With that came the need to communicate and work with clients and customers remotely. Luckily User Story Mapping is the perfect method to visually cover the entire scope of the project/product, to help discussions, and gain a shared understanding direclty with your client.
When building your story map, you should include all the relevant people, regardless of position.
Each member invited will offer different foundations and interests, they will all offer unique and valuable points of view. A User Story Map is used to map out what you, as developers or managers think about when it comes to the user’s experience.
Bring in your Client
This advanced tactic is to involve the customer/client with a map designed as a Customer facing Story Map.
Customers have probably seen roadmaps, or gannt charts in the past but to truly involve a customer with your plan of development or project outline is to utilise a Story Map. A Story Map can show your progress with a beautiful planned out snapshot. Allow your client to choose where to zone in and understand.
In the example below, we took our Moviebuddy map, a fictional product which helps you arrange and organise your DvD collection and had our development team plan out the requirements for each user story. We needed to share with our client what exactly we planned and if our vision was shared.
A tool such as FeatureMap, used to share your product design lends more value to the customer, as it is always online, available to view and offer feedback.
When should I use a customer facing story map?
When sharing story maps with customers, it is important to iterate that a story map is not a roadmap, it is a living, breathing, evolving workflow. One day you may have features and functions set for the next release and the very next day it could be bumped up, down or adjusted.
The value of such a map is measured not only in the transparency of your dev team and work, but the process of your dev team.
In one such instance, we saw a knowledgeable member of the public witness a planned feature who then recommended an alternative method and offered code, for free. Through sharing your Story Map the project was assisted by a passionate user.
In another instance, a video game developer shared their planned game development, their beta and was able to get thousands of players to see the progress, suggest plans and help develop an ideal release. The access to so many eyes of potential customers, potential users was invaluable for feedback and further development.
Story Mapping evolves and changes. If your customers struggle with the methodology it is probably wise to have two maps, one for devs, and one for the customers. You can set one to private, for your team and shareholders who can work through it and have a public shared customer facing map which encourages feedback, and interaction. We advise experimenting with the entirely public facing single map first.
As such we advise involving a customer as soon as possible.
How to make the map public with FeatureMap?
When on your FeatureMap, click the top right blue spanner icon:
Then below you’ll have your options pop up.
Here you can click “Make map public”.
Do note you can click this button again “Make map private” to remove your public access link.
Once public you’ll be able to share the URL and add this to your emails, webpage or direct as links.
Does your current application need its legacy code rewritten to benefit from security, new features, modern integrations and to get with the new working world of remote WFH lifestyle?
Stop putting it off.
We’ll go over how to tackle the mammoth task and break it down to an approcable and task worth completing.
People often mistake User Story Mapping as a tool to start projects, but it is entirely suitable for building up an old project or design or plugging into an active project to help redefine the backlog, MVP and process. Afterall.. you need to start with your MVP or risk feature creep and stagnation.
FeatureMap can be used to help you plan out a current project or in this case, current piece of software. First approach the product/project/app and hash out the main features of the finished and current code.
A few options may be available to you, depending on the code:
Are you able to update the tool in sections? Are you able to approach the update in sprints/versions? Do you need to rebuild the entire program from scratch?
Take a moment, start you map and make a column and throw in ideas, thoughts, approaches, decisions. This is more for reference that you can draw from as you plan out the current software.
You can utilise basic User Story Mapping and decide where to place these cards, with which layers, columns and sections on your map.
Below and in these examples, we will refer ot our “Moviebuddy” app, a fictional app to help sorts your DVD collection.
We then worked through identifying which sections were redundant and not required after the code update. We identified these and added them to a new column to the side. Essentially removing them from view. Some of these features were workarounds that the new framework would natively support so we can remove those, yet we still need to rewrite some of the related code. Be sure to add discriptions for your team to reference that may help them realise your decisions.
In this case, our team assembled and had an online meeting to identified which parts of the code would be updated and what we should be prioritised as a framework. We labelled this as version 1 and aimed to get the core functions updated. The MVP of re-writes.
We were able to identify one function which we were able to upgrade. We also added new cards which reminded us to update our code standards and highlighted them green to ensure they were completed.
We then moved along to the next version which allowed us to introduce our new payment gateway to the application. A function that had alluded us due to the old codebase.
This allowed us to deploy more frequently and provide value sooner as we updated sections of the site. We still had a lot of ‘old legacy code’ but as we added new features we moved the legacy code functions inline with our updates.
Re-writing your legacy code is so very typically neuenced and specific to your use case, but I hope with these examples above you can see how to:
Add your current app to a map.
Collaborate with your team to share the same understanding.
Highlight what is redudant.
Task and outline new expanded features.
Work through the MVP and assign with the team members.
Estimate time, costings and aggregate them for team leaders to quickly understand.
Rewrite your legacy code
Have a celebration
As you can see using User Story Mapping can be brand new projects, or old existing projects.
It’s 2021 already, stop putting that task off, realise how easy and approachable it is with a User Story Map. Break down the mountain to bite size tasks and update that out of date framework!
If you need direct advice, coaching, a guide or want to book some time to explore FeatureMap, do feel free to reach out to us, but first…
To start, you’ll be going on a User Story Mapping journey. Take your product and start writing out all the steps out, be as broad as you want.
Take the product and ask yourself and your team these questions:
What is the overall idea?
Who are the customers?
Who are the end users?
Why would they want it?
Why are we building it?
Find out what the project and product is for, validate your reasoning, search for problems, take the steps to refine your idea.
Build to Learn
With the initial idea fleshed out, build your product with the aim to learn. A less than MVP (Minimum Viable Product), a product that covers the simple basis for your users.
With this stage you do not want to market, push or give out the product as “The product” but instead share with a small group of users. Ideally users you spoke to initally that may have sparked the idea of the product or are in your alpha/beta group and open to seeing the progression.
As part of this step you need to harvest the feedback, and constantly refine your idea. Build wants but be care ful to actually listen to what the user wants.
At this stage metrics will help as it is common people will fall into a loose three categories:
The Polite Enabler. — The user who says everything is great, but doesnt use the product.
The Complainer. — The user who sends in lists of feedback and demands, but actually uses the product.
The Mute. — The user who uses the product and says nothing.
The polite user is probably the worst for building to learn, with the complainer being your favourite user. However be careful the complainer is not just demanding features that detract or do nothing.
The Mute you’ll need to reach out, engage and ask for feedback with offered incentives. The mute can be valuable if you can change them from mute to talking.
If you are reading this to get started, you can get started straight away for free. You get given a premium trial for 2 weeks when you sign up, but even if you revert to a starter account you’ll still have access to edit, move and make your map.
You can get signed up, but if you are planning, read on for now.
Applying it all to a Story Mapped Backlog
You now have your project released, some feedback and ideas of how to take it from big idea to big success.
For a practical start, we recommend organising a horizontal strip of User Actitives. You will have this from the first step, and the questions. This will form the backbone and be the foundation of your map.
You can lay it out how you like, but if you want guidance you can lay it out in vertical strips, and arrange it into three tiers:
Each card will have indepth details about the feature.
Then when organised, take the highest priority stories or layers and move into the current sprint.
This is one great way to refine your Idea down to a core set of principles. You can find out your MVP.
When I created my app, I went beyond the MVP and made the pre-MVP core functions. This allowed me to generate an ugly, functional core system to then expand on. I never released the pre-MVP but it helped me define the principles of our app.
I might write a piece entirely about the pitfalls I see new projects and products fall to when designing their story map and MVP but for now, the key two points echoed everywhere:
Perfection — When designing a product do not focus and lose yourself to the “Just one more feature” which adds time and bloat to inital ideas.
Make a skateboard first — When making a car, first design a skateboard that allows the user to at least get somewhere. Do not fall into the trap of building car parts with no method to go.
To illustrate this Henrik Kniberg wrote an article talking about how he prefers “Earliest Testable/Usable/Lovable” over MVP.
I was once hired to salvage a project. When I started digging into the functions and principles I found that they had been in a state of “not yet ready” and “coming soon” for over a year. I learnt that each time they had developed a section the designers, artists, and owners all had differening ideas of what they all wanted.
I first sat them down with a task of shared understanding, figuring out exactly what everyones vision was, and how it translated to actionable steps.
Then secondly I highlighted they already had a MVP, and had an MVP since the year prior. We seperated the whole system into stages (the horizontal sprints) and were able to wrap up and release the project.
If translated that to Henriks image above, I realised they were at stage 3, while they were aiming to develop to stage 5. Stage 5 before they had even earnt a penny.
Do not do it.
Summary – Validate your MVP
So to summarise.
When designing your product, each sprint sent to product should be reviewed, measured and with feedback and data. To learn.
With that learn knowledge, collect data, read feedback, refine your idea.
If it ever seems out of kilter with the rest of your team, you shouldn’t worry as you are all working on a Story Map, you will all see the steps and sprints. That shared understanding of the project elimates the issues.
With that refined idea, revamp your MVP and build.
Build — MVP
Measure — Get feedback and data
Refine — Improve with better ideas
Repeat — Back to Build.
With User Story Mapping this is easy, especially when using a tool like FeatureMap.co as the ease and flow of a team all working, moving and adjusting cards on the fly makes it invaluable.
Get started today, and get your project working. You may already have an MVP!
“Shared Understanding” is a well known buzz word, or common expression, in the User Story Mapping and project management scene. It really easily breaks down to a common group concenus of a projects. Getting to the point of a common shared concensus can be met with pitfalls and misunderstandings without even realising the issue is there!
Paul, Alex and Simon can all believe they agree and understanding one anothers design idea…. but do they?
User Story Mapping is not strictly a method of building software as it can be applied and utilised in a multiple of ways, but for this.. it is perfect.
The main drive is to result in a shared understanding, to expose the absolute “given” in philsosophy.
When working with a large organisation it is not uncommon for everyone to picture the product in different ways.
When you have multiple smaller teams come together to create a product, each team can have different requirements. This can clog up development and in some instances waste time, building the same features in multiple different ways.
A few years ago I was assisting in the development of a now-popular mobile app. The team of designers all had different ideas on the end goal and it wasn’t until we mapped the entire user story that this was realised.
The managers wanted to see a CRM in the backend that would allow them to see the flow of products and users and to manage the support workers and content creators.
The content creators wanted to have a CRM in the backend that allowed them to edit, create and update articles and products.
The sales team wanted to have a map system that would allow users to find a product based on location.
Seeing our goals visually on a map was a big help in shared understanding
Before using FeatureMap to plan out their goals, the team used multiple shared documents, lists and tasks. It was possible to achieve what they sought, but it was certainly wrought with overlapping issues.
When we put all three together we could see an overlap of two different CRM systems and a product completely overlooked by the other teams.
Mapping your story helps you find holes in your thinking.
When we set out and built an entire wall, it was clear that each team had a different idea. Once they were able to list each card across the map, teams merged ideas, worked on the initial idea and framed the entire product.
Once the ideas had been merged, expanded and realised, the team was able to expand their understanding to a shared understanding.
The team were then able to split up their design into a minimum viable product that successfully achieved the desired outcome.
Sadly, it was realised that months had been wasted on planning features of a project with no compatiblity with the rest of the team.
Which teams should be involved?
Really, the answer is as many as you can.
User Story Mapping is better when a group advises, rather than an individual.
The world saw a huge shift in the 2020 working environment due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. While still here in many countries, and fears of third waves on the horizon, many are holding hope for the Vaccines that seem to be still shaping out the future landscape of the working world.
While some companies used to offer a work from home perk, it has fast become the go-to standard. Now in 2021 companies are transforming workplaces to places of collaboration, rather than a dedicated heads-down workplace.
Many companies are making the permanent move to dedicate a number or all of their team to a remote working solution. Dell want to move 50% of its workfoce to remote. Amazon have picked up over 3000 remote workers, and other companies such as Saleforce and SAP have been well reported as remote working companies.
With the economy, the after effects of the worldwilde pandemic, the stagnant wages and growing government state incentives. It is clear to see why it is predicted that by 2025, nearly 70% of the workforce will work remotely, at least part-time.
By 2025, 70% of the workforce will work remotely part-time.
Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics
A few years before the Pandemic; FeatureMap itself moved from its dedicated office space to remote employees across three countries. In making these changes, we identified more effective practices, saved on overheads and costs, and introduced a new culture and productivity.
As the pandemic forced other companies also turn to the remote online workspace, we thought it would be a good time to share some of our experiences and tips for getting the best out of your distributed team. We shared our initial thoughts and experiences in our last blog related to working from home. But how baout 2021?
We are here to help, so if your small–medium business is impacted by COVID-19, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and see how we can find a solution for you during this time.
Working from Home
Things you need for your team to be successful while working from home remotely:
Video conferencing capability with screen share options
Digital backlog management
Ways to stay connected with each other
There are many chat tools available online. We recommend Slack, Teams and Skype, but Slack in particular. It allows you to continue conversations throughout the course of work, either directly through private messages or in channels that act as meeting rooms. Everyone will be able to see discussions in these channels, so wise management using features like thread conversations will be key to an effective collaborative environment. You may already have a Microsoft solution and Teams have developed well in the last year.
This includes daily discussions, team voice chats, and one-to-one meetings. We recommend video conferencing to encourage a continued level of professionalism, but being able to chat with somebody face-to-face can create more effective communication.
Good video conferencing software offers voice chat, video, and screen share. The ability to easily and quickly share your screen to your remote team during a meeting is time-saving gold dust. Zoom, TeamViewer, and Slack all offer this functionality.
However, be aware that both chat and voice calls can be disruptive if used unnecessarily: imagine getting called to meeting after meeting in the office!
We found a careful balance of start of the week meetings and end of the week meetings with ad hoc, required, progress meetings when required.
Remote work, does have its problems. Some people dislike working in the same place where they live, relax and can be hard to create a personal seperation. Other people require face to face, contact and interaction with people and the seperation can cause a disconnect. Some talk about the challenge of how to collaborate and state it is difficult to get on the same page with projects.
Luckily while we cannot help with the face to face contact. We can advise creating an area or state to help with the switch from work to personal.
Establishing discipline, dressing for work, and setting your desk or workspace in a particular manner. One trick I use is different coffee cups! Bizzare, I know, but it works!
Finally we can help with collaboration. Projects, teams, and remote working on completing a project, blacklog or product is the name of the game here at FeatureMap.
Digital backlog management
When you first start working remotely, it’s important to update the management of your tasks and responsibilities to your new environment. All those sticky notes on your monitor and scribbles left on your desk won’t work anymore. You have to go digital.
If you have a project manager, ask them to recreate your collaborative spaces in a digital space as soon as possible. Your remote team being able to access a single platform for project planning will not only help foster self-discipline but will also improve productivity. Ensure you use a tool that protects you, is easy to set up, and is clear, precise, and agnostic.
If you have any questions about FeatureMap.co, privacy, security of our online cloud or our on-premise options, drop an email over to email@example.com
When we first created FeatureMap, we designed the fundamental principles based on Jeff Patton’s User Story Mapping model. Since then, however, we have evolved and developed to create a tool that can be used in multiple environments with a wide range of practices, including user story mapping, development, product management, team task management, agile workflows, kanban, and task lists.
When you recreate your collaborative space online, remember that utilising labels, custom fields, colour tags and assignments can really help you take control of your workflow.
Moving to the digital space for project management
If you are moving from a physical workspace to the digital one, and are starting afresh, you will need to first identify and define the project’s backbone.
Designate a group of people to explore your project and identify the user experience and journey. Focus on the breadth of tasks first, then build in the depth.
If its easier we now support SAML integration to allow an easier onboarding process for On-Premise accounts
Using a shared workspace to collaborate live, whilst using video chat, can really help bring your session together as well as improve the quality of the end result.
Build a map and, if you need to, outline all the projects, cases, tasks and work within it. If you want to dig deeper into user story mapping while your team is distributed, check out our guide on how to get started.
If you are still uncertain and want a demo of FeatureMap.co, do reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to schedule a live demo for a small team.
Distributed team culture
Building a culture, keeping the team connection healthy, and improving communication with remote teammates is crucial. For this, team chat and communication is important. Adding a space where people can chat, share their daily lives, or simply talk before work or a meeting fosters healthy growth, keeps people engaged, and helps your teammates learn about each other. You can even build on this by creating virtual lunches together, having healthy competition about the “best lunch”, and more.
Try FeatureMap Today, and if you need more users, have feedback or suggestions we have new solutions for 2021 to help get you onboarded.
Do reach out and we can find a solution to help cover you while Covid-19 impacts your business.
Managing a project can be approached in a multitude of ways, and in 2021, with remote working and offices on the rise. User Story Mapping has rapidly stood out amongst the many agile methods. In one sentence, it can be easily explained as ordering a project (or product) into tasks and organising by priority and sophistication.
Let’s start with a brand new project, or we can take an existing project backlog. When it comes to backlogs it can be overwhelming, at times difficult to grasp, or what you should prioritise. At times projects are entirely sidetracked by mismanagement of priorities but user story mapping can resolve this.
Story Mapping can be utilised to reduce the backlog, refocus the project and remind the entire team of the end goal.
When designing a Story Map you must look at the bigger picture. It is often sensible to set aside a period of time (hours or days) to effectively cover exploring your vision.
You will need to set out the goals of the entire product, the ideals, the dreams, think big. To best utilise Story Mapping is the big picture, not just a sprint. Do not fall into the trap of a niche narrow sprint at this stage.
First write out the user stories by setting out functions.
Horizontally, set out the title and set the user story under each function. Vertically, set out the main stories or issues related to each other.
At this stage you can then prioritise importance from left to right, and from up to down. This creates a format of the top left card, being the most important.
Slicing the list.
Once the stories are organised into groups and themes. You can start with slicing the list into sprints of what is the Minimum Viable Spec, or as Jeff Patton puts it — “The minimum viable product in the smallest product releases that successfully achieves its desired outcomes”.
You can set sprints into what you need to achieve. The trick of utilising story mapping is by setting out the entire dream product, then breaking your product/project into sections of achievable, working, and required sprints.
Do remember, the story map is not a static beast, it can be adjusted, amended with feedback, changed and adapted to suit the needs of each sprint.
With multiple team members working on it, as a team, you can start to see the end goal. The ideal product starts to form and when working as a group you will be able to clearly define what each task, and part of the project needs.
Set status of a card
You can set time estimations
Set importance of cards
Use colours to set a custom identifier, such as challenge or complexity.
Use extra columns and set sections
The use of a story map will grow with each iteration, and with each demand.
One thing is to ensure you are always planning the entire project, clearing backlog and not focusing on individual sprints.
If you want to see the tool we used for the images, check out FeatureMap.co
If you are new to User Story Mapping or have already done user story mapping, it is highly likely that you’ll be doing Remote User Story Mapping online in 2020.
Since the pandemic we have seen over 31% of the US Workforce migrate from offices in March 2020 to working from home in April 2020.
Already we see businesses changing the way they work, creating permanent changes to include remote working, hot desking, partial office attendance and in some cases, removal of the office entirely. It is clear that if we seek out a positive from all this, the education of a better work-life is certainly one.
It may take a few days, may take a week, or may take a quick catch up over the day. Whatever the use case of your group is, and the required time, be sure to keep in mind the differences between working in the office and working from home.
Figure out an agenda, plan the day over introductions, activities, presentations, and when to carefully place the breaks.
For some, working from home can be distracting, while for others it can provide a freedom and comfort to allow them to work efficiently. Cater to everyone.
Is everyone on the same timezone?
Will everyone be available for the full time?
Can you create a course?
Get your Tech in order.
If you’ve been in any meetings with people new to remote working it can derail the meeting to tech support and cause all sorts of issues.
Ensure everyone is ready with their hardware, software and prepared to participate and collaborate.
This will be basic things such as:
Your main communications, be it Teams, Zoom, Skype or Slack – ensure everyone is signed in, ready and working.
VOIP, Headphones, Microphones, audio tests – Ensure everyone is good ahead of time. There is nothing worse than having one person spend 45 minutes troubleshooting a microphone.
Webcams working – These are great to make the remote working feel like you are all in it together.
The PC and Internet! – Basic basic basic tests. Make sure it all works.
FeatureMap Accounts – signed up, invited an in the correct map ready (either in a trial if new, or setup with the group leader if business). We’ve made this bit easy 😉
You can send this out pre-meeting and ensure everyone can do a mock load, test and make sure they are ready to go 9am the day of the course.
Set out clear rules
So this is more of a per group basis. I’ve sat in meetings where everyone is completely new to remote working, and I’ve sat in groups where it is a tried and tested done deal. The huge range of experiences were staggeringly immense – talking over one another, crunching of food, tech issues, volume, lag – oh my.
Set out some rules to ensure your remote user mapping session is productive:
One person talks at a time
Ensure everyone has had time to participate
Check chat frequently
Eat only in your break
Good audio and camera (put your webcam on!)
Mute your microphone between conversations and don’t hot mic!
In an ideal world, your remote colleague might be in a self contained home office, free from distractions and sound – but in a real world… sometimes the kids, dog, neighbours or even home office equipment may not behave. So give slack but also be aware of your team and work to these requirements.
Now we have our tech sorted, our plan, our rules and accounts. It is worth considering that working online for long periods of time can be extremely tiring and regular breaks are recommended.
One simple rule for remote working is that when scheduling meetings plan them to finish 5 minutes before the end of the hour, or before the half hour, to build in time for much needed breaks.
Here are some basic tips for running effective online sessions:
Manage Talking Time – Communicating online can take longer, typing, thought process (the removal of visual feedback) but also allow clearer and direct communication. However it can take time so try timeboxes. Use a timer, visible to all, to ensure conversations do not drift.
Visualise Information – Share sources of information when referring to it in the meeting, use your dedicated channel to get a clear visualisation. This is an important goal and why the User Story Map and its visual collaboration is important to be real time.
Avoid repetition – Maintain engagement, and keeping attention is important as so you do not need to repeat coverage. There are many tips to do this, but random selection or asking the last person who spoke to choose who speaks next is a good way to keep everyone alert and listening to the course.
Records and Notes – If the call needs to be recorded, or notes do so in an online document. Webcams at flipcharts, photos of whiteboards can deliver a very poor and low impact experience. While you’ll have the story board covered with FeatureMap, it is important to ensure accompanying tech to deliver a strong course.
One thing 2020 has shown us – Remote Working is here to stay, so get ahead of the curve and ensure your team is productive and effective.
It can be tricky to see and prioritise hundreds of Jira entries, you need to know which of them are the highest valued features so that you can build them in an effective agile order. One easily adopted method is using Story Mapping and over a messy product backlog. Here I write how it is easier to create a quick User Story Map with the JIRA integration tool at FeatureMap.co
User Story Map is invented by Jeff Patton, he wrote a book (User Story Mapping) to explain about the concept and its practice, it is highly recommended to read the book to use story map more efficiently.
Story mapping visualises the user’s journey in a step by step flow. These steps create a clear visual display of the requirements and help define your backlog. Compared to a flat backlog a user story map has added dimensions of position and movement through all verticals of your product. This allows you to first map and then navigate the entire user space of your product. With a user story map, you can then see you entire product, the full range of features and steps and gain a better understanding overall.
How a Story Map works
Groups: The broad actions that users take in order to reach their larger goals.
Lists: lower level under Groups, create the backbone of the map by telling the story or narrative of the user’s journey.
Stories: Basic building blocks of a map which describe something you can delivery and evaluate. Each block can be viewed for deeper detail.
Layers: Horizontal layers which split the story map to show what is in and out of each release.
Benefits of using Story Map
Here are few benefits of using story map as a user story tool:
Manage backlog with an overview and leveled structure
Brainstorm, discuss and prioritize user needs in a collaborative approach
Manage activities and tasks, and divide them into epics or user stories systematically
Arrangement and prioritization of user activities and user tasks, or drill down to refine them into related epics or user stories
Manage user stories in the online for both remote and co-location environments collaboratively for keeping everyone in your team the same page.