What is User Story Mapping?
User Story Mapping is about delivering more outcomes by building less. It may seem contradictory at first sight, but it’s really what this exercise is all about. Let me give you a quick overview.
Popularized by Jeff Patton, User Story Mapping has become a popular way of enhancing collaboration between business owners and development teams to build the right product, in the proper order. Since it is a powerful and efficient workshop, it is highly praised by Agile teams to help them prioritize their backlog.
First, you need to put yourself in your users’ shoes to build the narrative flow along with their navigation through your product. Detail each step, if possible, by sticking to chronological order. These will be the backbone of your User Story Map composed of big user stories called epics.
Then, you determine the user stories that enable your users to reach their outcome successfully, i.e., why they would use your product at first. This part of the process triggers a conversation between business owners and the development team that builds a shared understanding of the situation.
To finish, you hierarchize user stories along the vertical axis to determine a minimum set of tasks that would bring the minimum, but necessary, business value to your users: it is called the MVP for Minimum Viable Product. You can extend the exercise by considering a second and a third version, but many things can occur till then!
What is an MVP?
One common misconception about MVP is thinking that it is just a product that should work, technically speaking. When we talk about nature, we use the term ‘viable’ to talk about a living organism, which means an organism that can survive on its own. The idea is the same when we talk about MVP.
Keeping this standard in mind, the MVP is the smallest product release that makes your users achieve their desired outcome (not a crappy product!) and, in your Agile iterative process, can give you enlightening feedback about what your users are actually expecting from you.
Some tips from Jeff Patton himself
In April 2020, I had the chance to interview Jeff Patton himself. He kindly gave me some clarifications about his conception of User Story Mapping. Here are the main takeaways:
- It’s like the outline of a screenplay of a movie. You write the story of your users through your product’s adventure.
- It’s a living thinking tool. Don’t hesitate to throw it away and build a new one from scratch.
- It’s imprecise and incomplete by nature. Don’t try to be exhaustive.
- It’s both a common visual representation and a portal towards other parts of the product development system. It is what makes User Story Mapping so powerful.
- It is an artifact that grows organically as you can’t predict the structure a priori. You should naturally find the right structure a posteriori.
Some other tips from Product Management professionals
Fatima-Zahra Hamil, seasoned Product Coach at Publicis Sapient, underscores two critical steps to go through to run a successful User Story Mapping session:
- Refine your vision to reflect your understanding of the market, your users, and their problems.
- Write down explicitly the project goals (monetization, audience, etc.). They will have a significant influence on the MVP’s feature scope.
- Describe your Persona precisely. It is crucial to identify what features will really bring business value to your users.
After a fruitful User Story Mapping session, you should have all the ingredients to build your Product Roadmap.