Skip to Content

User Story Mapping

Posted on

What is it?

User Story Mapping is an evolution of the traditional Agile backlog, made popular by Jeff Patton in 20081. It’s an effective practice for creating lightweight release plans that can drive standard Agile delivery practices. At the end of user story mapping, you should have:

  • A backlog of scope items (captured as stories or simply feature titles) the team believes can be delivered in the planning window. This means some items will be placed out of scope
  • The backlog “sliced” into ~3 iterations, such that it forms the outline of plan
  • Enough detail in the first iteration of the plan to get started with the work

Why use User Story Mapping?

  • No one likes estimating work effort, but it’s an important step in many environments. User Story Mapping presents an approach to estimation that many teams find much more tolerable than practices like planning poker or t-shirt sizing
  • Many projects have a natural progression of work from beginning, middle to end. This progression is often lost in a traditional flat backlog. User Story Mapping captures this information with a lightweight mechanism to plan out more than one iteration (i.e. an Agile release plan)
  • User Story Mapping presents backlog items in the context of the overall business process so you don’t lose sight of “the big picture”, a common pitfall in Scrum projects
  • User Story Mapping is a great way to create an Agile delivery plan for a business process designed with Event Storming
  • Program Increment Planning2 in Scaled Agile Framework leverages many of the ideas behind User Story Mapping
  • Site Mapping3 should provide the backbone of the User Story Map in UI driven projects

Who do you need?

  • Facilitator (if the team is new to the approach)
  • Product Owner
  • User Experience Design
  • Analysts
  • Developers
  • Testers

Suggested Time

  • ~4 Hours not including breaks
  • Facilitate in small sessions @ around ~90 minutes each
  • Session can be done on different days

Difficulty

  • Facilitator: Easy
  • Participants: Easy

Facilitation Materials Needed

  • Drawing paper roll4. Stickies tend to fall off walls otherwise.
  • 3 different colors of wide format sticky notes like the 4x6 sticky notes5
  • 2 different colors of small square sticky notes like the 3x3 sticky notes6
  • Markers

Process Phase

User Story Mapping is an effective way to transition from the “Develop Potential Solutions” phase to “Deliver Solutions That Work” phase of the Double Diamond7 model.

Additional Resources for Red Hatters (we’re working to share more broadly)

  • Red Hatters can access a copy of Jeff Patton’s User Story Mapping book here

External Resources

  1. User Story Mapping by Jeff Patton in 2008
  2. Program Increment Planning by SAFe
  3. Site Mapping by 18f
  4. Drawing Paper example
  5. 4x6 sticky notes example
  6. 3x3 sticky notes example
  7. Double Diamond design model
  8. Jeff Patton’s index of materials