What is user story mapping and how do you go about doing that effectively?

What is user story mapping and how do you go about doing that effectively?

Welcome to part 48 in our scrum master interview questions series where John McFadyen answers common questions asked of scrum masters in interviews and client engagements.

Whoa. I can’t believe this is an interview question. This is an entire topic that I could teach for two full days in one of my scrum certification courses. No matter, let’s get to it and do the best we can with this one.

User Story Mapping

User story mapping is exactly what it says on the tin.

It’s creating a map of user stories to help you understand the flow of how users engage and use your product, feature, or service.

  • How does it work for them?
  • What does the user experience look and feel like?
  • How useful is your product, feature, or service in helping them achieve their goal?
  • What are your users trying to achieve by using the product, feature, or service?

And so forth.

A map that helps you visualize these elements and understand how each item of work contributes to a positive, useful, and valuable user experience for the customer.

The way I approach this is to ask the team, the product stakeholders, the customers, or whoever needs to be a part of this process:

  • What are the things that this particular user does?
  • What are the activities they engage in?

As we document all of these elements, we flesh it out and create a useful map. We can always filter by different criteria, but our goal is to list each of the activities and jobs the user is trying to do.

There is no single user. You want to look for the nuances in each of the segmentation patterns you decide to employ. You want to derive insight that will help the developers and product owner do a great job with product development and creating value for customers in the future.

Align these with user personas.

  • What does John do in X circumstance?
  • Why does John do these things?
  • How is John using the product or feature to achieve these goals?
  • How effective is the product or feature in solving John’s problems?

And so forth.

Jobs to be done.

I love the ‘jobs to be done’ framework popularized by author Anthony W Ulwick.

It really helps you identify what jobs people are trying to get done, from physical activities on their to-do list right through to the social outcomes they are looking to achieve by doing X. It really helps you dig deep into the purpose behind what people are doing and why it matters to them.

Another great resource for this kind of research or brainstorming is the Value Proposition Canvas by Alex Osterwalder and Strategyzer.

One side of the canvas focuses on the user or customer:

  • What jobs are they trying to do?
  • What gains are they trying to achieve?
  • What pains are they trying to alleviate?

The other side of the canvas focuses on your business:

  • What products, features, and services do you have that aligns with customer jobs?
  • How does the product create gains for the customer?
  • How does the product alleviate pains for the customer?

Whichever tool you employ, just remember that you are focusing on what a user is trying to achieve and how your product, feature, or service empowers them to do that. If it doesn’t, it helps to think about how your product, feature, or service could potentially do that and add that to the backlog.

A user story map is a visualization of what customers are doing, why they are doing it, and how we do or could help them solve the problems that matter to them.

Minimum Viable Product

The user story map will help the product owner identify what is most important to end users right now, and what will become more important in the future.

Together, the scrum team can identify what the minimum amount of work items are needed to satisfy a customer need. What do we need to do to ensure customers are happy and actively buying our product or features.

This is sometimes known as a Minimum Viable Product in the world of product development.

  • What is the essential starting point?
  • What must be in the product for it to solve a customer need?
  • What is the minimum number of features necessary for the product to create value?
  • What is the skeleton of the product that enables us to learn, iterate, and evolve from there.

The goal is to launch the product and learn from customer feedback.

The team can then develop a hypothesis around what item or feature would generate the most value for a customer and then build that once their hypothesis has been validated.

Rinse and repeat and you have a product development engine based on creating value for users.

About John McFadyen

If you are interested in becoming an agile coach and value mentored, coach-driven skills development in your journey to mastery, visit our Growing Scrum Masters website.

For more information on John McFadyen, connect with John on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnmcfadyen/.

If you like the idea of becoming a scrum master and want to achieve internationally recognised and certified accreditation as a scrum master, visit our Certified Scrum Master (CSM) course page.

If you are already a scrum master and want to upskill to a more advanced level of knowledge and agile coaching capability, visit our Advanced Certified Scrum Master (A-CSM) course page.

If you have several years’ experience as a scrum master and want to validate and certify your professional skills, visit our Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master (CSP-SM) course page.

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author avatar
John McFadyen Managing Partner
John McFadyen is an Executive and Enterprise Agile Coach with proven experience working on some of the UK and Europe’s largest, most complex Agile Transformations. As a Certified Scrum Trainer, John brings a wealth of experience as an Agile coach, Agile practitioner and software developer into each of the four core courses he provides. The war stories, the insights into successful Agile transformations and everything he has learned from coaching high-performance Agile teams combine to provide course delegates with a unique, compelling training experience that transforms as much as it empowers.

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