An introduction to user story mapping
User story mapping, or just story mapping, is an effective tool to create, plan and communicate your product backlog.
Story mapping was created by Jeff Patton and its primary utility is providing us with an overview of the entire product and how user goals are broken down into a series of tasks. Finally, it helps us to define valuable product slices (releases) and prioritize between them.
What problems is story mapping trying to solve?
For many organizations, the product backlog is just a flat list of features. This might be fine for simple applications, but for complex applications it quickly becomes hard to maintain and communicate.
While simple, an unstructured product backlog has several downsides:
- It becomes hard to communicate the product vision to team members and other stakeholders, because the relationships between a features and the user journey and releases are missing.
- Without the overview, there is a high risk that the full user journey has not been covered.
- Because releases are not clearly scoped and visualized, you are probably not working on the most valuable set of features right now.
Story mapping addresses all of theses downsides.
The anatomy of a story map
A story map is a very simple tool, but it can bring tremendous value if used correctly. In essence, a story map contains the following items and their relationships: Goals, Activities, Features and Releases.
Goals are what the user wants to achieve because it brings value. Goals should be ordered chronologically to cover the full user journey.
Goals are broken down into activities. An activity is a step that the user needs to take in order to reach the goal.
Features are functionality or capabilities that help the user complete a particular activity.
We always want to spend our effort to deliver the most valuable pieces of our product. We do this by defining and prioritizing releases. In a story map, a release is a group of features which spans the whole user journey. The make the priority clear, the most valuable slice is put on top.
An example story map
That’s it! To get some practical experience, go a have a look at one of our example story map.