Online User Story Mapping for Remote Teams

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.

One downside of the removal of a physical office space is the ability to carry out planning, and if we look at User Story Mapping – the ease to create a board. This is where FeatureMap comes in as an online digital space.

Lets go over the 5 things for a successful remote User Story Mapping session.

  1. Foundations

First make sure your entire team understands the principle of User Story Mapping. Who, What, Why? Of user story mapping, the multi-uses, some examples of why to use it for project management and basic intros. As long as your team understands – you will be golden.

  1. Plan your introduction

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?

Social time?

Can you create a course?

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Meeting Execution

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.

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.