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7. Techniques

7.20 Story Mapping

Agile Extension to the BABOK® Guide

Story Mapping is used to assist in creating understanding of product functionality, the flow of usage, and to assist with prioritizing product delivery.

Story Mapping provides a visual and physical view of the sequence of activities to be supported by a solution. It uses a two-dimensional grid structure to show sequence and groupings of key aspects of the product on the horizontal dimension, with detail and priority of stories on the vertical dimension. Story Mapping is a decomposition technique which allows for the evolutionary understanding of a solution starting with an end-to-end view and drilling down to the detailed user stories.

Story Mapping is an effective tool to help understand the need while focusing on the highest priority items for analysis.
A story map is designed to be an information radiator, used to visualize a solution's outcomes in the context of usage and priority.

The story map is often placed on display for the delivery team during release planning sessions. By analyzing the story map, business analysis practitioners can more readily identify dependencies generated as a result of the intended flow through the user stories. The story map can also be used for risk assessment and management by examining how the stories will need to work together in the context of delivering business value.

The following illustration is an example of a story map.

Figure 7.20.1: Story Map


.1 Themes or Activities

The top line of a story map features all known themes or activities a customer will follow in a linear path. For example, themes for using an ATM could look like:

  1. Activate machine.

  2. Validate account credentials.

  3. Perform request.

  4. Receive outcome.

  5. Choose completion or another transaction.

These themes are a broad view of all activities for all known personas.

.2 Stories or Features

Underneath corresponding themes, individual stories or features are featured. These include all known features related to a theme. Each story may apply to only one persona or more than one persona.

.3 Ranked Priority Order

Stories are arranged top down under each theme in priority order. This allows for the separation of features between releases. A ranked priority order identifies the stories which appeal to the most and highest ranked personas as well as the personas that are required to be implemented before subsequent features.

.4 Facilitation

Story Mapping is a self-facilitation technique. No dedicated facilitator is required to develop a story map. Frequently, Story Mapping is a group activity to prioritize current stories, identify missing stories, and select stories for story elaboration (for more information, see 7.19. Story Elaboration) and story decomposition (for more information, see 7.18. Story Decomposition). A product owner can assist the group by making decisions when needed.

Themes and stories are prepared in advance of the Story Mapping session to focus the team effort on prioritization and understanding the customer's path.

.1 Strengths

  • When the larger context of a solution is not accounted for, agile projects can be subject to getting mired in the details with an inability to effectively string components together to create end-to-end business value. Story maps help avoid the common problem of getting lost in the detail of the user stories and the risk of losing the big picture context.

  • Story maps include personas to help the team prioritize based on features most relevant to one or more specific personas.

  • Story maps can also be used to understand the flow of data within a system.

.2 Limitations

  • Story maps can become cumbersome when the solution is very large and may require building a number of story maps that cover a large program of work. While story maps illustrate a flow, they do not analyze or illustrate dependencies between requirements. They can be used to help facilitate that analysis.

  • Contexts that are not process oriented may find story maps less useful.

  • The result of Story Elaboration is a shared understanding among stakeholders of what should be delivered to achieve the “Done” state for this story.