Friday, February 10, 2023

Working with User Stories and Story Points in MS Project Agile (Scrum)

Recently, while interacting with many Agile practitioners in a webinar, a number of questions came-up on the capability of MS Project Agile software with respect to user stories and hence, associated tasks. MS Project has features, tasks and as you’d know the features can be broken down into tasks. However:

  • Can MS Project Agile have items in user story format?
  • Can the stories be estimated in story points?
  • Can the stories be broken down into tasks?

You can watch the international webinar here:

Practical Scrum using MS Project Agile (2 of 3) by MPUG

Yes, absolutely you can! In this article, we learn more such capabilities with MS Project Agile. To download and use the MS Project Agile, you can use the following step-by-step installation guide.

Step-by-Step Guide: Install, Set-up and Run MS Project Agile 

In-depth, hands-on explanation with User Stories and how to address them have been explained in the below video course:

Mastering MS Project Agile – Scrum, Kanban and ScrumBan

User Story Basics

A story is written on a stick note, a simple piece of small paper, a card or an electronic card, if you are using a sophisticated software tool. A user story has three aspects:

  • Who – Who wants this?
  • What – What is wanted to be done by this?
  • Why – Why does someone want it?

A user story is written in this format: 

As a <role>, I want <need>, so that <value or benefit>.

The first role part is about “who”, the second need part is about “what” and the third value or benefit part addresses “why”.

You can learn more on various types of stories in this article of Stories about Stories in Agile Development. 

“Story Points” Custom Field

The Story Points field is not available by default in MS Project. You have to create a custom number field for this purpose. To assess the custom field:

Go to the Task Sheet Tools > Format tab > Columns > Custom Fields command. 

 A number custom field has been used as story points are calculated in numbers. If you are not going with story points, you can have feature points or simply, points. This is shown below. 

Backlog with User Stories 

Let’s say currently in our Product Backlog, we have the following items. This is shown in the Sprint Planning Sheet view. (click to enlarge the view)

As you see in the above figure, while the higher ordered items towards the top of the backlog are written in user story format, and they are estimated in story points, whereas the lower ordered items towards the bottom of the backlog are not in user story format. They are also not detailed or estimated in story points. 

This is expected as we plan for two to three upcoming Sprints, while refining the product backlog. You’d have noticed the items written in Story formats are estimates as 3, 5, 8 story points. 

More Refined User Stories

Many Agile/Scrum practitioners break-down stories into tasks and I’ve also noted it in the earlier linked article of stories. This can be done quickly with MS Project software. 

For example, the below story (first one in the list):

  • As a user, I can log into the online system, so that I can access.

This can be broken down into multiple user stories, if you want to provide access in a number of ways. For example, it can be:

  • As a user, I can log into the online trading system with my Email account, so that I can access it via my Email ID.
  • As a user, I can log into the online trading system with my payment wallet, so that I can access it quickly.
  • As a user, I can log into the online trading system with my social media XYZ account, so that I can access it via social media XYZ.

In such a case, you just have to write them down in the text area of the Task Name field in the Sprint Planning Sheet view.

Backlog with User Stories and Tasks

Many Agile/Scrum practitioners take the user stories and break them down into tasks. This happens during the Sprint Planning meeting. As shown earlier, we have many stories for the upcoming Sprint or Sprint 1. It’s shown in the below Board view. (click to enlarge the view)

Now we are going to break them into individual tasks. I’m going to use a boiler-plate set of tasks for these stories and break-down each story into tasks. For example, consider this user story:

  • As a user, I can log into the online system, so that I can access.

One can break them down into individual tasks, such as:

  • Task – 1: Design and develop
  • Task – 2: Implement UI
  • Task – 3: Prepare test plans
  • Task – 4: Execute test plans
  • Task – 5: Integration work
  • Task – 6: PO Review

All these can be done in the Sprint Planning Sheet view or Gantt Chart view. Once you have created the tasks under the stories, it will come as shown below in the Gantt Chart view.  

This also can be seen in the Sprint Planning Sheet view or Current Sprint Sheet view with a grouping applied.  

As shown:

  • The story has been broken down into individual tasks.
  • The story name is shown as the Task Summary Name, which is correct.
  • Both the story and the related tasks are associated with the Sprint.

Video - User Stories and Story Points

You can watch the following video [duration - 5m:30s]. to see a demonstration how user stories are written, estimated in story points, broken down to tasks, tracked and managed using MS Project Agile software tool.



As we saw in this article, the MS Project (Agile) software has the needed functionality to write each (product) backlog item in the form of user story. A story can be broken down into a set of tasks, and each task can be estimated with duration, start and finish dates.

Next, you have to assign the resources to the tasks and start Sprinting for your project. As you Sprint, you have to just drag and drop the cards in the Current Sprint Board view to complete them. 

As you move the cards across the board, it’ll come as shown below. 

Is it that simple to write with user stories in MS Project Agile? Yes, it is! 

You can quickly write the stories, break them into individual tasks and track them to completion. 


[1] Book: I Want To Be A PMI-ACP: The Plain and Simple Way, by Satya Narayan Dash

[2] Video Course: Mastering MS Project Agile, by Satya Narayan Dash

[3] Video Course: Microsoft Project Live Lessons, by Satya Narayan Dash.

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