Story Map

Story Map2017-10-12T22:05:28+00:00

What is a Story Map?

When to use a Story Map

Essentially, a Story Map is a simple matrix.

Story Map Dimensions

  • It makes it easier to understand the relationships between stories.
  • It achieves this by adding new dimensions to existing plans & Backlogs.
  • This includes their links to:
    • The major areas of the product.
    • The release schedule.

Uses of Story Maps
As well as structuring the Backlog, a Story Map makes it easier to create lower-level tools such as:

  • Backlogs.
  • Plans.
  • Story Boards.
  • Etc.

Why use Story Maps?

A Story Map isn’t always needed. Only use one if:

  • You have a very large but only weakly prioritised Backlog.
  • You operate a ‘pull’ Agile process.
    • That is, you just take the next story in the Backlog.

The limitations of Backlogs

The simplicity of the Agile Backlog is one of it strengths. Unfortunately, it can also be its weakness.

  • The sheer scale of a rich Backlog can defy prioritisation.
    • Or even understanding.
  • Ideally stories are completely independent of one another.
    • But this isn’t always easy to achieve.
      • E.g., when an epic is frequently driven by a single complex narrative.
    • So some stories will add little or no value unless certain other stories are also implemented.
  • In a commercial product, a coherent release frequently requires progress on multiple dimensions.
    • Functionality, usability, performance, etc.
    • User training, operations, platforms, localisation, etc.
    • Such dependencies are hard to manage in the large, complex Backlog.
  • A ‘flat’ Backlog cannot show whether you’ve collected all the stories you need.
    • …or whether the ones you do have make sense.
    • …especially not for new systems.
    • So you need a structure where you can see patterns, gaps & conflicts.
  • Stakeholders don’t generally think in terms of isolated stories.
    • It certainly isn’t how users & business owners think of them.
    • A value-adding product is no more a list of stories than a house is a pile of bricks. So it’s important to keep a sense of what your deliveries are delivering as a whole – the Big Picture.
    • A standard Backlog will not give you this.
  • When the Backlog needs refining, it’s not always clear how remaining stories relate to delivered stories.
    • Which stories aren’t needed any more?
    • What are the opportunities to simplify individual stories?
    • Or the backlog as a whole?
    • An unstructured Backlog cannot answer such questions.

The benefits of Story Maps

In short, a Backlog sometimes needs to be enriched.
Story Map

One tool for doing this is the Story Map.

  • Story Maps explain the Product’s detailed strategy.
    • Release by Release, story by story.
    • And possibly expose inconsistencies, dependencies, unspoken assumptions, etc.
  • Story Maps explain the overall delivery plan clearly.
    • Where we’re going.
    • What we’ve already achieved.
    • What we’re doing right now.
    • All in a single object.
  • Story Maps explain to stakeholders where their stories are in the pipeline.
    • And what comes before them.
  • Story Maps make future planning easier.
    • Including Backlog Refinement.
    • And expose flaws and gaps quickly.

Creating a Story Map

A Story Map is created following this process:

Story Map Workflow

For details of this process, click here.

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