What Are User Story Mapping?

User story mappings (USM) is a technique for organizing information within a story. Basically, a USM describes how a user character interacts with the application but does not give all of that interaction a name. This allows users to “write on the map” by describing their interaction in terms of user roles. For example, if you are building an application for a medical practice, you may want to have your application respond to certain keystrokes. You would then capture all of the keystrokes and write a description of each keystroke. This can be done for document forms as well, but what about a form to respond to a request for more information?

The problem with traditional forms is that they are often difficult to follow and hard to understand. They also don’t allow for the sorts of progress reports that agile teams need to work with. If your team is trying to create these reports, how are you supposed to prioritize the tasks? These reports also prevent you from being able to tell if the project is on track. Agile teams often face issues like this because they try to do too much at once, or they fail to capture enough information for progress reports.

Traditional forms often make it difficult for teams to communicate. Teams often rely on scrum to figure out deadlines and deliverables. Scrum actually suffers because it makes it difficult for product managers and development teams to prioritize tasks. On the other hand, user story mapping helps product managers and development teams to prioritize tasks. This ensures that the product manager gets a good idea of where the business is in relation to its product requirements.

A USM also helps product teams work towards a shared understanding of the requirements for a product. For instance, in a manufacturing application, a USM might describe a typical production line process. It might describe the type of machinery used, the number of employees who work there, and the types of materials that are used. But a USM can also describe what types of processes are used in order to get the result that customers want. By sharing the understanding of the entire production process, teams can make fewer mistakes, and therefore improve the quality of the end product.

User story maps are also very useful when it comes to planning future developments. If a group of developers continues to develop a program or an application with the same basic requirements, there is less scope for future innovation. But if the group uses user story maps, the group can swap stories as and when necessary. This allows the development team to explore new possibilities.

User story mapping can also help product managers to define test cycles. In the past, test cycles used to involve days of constant testing, as the software was updated. But with user story mapping, developers who previously implemented a system might start to work on a subsequent sprint, instead of waiting to see what the previous team did. This might include rethinking the requirements for the previous release or just saving time by skipping that particular feature altogether. It might also mean that a single team can now rework the entire software development life-cycle, in a way that saves costs and avoids unnecessary adjustments.

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