From Idea to MVP

User Story Mapping - From Idea to MVP

User Story Mapping is the perfect tool for taking an idea of a group, and refining it with shared understanding into a perfect MVP.

If you are just starting or have a project that is stagnant or facing a barrier, read on how to easily figure out if you have a product already, or how to best start the planning process in 2021.

When we look at User Story Mapping, you may think of the backlog of user stories, or how it can be a great methodolgy to reduce and refine your current project or product flow. But User Story Mapping doesn’t just need to be a tool applied to a backlog heavy project. It can be used to refine an idea to a product.

Refine the Idea

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:

  1. What is the overall idea?
  2. Who are the customers?
  3. Who are the end users?
  4. Why would they want it?
  5. 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:

  1. The Polite Enabler. — The user who says everything is great, but doesnt use the product.
  2. The Complainer. — The user who sends in lists of feedback and demands, but actually uses the product.
  3. 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:

  • Current Relase
  • Next Release(s)
  • Future Ideas

Each card will have indepth details about the feature.

Example Layout in FeatureMap.co

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.

Common Pitfalls

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Henrik Kniberg

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 – Benefits of Story Mapping

Shared Understanding - A buzzword to describe group knowledge

“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.

Shared Understanding in 2021
Shared by Jeff Patton, author of User Story Mapping – The Shared Understanding Problem.

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.

Check out FeatureMap and start your trial now.

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.

Confused Team Mapping Out Individual Requirements

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

Project Manager in this case.

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.

Shared Understanding with a Shared Vision

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.

Shared MVP Achieved With 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.

  • UX/UI Team
  • Agile Coaches
  • Software Engineers
  • Product Owners
  • Product Managers
  • Customers
  • Marketing Teams
  • Executives

User Story Mapping is better when a group advises, rather than an individual.

How to get Started?

Getting started is easy, assembled your team, open up a map and start talking!

The Future of Remote Work in 2021

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 team@featuremap.co 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:

  • Team chat
  • Video conferencing capability with screen share options
  • Digital backlog management
  • Shared documents
  • Time management
  • Ways to stay connected with each other
A laptop of a remote worker starting with distributed team about to utilise user story mapping with featuremap.co
Make your office space at home comfortable for remote working.

Team chat

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.

Video conferencing

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.

Common Problems

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 team@featuremap.co

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.

A remote worker taking his user story mapping post it notes to a digital tool
Take your post-it notes and put them online for your team.

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 sales@featuremap.co and we’ll be happy to schedule a live demo for a small team.

A FeatureMap marketing story map demonstrating some of the features of User Story Mapping and Agile.
Covid-19 – Taking your physical to the digital with FeatureMap.co

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.

Working From Home in Isolation due to Covid-19

As the world reacts to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are faced with new challenges every day. Countries go into lockdown, workspaces close, and individuals go into self-isolation. Although remote work is already a reality in 2020, with some companies prepared or completely online, for some it may be an entirely new approach.

FeatureMap has moved from its dedicated and shared offices to a mixture of shared spaces, distributed offices and 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 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 are here to help, so if your small–medium business is impacted by COVID-19, reach out to us at team@featuremap.co 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:

  • Team chat
  • Video conferencing capability with screen share options
  • Digital backlog management
  • Shared documents
  • Time management
  • Ways to stay connected with each other

 

A laptop of a remote worker starting with distributed team about to utilise user story mapping with featuremap.co
Make your office space at home comfortable for remote working.

Team chat

There are many chat tools available online. We recommend Slack, Discord 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.

Video conferencing

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!

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 team@featuremap.co

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.

 

A remote worker taking his user story mapping post it notes to a digital tool
Take your post-it notes and put them online for your team.

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.

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 sales@featuremap.co and we’ll be happy to schedule a live demo for a small team.

 

A FeatureMap marketing story map demonstrating some of the features of User Story Mapping and Agile.
Covid-19 – Taking your physical to the digital with FeatureMap.co

Daily check-ins

Daily check-ins can really bring together a remote and distributed team. Each morning, share what your tasks are, or what you are working on, via chat and then follow up that report by mirroring the workflow on your map for the later check-in. This is a great method to check who is working on what, the progress, where blocks may occur, and how everyone is progressing with their tasks.

Management can be utilised by sharing Google docs, following up on emails or arranging voice calls. A story map can be a quick snapshot view for all team members to understand the project stage.

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. Do reach out and we can find a solution to help cover you while Covid-19 impacts your business.

Importing and Exporting your Maps

FeatureMap can be used for free for an unlimited period of time, but if you want to use some advanced features such as Word/Excel exports or unlimited maps, you’ll have to subscribe to a Premium account.

Premium FeatureMap grants you you to export your map into various formats; documents, an image or even another application.

In this blog post we will take you through every step of the process.

We support export for file formats and platforms as below:

  • CSV
  • XML
  • JSON
  • Microsoft Office Documents
  • PNG image
  • Atlassian JIRA
  • Trello

Export

I will be using the MovieBuddy Product Map as examples so you can follow along.

To get started with Export go to your map and click at the top right – “Export”

Here you will be given four different options:

As a new file or document…

Choosing to export as a new file or document will allow you to export your map as a CSV, XML, JSON, XLSX, and DOCX.

As well as support each file format, some of the file formats support different file layouts to give you full control of how your document is presented:

  • Simple list of cards
  • Groups at first level
  • Layers at first level

In addition we also have the option to add comments, attachments and checklists to your export. Some exports do not need to show all the details so these options can be disabled.

 

Export map as image

When exporting as an image we generate your image as a PNG format.

We realise that this can be used for printing large images for your work environment or simply having a copy for digital display and so we offer four different DPI versions. Please consult your printer for the ideal DPI, but we recommend 300 DPI for paper printing.

  • 72 dpi
  • 96 dpi (best for display on screen)
  • 150 dpi
  • 300 dpi (best for printing)

In addition we wanted to give you further control of your image so we offer different widths of the cards:

  • 5cm (2 inches)
  • 6.3cm (2.5 inches)
  • 7.5cm (3 inches)
  • 10cm (4inches)

We advise selecting these options first with a low resolution image to find the best format and then opting for a higher DPI for when you are happy with the width.

We also offer printer friendly grey and white background options.

We also give full control over your columns and rows. If you wish a column (group) to be displayed in full, collapsed or hidden entirely.

Trello

When exporting to Trello you will first need to connect Trello and FeatureMap together by following the on screen prompts.

We will never take your information and use it for other than connecting FeatureMap and the desired service.

Once you have connected Trello and FeatureMap you can remove those permissions at any time from Trello.

 

 

Here you can choose how the export of your FeatureMap will be translated over to Trello.

  • Map to Board
  • Map to Kanban
  • Groups to Boards
  • Layers to Boards

Each setting can be repeated into new maps, the image above shows what turns into what.

 

Please note that creating the board may take some time as FeatureMa.

You can see an Example below:

This Demo Map is exported into the Trello Board Below.

Of course this can be exported in multiple formats.

 

Atlassian and REST API

For Atlassian and Trello navigate to Export and follow the on screen wizard to connect your account by allowing permissions.

A future Blog post will explore the optional JIRA Integration options.

 

Finally, we also have REST API where you can develop, edit and create your own export/import functions within your own REST framework.

 

Get started with FeatureMap now!

Who, What, Why? – User Story Mapping

User Story Mapping is often described as an easy process and maps are created by simply working through the user’s journey.

Sometimes it can sound simple, but at times you need to define the user’s journey.

Occasionally you’ve had a developer, or project manager who has already defined stories and just wants to regurgitate this journey onto a plan and have everyone agree. This sometimes works, but more often than not other team members are left wondering about more details and features, problems, and most importantly, better solutions are missed.

User Story Mapping is not just creating a map for the purpose of a great visual understanding, but it is also a great time to go over questions and really expose the plan.

Just as your first bunch of questions:

  1. Who for?
  2. Why?
  3. What?

Critical thinking can be applied with great b0ons to any endevour and User Story Mapping is no different.

Who for?

Those working on the map should have a clear defined understanding who the users are.

  • Who is the user that mapped this journey?
  • How is this user different to other users?
  • Do we need to expand our user scope at this stage?

Understanding who the users are will provide that focus for complex design and if the user is an actual real user, then knowing this person will help with focusing the team to provide something for someone real.

What?

Defining what the user is doing with your project, app or endevour will be the main crux and defining question for all over User Story Mapping.

  • What are the users trying to achieve?
  • What do the users benefit over using your solution?
  • What other solutions are available?
  • What needs to defined?

Why?

Starting with an understanding of not only who the user is, but why this story needs to be mapped is crucial to have a worthwhile map.

Asking questions to help the entire mapping team directs.

  • Why does the story need to be created?
  • Why does it need to be defined?
  • Why would this information help decide scale and stability?

Once you have the ideal persona, and the ideal customer or user you can create an epic from the persona.

Label all your epics necessary to meet your users goals, but it is okay to keep them rough as you’ll be able to quick edit the table, adjust, delete and add more columns as needed.

  • Turn the users functions into rough epics
  • Turn the products functionality into rough epics
  • Capture the interaction and sequences

The StoryMap of Alex’s Morning with the Goals, Then Epics, then Cards.

 

Then go deeper and refine each Epic into the cards.

It is normal to be challenged with your first iterations with a User Story Map and it’s okay to continually develop them.

Keep the users entire journey and story in mind, and don’t stop asking the questions, who, what , why?

Multi-uses of User Story Mapping

User Story Mapping is normally a technique for Product Development, but you need not limit yourself for just one task or function.

Here we explore outside the box and look at applying User Story Mapping to product lessons, customer feedback, marketing strategies and even Christmas lists.

Software Development

User Story Mapping is most commonly used for software development. You are able to outline and see the bigger picture of your product. You can prioritise the user stories, identify the journey of your users and involve all team members to have a shared understanding.

It is not just a tool that you use to outline the project, it is a technique applied to every step of the way. You can change, adapt, reprioritise, add further tasks, scrap old tasks, and so on. While ideal to sit on a wall in the office with post-it notes one large company has a large 75″ display in the office with their FeatureMap on display for all offices and departments.

Moving to the digital has its benefits and allows all departments and those remote to the office to collaborate. In addition, you can allow your shareholders and in some cases, even your customers to get involved.

Movie Buddy first MVP

 

Product Lessons

Occasionally after a campaign, season, or annual review you look back at your product and hold a session of “product lessons learnt”:

  • Promote the recurrence of desirable outcomes
  • Preclude the recurrence of undesirable outcomes

Using User Story Mapping here can help you outline the user journey. Define each step which worked, and highlight what should be removed or revised.

Using layers you are able to prioritise your learnings by the impact on the user using analytics data, internal comments and observations, incident reports, and any further data or knowledge that can build a picture about your product and its presence.

Your goal is not to create a product but to highlight the users experience to learn.

 

Customer Feedback

Developing your map can involve the customer, allowing a public-facing map and open process you can get feedback direct from the customer.

Taking suggestions, feedback and ideas from customers is the golden goose.

We’ve all had the occasional user when you open up your ticket support system or email and in the inbox sits 10 emails all from the same person hammering feedback after feedback. These users are my favourite, and while initially a shock to the system, they offer the best value.

Taking all feedback to build your User Story Map and highlight the pain points reported.

Set columns for feedback, suggestions, bug reports and crashes.

Again, do not set this as a product development map but a feedback map and this can help you prioritise your next steps for development and also feed directly into Product Lessons.

 

Marketing and email strategy

When defining the user flow from a cold lead to a warm lead, add in tracking, and stages you’ll soon hit a complicated process. User Story Mapping, the super-hero of project management is here again.

Setting our a User Flow from cold lead, to warm lead, to sign-up, to conversion can all be done with a FeatureMap.

While mailing systems, like mail-chimp, can work exceptionally defining a campaign, following a user along a sales process (especially when plugged into marketing) is broader than MailChimp.

Below I have defined a map in FeatureMap to give you an example of a marketing process. Click the image to see the Map on FeatureMap.co:

A Marketing and Email example for a fictional product.

 

Christmas Lists

Happy Holidays to you all, and time for a bit of fun, but an entirely function one.

This year I was planning out what to buy my friends, family and fellow office workers and wanted a way to track what I had purchased. In some cases, I have commissioned artwork and needed picture frames and had presents that became a multi-stage process. I turned to User Story Mapping and whipped up a FeatureMap to help manage who was getting what!

Check out our Christmas Demo Map below:

Christmas Gifts Mapping – A fun way to use FeatureMap

Do you use User story mapping for any other purpose?

If you wish to try out FeatureMap.co it is free to use, and has a trial period upon signup of the premium features!

Customer Facing Story Mapping

A user story map is a method for visually covering a story, to help discussions, share understanding and can even be shared with customers.

When building your story map, you should include all the relevant people, regardless of position, in the team. Due to their 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.

One advanced tactic is to involve the customer with a customer facing Story Map.

Customers have probably seen roadmaps but to truly involve a customer a back-log will always show more detail, yet a Story Map can show your progress with a beautiful planned out snapshot.

Why use a customer facing Story Map?

Story Maps are for shared understanding and can share a clear overview of the whole product or project.

While you may not be able to share your post-it note maps very well, here at FeatureMap you can create a copy of your internal map and create a map for public facing, set it to public and share the link, such as this demo map:

The Moviebuddy Current Version

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.

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?

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.

Make your map public

 

Once public you’ll be able to share the URL and add this to your emails, webpage or direct as links.

To see an example demo map check here: https://www.featuremap.co/mp/FviDEf/moviebuddy

Due Dates, Estimations, Custom Fields

Creating your user story maps you will notice a few fields with due dates, importance, color, and custom fields which are default set to Estimation and Elapsed time.

Card view with further details about priority, deadlines and custom fields

The custom fields have the option to be aggregator fields and the numerical value will add up with other cards in the column, task, activity.

Here you can see that two cards have point values and cost values which are aggregated at the title card at the top:

 

Aggregation.

 

All these features and functions can help with building trust with your customers as you demonstrate transparency with your activities.

Take customer feedback and deliver extra value by integrating their suggestions, ideas and changes into cards, sprints and allow those customers to see their feedback, in real-time, get integrated into a product promoting customer loyalty.

JIRA Integration

FeatureMap offers JIRA integration.

You can sync your map with JIRA or import a snapshot of JIRA and edit it from that point.

With your User Story Map integrated with JIRA, you can sync your tasks and display a beautiful map of your backlog suited for your customer facing interaction.

You can get started with FeatureMap, and if you need more help or ideas, check out our 5 reasons to use User Story Mapping or a specific idea such as Feature Definition.

 

User Story Mapping – Steps to Success

User Story Mapping has been described as a niche tool to achieve much. Tools for product development, feature definition, version improvement and project management just to name a few.

In this case we are looking at the steps to success, utilising User Story Mapping methodology to help define your path. The first two steps instantly reward.

Firstly, planning the map rewards you a pathway to the point so that you can start writing user stories (a user story is a short description of something your customer will do when using your product).

Secondly, the end result is a visual chart showing the structure of your stories which gives you the steps to development.

Here is another way to approach User Story Mapping in three steps and this is a relatively quick way of getting to a point to start development work.

A finished User Story Map example.

Hosting your Story Mapping Session

Because User Story Mapping can come across as complex it is important that management of the session is approached with a framework. Needless to say that User Story Mapping can be a new tool for most people so outlining what it is all about and describing the process is important.

Start with tasks where the team thinks about the product, users, development and personas.

Step One

We start by brainstorming every task that users will want to address when using the product.

Silent Brainstorming. Task each participant to write down steps in your cards, every step will need to cover from the users first engagement to the conclusion of the users interaction.  Encourage the team to think of these as actions not features.

Top Tip: Writing them so they start with a verb is a good technique.

Encourage people to be creative and try to cover tasks and steps wide, but not deep. This part of User Story Mapping is about breadth not depth.

Start posting all cards and tasks in one large map. Thats fine, you’ll have duplicates, and these should sit beside each other on the line (not above or below). As you expand and learn you can easily drag and drop and delete if needed. The beauty of using digital software for large collaberation tasks such as this allows you and you and your team to easily edit, expand and develop your map.

This first line is the user tasks and they form the backbone of your story map.

Step Two

Then we organise these tasks into wider goals, and arrange them in order of completion.

These groups are known as “epics” or “activities”.

As facilitator you can walk along the line of tasks and ask where the team think the splits are between each group of tasks, and what each group should be called.

For example, if you were building an app for an app to arrange your movies you might group user tasks into epics like this:

Browse DVDs in collection – epic
View flat list of all DVDs – user task
View DVD cover thumbnails in results – user task
DVD Spec Call – user task

Step Three

We can then move into the Prioritisation exercise, further developing the user story map.

This is the stage where you start writing in the details, building up the tasks and redifining tasks. This may include adding tasks, merging tasks or seperating tasks.

It is important to detail the tasks enough to remember in the future.

After writing all the tasks, you should have a comprehensive map by this stage.

Task your team to go over each line (now defined as Epics/actitives) and ensure you have everything charted. This is where the User Story Map will become easier as you will now have a visual chart of a defined product. Here you can move to the next steps.

The Moviebuddy Current Version

Next Steps

Now you are ready to start prioritising the user stories on your map. You can start adapting and moving your tasks to sprints, also known as versions for your product.

You can check out the Movie Buddy Public Board here at FeatureMap.

You can do this all with Post-It notes with your in house team, or digitally using FeatureMap.co with your teams remotely and digitially.

Check out FeatureMap.co and sign up to try for free.

Conversation is King with User Story Mapping

User Story Mapping can be regarded as a simple, or unsophisticated approach to software development planning, but normally this is because it is being utilised in a basic manner. All methodologies can be used as a sub-par process resulting in a simple outcome. Instead look at in depth.

In essence, a simple story idea is; write something on a card, talk about it, converse and agree on what to build. Complete the build and move to the next.

It sounds simple, but in a working environment, it is normally vastly more complex. Stories end up going through multiple processes, cycles and conversations. Stories end being created with 3 main needs. A card for the business, a card for the user and a card for the developers. Luckily User Story Mapping is something that can absolutely lend itself to this process.

The Right Size for the Right Story

When writing a User Story Map with a team, you loosely fall into three categories:

  • The user.
  • The business.
  • The developer.

The user’s right size is a story or card that fulfills a need.

The businesses right size is a story which bundles features, outlines updates, themes or new products. First it is set-up as a Minimum Viable Product and following releases are the right size which helps a business achieve a business outcome.

The developer’s right size is the most efficient for designing, building and testing.

Big Stories Break Down to Smaller Stories

Big stories (or epics) can be broken down to smaller stories, and then again even smaller. Each sprint/epic/story/card can be defined for each group but no matter the size, they are still a story.

To break down larger stories, use conversation.

Conversation is one of the best tools for breaking down big stories.

 

Discuss and Discover

When you discuss, break down each story until it fits the “right size”.

Each size will vary from business to business, and project to project, so don’t define too much. Use conversations to allow you to naturally identify the “right size”.

When you discuss, dig deep into:

  • Who the user will use your solution.
  • How the user meet their needs without your solution.
  • How it would change with your solution.
  • How your solution would look and function.
  • How long will your solution take to build.

Even after your discussed discovery session, don’t stop talking, dont stop collaborating.

With each step, each conversation will have different teams and different conversations, in particular, the main three, so do note each evaluation will vary.

Yet with each conversation, each meeting, each get-together, this can lead to slow down, so be aware of how you plan your meetings.

With FeatureMap you are able to construct your maps and have constant, flowing conversation on each card, story or epic. Have your entire team chime in, discuss and do so remotely. Allow this process to be part of the working stage eliminating unnecessary meetings for all and saving time and money.

With each card, story and sprint you design and build, every single card will have consequences, re-explore these, discuss them, confirm them.

Conversation is King with User Story Mapping.