Story Map

Information Radiators are one of the most powerful concepts championed in agile as communication vehicles.  In many organizations, the use of information radiators has waxed over the past few years as more and more tools have locked data into monitors and tablet screens.  As electronic tools have replaced paper, putting radiators where people can see information, as they work or walk by, has been replaced by instant access (which is code for never looked at).  Product and sprint backlogs locked away into tools have the same problem as burndown charts, cycle time scatterplots or work in process aging charts that are in a tool and never looked at. Instead of locking backlogs away, create and use agile story maps to increase transparency and improve access to information. The goal of a Story Map is to present the big picture of a product or feature for everyone on the team. The Story Map’s ease-of-use and transparency increase the likelihood of collaboration and feedback within the team. The Story Map is also a tool to visually plan releases.  Like other information radiators, the use of story maps has changed over over the last decade as the use of agile has become more mainstream and less tied to the principles in the Agile Manifesto. Over the next few entries, the Software Process and Measurement blog will revisit story mapping and explore several usage issues in today’s software development world. Before we dive into the hard parts, though, we need to revisit creating a story map.

Story mapping is a relatively simple process for visualizing and organizing a product backlog (the hard part is generally getting the initial set of features and stories). Story mapping was identified and popularized by Jeff Patton. The story map is a multidimensional representation of a product (we will talk later in this series about whether story maps work if you are not working on a product).  Looking at a map from top to bottom, large items—epics or features—are placed at the top of the map. TIme or the user’s journey through the product is used to arrange the epics or features from left to right. For example, some of the features in a users journey for a product to sell books might include book search, book page, shopping cart, and shipping. This is sometimes known as a walking skeleton.

After the features have been arranged across the top of the map, user stories and enablers are arranged below the feature in “priority” order. Priority can be influenced by value or the order in which product owners and product managers want the software delivered (minimum viable product and/or release planning). For example, the epic “buy a book” might include a feature “shipping” which might include stories such as “search for shipping methods”, “display estimated shipping cost”, and ‘select shipping method’.

In July 2013 we described a simple process for capturing epics and building a story map.  Story maps are a simple visual representation of work. Real life adds significant complications to the mix, such as distributed teams and work that is less product or feature-oriented.  Deciding the right scenarios to use story maps should be part of every agile team’s workflow.

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Software Process and Measurement Cast 342 features our interview with Ellen Gottesdiener and Mary Gorman.  We discussed their great book, Discover to Deliver: Agile Product Planning and Analysis, requirements and Agile.  Ellen and Mary provided penetrating insight into how to work with requirements in an Agile environment, from discovery to delivery and beyond.

This is the second time Ellen, Mary and I talked Agile requirements.  After listening to this interview turn back the hands of time and listen to SPaMCAST 200.

Ellen Gottesdiener is an internationally recognized leader in the convergence of agile + requirements + product management + project management. She is founder and principal of EBG Consulting, which helps organizations adapt how they collaborate to improve business outcomes.

Ellen’s passion is helping people use modern product requirements practices to build valued products and great teams. She provides coaching, training, and facilitates discovery and planning workshops across diverse industries. Ellen is a world-renowned writer, speaker, and presenter. Her most recent book, co-authored with Mary Gorman, is Discover to Deliver: Agile Product Planning and Analysis. Ellen is author of two other acclaimed books: Requirements by Collaboration and The Software Requirements Memory Jogger.

Here’s where you digitally connect with Ellen: Blog | Twitter | Newsletter | LinkedIn

Mary Gorman, a leader in business analysis and requirements, is Vice President of Quality & Delivery at EBG Consulting. Mary coaches product teams, facilitates discovery workshops, and trains stakeholders in collaborative practices essential for defining high-value products. She speaks and writes for the agile, business analysis, and project management communities. Mary is co-author with Ellen Gottesdiener of Discover to Deliver: Agile Product Planning and Analysis.   

A Certified Business Analysis Professional, Mary helped develop the IIBA®’s A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® and certification exam. She also served on the task force that created the PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)® Examination Content Outline. You can reach Mary via: Twitter | LinkedIn

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Re-Read Saturday News

The Re-Read Saturday focus on Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox’s The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement began on February 21nd. The Goal has been hugely influential because it introduced the Theory of Constraints, which is central to lean thinking. The book is written as a business novel. Visit the Software Process and Measurement Blog and catch up on the re-read.

Note: If you don’t have a copy of the book, buy one.  If you use the link below it will support the Software Process and Measurement blog and podcast.

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Next up on Re-Read Saturday: The Mythical Man-Month

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2015 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT & TRAINING WORKSHOP
June 9 – 12
San Diego, California
http://www.iceaaonline.com/2519-2/
I will be speaking on June 10.  My presnetaiton is titled “Agile Estimation Using Functional Metrics.”

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Also upcoming conferences I will be involved in include and SQTM in September, BIFPUG in November. More on these great conferences next week.

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The next Software Process and Measurement Cast will feature our essay on Commitment, Part 2. Is commitment anti-Agile?  We think not!  Commitment is a core behavior for effective Agile!

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