Story Mapping and its Benefits

Mallory Merrill

Advice for Startups

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One piece of software is built from many ideas, and organizing those ideas efficiently can be a real challenge. Find out how a story map can help you get organized and get more work done faster.

Why should you use a story map?

Story mapping is a great technique to help visualize how a solution will be developed in fast-feedback cycles. It's another gem thought up by a developer to help improve the efficiency of the development process.

Developed by Jeff Patton, the visual exercise of creating a story map allows teams to prioritize their work. It essentially shows, usually using sticky notes, how a team will develop working solutions and move towards a minimum viable product (MVP).

Top-Down Story Map

The top-down approach, represented as a tree diagram (shown below), normally starts with a vision. The vision is then achieved by goals, which are then reached by completing the activities. To complete the activities, tasks need to be performed. They are then transformed into user stories for software development.

This is what a top-down story map looks like, each box representing a task.


This is the best way of achieving what the user wants: their goals are essentially mapped while the developers follow the story, ticking one task off at a time.

Story Mapping is a cohesive team activity, which I have long used for developers in my company. The process gives a visual roadmap of the whole process and allows my employees to see how things fall into place.

What else is a story map good for?

It is also great for gap analysis – highlighting missing pieces of the puzzle which need to be solved. It’s also great for sequencing. Teams can move the stories around on the wall, allowing them to understand what the end user will experience.

Like with the Pomodoro technique, story mapping can help teams cut out the white noise and focus on what tasks they need to undertake first. Looking at a birds eye view of a project helps teams better visualize potential roadblocks and estimate the resources they will need to do the best job possible.

To follow it properly, the system is split into three sections: activity, tasks and subtasks. It is therefore easier to walk the use through each process and how we will get to the end goal: the ending.

When all elements are mapped into stories, you can use another sizing method to determine how much work will be required to complete those stories. That method is called Planning Poker. Click here to learn how planning poker can help you meet your development goals.

In short, creating a story map helps us bring participants together in planning. It also helps connect the dots to create an amazing end product. The software will end up having a backbone – and the colorful map shows it.

Let us know your thoughts! If you have a story to share about techniques that work for you, please share it in the comments below.

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