This will give your backlog some juice!

Storymaps are way to give more structure to your release planning.  They give you a big picture view of what is in your backlog.  Storymaps take the activities you would have on your product backlog and group them together in activities.  The storymap creates a visual representation of the software you are trying to build.  They can be added along with a product backlog and sprint backlog to give a richer representation of the overall process.  The storymap could be used in non-Agile development too.

Storymapping is a great technique that can help us focus on the bigger picture, while also keeping our wider stakeholder group (like developers and product owners) aware of the project’s progress.

The benefits of using storymaps are in planning releases around related functionality and features.  It can also help you determine priority of the pieces in the release that may need to be delivered first.  Storymaps also help you track progress toward delivering customer value.

story map diagram

Creating a storymap starts by identifying the activities and then arranging them in order of completion from left to right.  The activities are larger than a user story and may span multiple releases.  Below the activities line you create the tasks that correspond to each activity.  Then below those you might have numerous sub-tasks that need to be completed to finish the task.

Steps to create a Storymap

  1. Form a group of 3-5 people who understand the purpose of the product.
  2. Start by gathering the major user tasks of the project/application in silence – the “things people do”.
  3. Next ask the team to group the post-its in silence.
  4. Using another color of post-it, name each group and put the post-it on top of the group.
  5. Arrange the groups left to right in the order a user would typically complete the tasks.
  6. Now walk the skeleton to make sure you haven’t missed any major user tasks or activities.
  7. With a finished framework for the map, you can add more detailed user stories below each user task before breaking your map into releases.
  8. Finally, I like to take all the user stories in the first release and do some serious user story slicing to make sure we have sliced the first release as thin as possible.

The benefits of using storymaps can really help you get a handle on your release planning.  It will also give you clues to the order you need to release your features.  Storymaps are gaining traction in many software development organizations, you should consider trying it out with your team!

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