarily focuses on the characteristics of items in the product backlog, ensuring that they are well-defined, ready for development, and prioritized appropriatelyINVEST primarily focuses on the quality of individual user stories, ensuring that they meet specific criteria and characteristics
ScopeDEEP is concerned with the overall quality of items in the product backlog, not just user stories but any work items that are part of the backlog, such as features, bug fixes, or technical tasksINVEST is specifically tailored to user stories or similar backlog items, which are individual requirements or features
EmphasisDEEP emphasizes the need for items to evolve and emerge over time, encouraging teams to avoid excessive upfront detailing and allowing for adaptation as more information becomes availableINVEST emphasizes the need for user stories to be complete and well-defined from the start, with less emphasis on the emergence of details over time
EstimationIt highlights the importance of having estimable items in the backlog to facilitate planning and resource allocation but doesn't delve into the specifics of how to estimate.INVEST includes "Estimable" as one of its criteria but doesn't go into detail about estimation techniques; it's more about ensuring that items can be estimated rather than how to estimate them
PriorityDEEP places a strong emphasis on prioritization, ensuring that the most valuable and important items are at the top of the backlogWhile INVEST indirectly encourages prioritization by highlighting the importance of value (V for Valuable), it doesn't provide specific guidance on how to prioritize items within the backlog

In summary, DEEP is more about the readiness and overall quality of items in the product backlog, including features, user stories, and more. It provides a broader perspective on backlog management. INVEST, on the other hand, is specific to user stories and focuses on ensuring their individual quality and characteristics. Both principles play crucial roles in Agile development by helping teams create well-defined, valuable, and manageable requirements and backlog items.

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About the Author: Anuj Seth

Anuj is a certified PMP with over 20 years of Software Development and Management experience. He founded PM Tips in 2020. Contributors are welcome. Drop him a note via the Contact page.

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