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 šŸ˜‰

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.

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!

User story mapping games for learning

User Story Mapping can seem daunting when you first pull up a full FeatureMap. If those on your team are not familiar with the technique it can really slow down your sessions. Yet the technique is innately simple and can be taught very quickly.

Here I outline some of the quick and easy 30 minute games that you can add to your teaching workshop, or that you can go over yourself to help share or gain a n understanding on how to approach user story mapping.

 

Get to Work!

One of the easiest and well known games is the “Get to work” or “Wake up in the morning” tasks.

You write out on your map what you do each morning. This can be broken down to the most mundane steps.

I once had a team member write out everything they did which included an impressive rising time of 4am and 3 hours of morning preperation. I have since added to the challenge that they only have 20 minutes to get up and to get out the door to get to work.

What you can do is expand the task to reduce the time available, and to extend the time available to experience with what they add and cut aka minimal viable product! šŸ˜‰

We have a map here of an example of our “Get to work”

Getting Ready for Work example on FeatureMap
Getting Ready for Work example on FeatureMap

 

Planning a vaction

Another exercise is to add a time limit, deadline and propose they prepare for a vaction.

Setting my team of 1 month to there vaction they had to go through steps of checking passport, renewing, booking flights, checking luggage, buying missing items, packing, items, etc.

After the team had planned what they needed to do, you can again add time restraints such only 1 week to plan, and even only 1 day.

Doing this can education again the MVP and how to adjust and move the map around to suggest the best plan.

 

Describe an existing product

A good exercise to describe a common well known product, or even if a competitors product. This exercise can be used to take the focus from games and activies to a more development and industry focused task and will later help with your projects.

The last time our team covered this we had just seen a recent update to Spotify so we outlined and described the product, desktop, browser and mobile.

We explored the application and spent some time designing the task out, splitting it into sections and then created the foundation or backbone of the application.

 

When you have created the backbone product you can then start adding extra features in sprints, or even removing tasks and features to create an application lite, in this case it was “Spotfiy lite” or a media player.

We ended up designing Winamp!

 

We then ended up designing a fictional application about movies called “Movie Buddy” which we now use as a demonstration FeatureMap still today.

The Moviebuddy Current Version

 

 

User Story Mapping Exercises

Using games and exercises to teach any product or methodology will be met with variation. Be aware of your audience, what will work and tailor your tutorials to fit them.

Some important tips for running these games.

  • Keep the time taken per exercise to under 30 minutes
    • Split each task of a game into 5 minute periods.
  • User FeatureMap or good old fashioned sticky notes and markers.
    • Use walls, floors or tables.
    • You can always do a final lesson of converting sticky notes to digital
  • Discourage a “leader” who may make all choices, allow all particpants to take part.
  • Try to aim for 30 tasks.
  • If you are teaching, do the tasks beforehand so you are able to help with prior experience on the subject matter.

 

User Story Mapping is innately simple with a huge range of depth that can be demonstrated in deep and powerful maps. If you need more assistance or ideas, check out how to help your team understand.

 

Good Luck!

FeatureMap JIRA integration now supports Atlassian API tokens

We have an important update about JIRA Integration which will affect your workflow and connection.

You should take action now to re-enable your connection to JIRA.

Earlier in the year Atlassian announced an upcoming change in the way usernames work in JIRA and third party applications. Today 17/4/2019 the support for usernames was removed and now requires a API Token to connect to your FeatureMap.

From today FeatureMap will NOT connect to JIRA using the old username and password. This will disable automatic sync and a new Token will need to be generated to continue using JIRA integration.

The new API tokens offer more security and can be revoked at anytime. An active token is required for synchronization.

 

Generate your new API token:

To create an API token from your Atlassian account:

  1. Log in to https://id.atlassian.com/manage/api-tokens.
  2. ClickĀ Create API token.
  3. From the dialog that appears, enter a memorable and concise Label for your token and click Create.
  4. ClickĀ Copy to clipboard, then paste the token to your script, or elsewhere to save:

 

Update your JIRA credentials in FeatureMap:

To update the settings of your maps in FeatureMap:

  1. Open the map synced with JIRA, click the “Configure Map” button

  2. If the window says “Invalid username or password”, click the “Edit settings” button

  3. Enter the new credentials (email address + api token) then click “Test settings

  4. If the window now says “Connection ok“, click “Save settings“.

It’s as easy as that and you are good to go!

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!

Intro to Story Mapping – Feature Definition

A story user map is a method for visually covering a story, to help discussions. The main purpose for makingĀ  a map is to build shared understanding for the individuals of a team.

We started this intro to story mapping with a basic run down and a simple exercise taking you through the morning tasks and making a map. Now we will look at how to define features in a product.

When you first start off it is best to have an idea of the ideal product, but have not yet started on your product roadmap. Instead start with the user’s normal workflow (minus the app or software) and figure out how to translate that flow into a product experience.

Below I have outlined an example case study of arranging a conference with the persona of the organiser and board member.

The team sat down and exchanged tasks, goals and ideas. We then started to construct a story map based on the conference organiser’s first set of responsbilities and workflow.

Conference Organiser Workflow

After the initial workflow you will notice the goal at the top linked to the persona.

The main activities are in the first row, divided into further tasks in each column which details each activity.

On a card we have further detail such as:

Detail on a card with checklist

After we established the conference organiser’s tasks we then expanded the story map to include the expanded responsibilities and workflow of the entire Team.

Workflow of the organiser and speakers

With this map now completed we can see the user workflow and what features we need defined.

Check out our completed map.

Next from this map we can develop and build a product roadmap.

Check in next week and have an introduction to designing our first MVP roadmap. Also check out from idea to MVP, a seperate article about building from the idea to the MVP.

Quick intro to Story Mapping

A story user map is a method for visually covering a story, to help discussions. The main purpose for makingĀ  a map is to build shared comprehension for the individuals of a team.

When building your story map, you should include all the relevent people, regardless of position, in the team. Due to their different foundations and interests, they all get valuable points of view. Everybody has an unmistakable and common comprehension of what they are about to build together.

Product owner, testers, technical lead, customer support, architect, UX/UI designer, sales and marketing, etc. All have their own techniques and requirements which will help you create your map.

How to build a story map

If you are brand new to user story mapping, we have a short and sweet exercise. Letā€™s take a simple real-life example of “getting ready for work”.

The StoryMap of Alex’s Morning

  1. Start with the goal.
    What is the story map about?
    What are you trying to accomplish?
    The main overall purpose.
  2. Second list yourĀ mainĀ stories, your main tasks or activities. From left to right, insert the main steps of the story map that need to happen.
  3. Move on and detail each main list ā€“ column by column, left to right.

In the case of product features, the layers can be then developed and you can plan out MVP‘s, or product iterations with each following layer.

When exploring product features, build story maps for multiple options that solve the underlying problem. Allow your entire team to contribute and come to and understanding of the final decision.

Story User Maps are ideal for allowing a team to design out a product feature and reduce the need to go back half way through development because XYZ requirement was missed out.

Check out our Getting Ready For Work Map

We cover three different user-case situations we can use Story Mapping.

Feature Definition

Product Roadmap