What is User Story Mapping and why is it so popular – even beyond agile settings?
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The Definition of User Story Mapping
User Story Mapping is a technique used to visualize requirements. Functionalities of a product are described with User stories from the user’s point of view to achieve a common understanding. User Story Mapping thus enables all stakeholders to understand the requirements of a product and its functionalities at a glance.
But what are the benefits of a User Story Map and for which purposes can User Story Mapping actually be used?
The benefits of User Story Mapping
User Story Mapping is established in the context of agile methodology for several years now. It is worth taking a closer look, because this technique is also gaining wider recognition in project- & process management as well as requirements engineering.
User Story Mapping offers a presentation method that can be easily understood by every stakeholder – even without methodological or detailed knowledge. It translates the product vision and the features of a product into activities and tasks that are carried out by the user. User Story Mapping is usually used to determine and document requirements for a product in workshops with teams of about 4 to 8 people.
A User Story Map provides a visually appealing and comprehensive overview of complex requirements and interrelationships in an easy-to-understand format. Through dialogue within a team, clarity and consensus regarding the requirements are created. In short: User Story Mapping is used for the structured presentation and review of requirements in order to achieve a common understanding and target picture.
But how does this work?
How to create a User Story Map
The first step is to create a common understanding of what the product vision and goals are. Questions like „what benefit does our product bring to the customer“ or „what problem is solved by our product?” should be clarified.
User Story Map example:
The use of a product is described in user activities. The tasks that are being carried out by the user are assigned to these activities. The activities and tasks are defined from the user’s perspective. They are written on sticky notes and arranged horizontally in chronological order.
User Story Mapping: the structure
The activities are arranged on the top level and the individual tasks, which are summarized by the activities, are placed below them.
The activities and tasks in User Story Mapping are also referred to as the „Backbone“, the basic structure of a User Story Map.
Below the tasks, the corresponding User Stories are attached to sticky notes and arranged vertically according to their priority. In an agile setting, the User Stories are prioritized according to the product backlog. If a backlog already exists, the existing User Stories can be used for this purpose.
What is a User Story and how are User Stories created?
A User Story is an important component of the agile world. A User Story describes the role, functionality and benefits of a requirement. In addition, the acceptance criteria for the User Story are precisely defined and written in informal language to create a common understanding within the team. In practice, User Stories are assembled as follows: „As (role) I want (functionality) to (benefit of the User Story)“.
Working on User Stories as a team can:
- Stimulate the exchange of ideas between team members
- Identify and resolve inconsistencies, redundancies and gaps by merging, splitting, removing or adding User Stories.
Afterwards a line is drawn. All User Stories that are not to be realized in the near term are arranged below this line. If the User Stories shall be distributed onto several releases or increments, further lines for each additional release or increment can be drawn and the User Stories can be arranged above or below these lines.
This way, a prioritized chronology is created for the realization of the User Stories within releases or increments. A structured overview of all tasks makes it easier to distribute tasks within the team.
As always: when teams work in a distributed setting and are not able to realize an onsite workshop, it is possible to conduct such a workshop remotely. By using digital conference tools (e.g. Skype for Business, Cisco WebEx, MS Teams) and collaboration tools (e.g. Miro, Asana, Atlassian Jira), collaboration can be realized location-independent. Meeting rules are usually agreed upon to make the workshop as efficient as possible.
Digitization of the User Story Map
After the finalization of a User Story Mapping Workshop, the User Story Map should be digitized in a first step, so that it can be made accessible to all stakeholders regardless of their location: either by directly photographing the User Story Map or by documenting it in visualization tools (e.g. MS Visio).
In a second step, it is recommended to make the User Story map available to all stakeholders in a documentation tool with version management (e.g. MS SharePoint, Atlassian Confluence). At the very least, it makes sense to automatically inform stakeholders about changes via e-mail.
In addition to transparent documentation, regular updates of the User Story Map are also key.
Regardless of the context, User Story mapping is only effective if a User Story map is not created and documented just once, but is updated and continuously maintained when changes occur. The advantage of an up-to-date User Story Map is that all stakeholders can always obtain information as needed.
In addition, the current status as well as the further procedure are presented transparently and made easily accessible to interested stakeholders.
User Story Mapping: our conclusion
User Story Mapping can be used in both agile and classic procedure models, regardless of the chosen method. It can be used, for example, for medium to long-term planning within the framework of agile structures, in project management to visualize the project status in an up-to-date and transparent manner, in process management to develop the process map and in requirements engineering to formulate requirements in a common language between different organizational units.
How does the SEVEN PRINCIPLES AG convert this methodology into added value for its customers?
In our portfolio, our teams for Agile Transformation and Business Process Transformation combine many years of experience working in agile settings and in the areas of project-, process management and requirements engineering. We support our customers by applying techniques such as User Story Mapping to unite the corporate vision and strategic goals with the operational level.
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