Why you should bother writing a good tasks

Turns out I took well written tasks for granted for quite a while.

My manager always had well formulated and details stories for us. We even didn't start working on it if something was missing, e.g. design or clear product goal.

Writing a good task proved to be not easy when you have to do it yourself.


Check your intuition. Do you feel the difference between those task titles:

bug: approval flow problem

and

Supplier approval buttons are not shown

What does it take to formulate a good issue?


Before we begin: why bother at all?

If somebody doesn't understand the task, they can always ask, aren't they?

Waste of time

Suppose we have 4 relevant people to work on a particular task - product owner, engineer, designer, and QA.

In case task is not clear, product owner needs to explain it all over again to all relevant people involved. Now, multiply it by the amount of tasks. Thus, product owner will be busy with clarification over and over around 80% of their time.

Achieving wrong results

Let's continue with our example. 4 people need to communicate between each other. Everybody might understand the goal in a different way if it's not formulated well.

In a week, when development is over, and QA is done, product owner might realize that certain things were missed. The team will have to spend extra time to fixes.


Understanding the context

When you create a task, you have a context. Of course, it feels that one sentence is enough. The problem is that the context might change in a matter of weeks.

When you have to go back to that task in a week, that one sentence doesn't say a lot. Even worse, it's not clear whether this task is relevant now at all.


Providing the necessary amount of relevant details could solve all those issues above.

Characteristics of tasks


Good feature task

Good feature tasks include the following:

  • Title states the objective;

  • Describes a user pain or motivation;

  • Describe a proposed solution;

  • Has a clear definition of done (aka QAable).

Good feature task do NOT include step-by-step instructions for implementations.


For example, good task might be formulated like this:

Title: Be able to create recurring order
Problem: There are several requests that can be repeated at a certain amount of time, e.g. every month. Now users have to remember to repeat them without any notifications.
Desired solution: Be able to create request in recurring mode. After the request is approved, new order is created at a specified time period and shown the top of the table. An email notification is sent to the creator.


Good bug task

Good bug task has the following:

  • Title that describes what's wrong;

  • Clear instructions how to reproduce the bug;

  • Clear explanation what it prevent our users from doing;

  • Describes the level of severity;

  • Has corresponding logs if applicable.

Example:

Title: Supplier action buttons are not shown
Steps to reproduce: 
1. userX@email.com creates a new supplier
2. userY@email.com receives a notification about new approval
3. Enters the app to approve, no buttons. See the screenshot below.
Screenshot

The example above might be improved but it contains enough information to the team leader to prioirize this bug. It clearly states what functionality is broken and for whom.

Detailed steps to reproduce include the list of actions as well as user details in case the bug doesn't happen to everyone.

Conclusion

Writing tasks well is a discipline that requires practice. While writing this post, I've explained one of our development tasks to a team members and didn't put it in writing. 3 days later my manager saw the result and pointed out that I misunderstood the task and now we need to fix it.

Next time I'll double down on formulating the tasks well, hope, you will too.

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