This post provides a format for running a story mapping workshop with your team. A related post on story mapping describes this effective technique to visualise the product backlog.
Objective of the session
The objective of the session is to visualise the product backlog listing all features and user stories required to deliver value to the customers.
This workshop can be run at the start of an initiative or at any stage during product development. If product development is already in progress then the team should have bulk of the content from what they have done so far. The idea is to visualise it in order to validate everything has been covered and identify any missing pieces.
Ensure vision of the product understood
This may sound obvious but it is surprising how often something as simple as this is not fully understood by everyone in the team.
Ask someone to define the vision of the product. We don't want it to feel like a quiz or that we are there to grill the team. I often ask the following non-threatening question:
"For my benefit, can someone describe the overall vision for this product?"
It is important to ensure the vision of the product is articulated correctly and succinctly. By correct I mean, it is aligned to the organisation’s stated purpose of the product. It is even more important that everyone on the team is aligned with the stated vision.
Top level themes/features
With the vision in mind, we now list all top level themes or features required to deliver the vision. Ask the team for their input and write each item on a card or a post-it note.
Once the list is stable, ensure everyone is in agreement on the top level feature. Check if there is a need to sequence the features based on technical dependencies. If so, ask the team to sequence the features.
Take each feature at a time and create user stories required to deliver it.
Ask the team to think about all the user stories required to deliver the first feature. Ask them to work on their own initially and write each item on a separate card or post-it. Repeat this for all features.
Ask each team member to take turns to present their card and pin it to the board. Now ask the team to remove any duplicates.
Next step is to sequence all user stories for a particular feature based on technical dependencies. Clearly mark any dependencies on the card. This will allow the Product Owner to make informed decisions about prioritising the backlog based on business needs while taking into account any technical dependencies.
Repeat the process for all identified features.
Check with the team that everything required for successful delivery to customers including infrastructure, non-functional requirements (NFRs) etc. are included in the story map.
The next step is for the Product Owner to prioritise the backlog. They may or may not be able to do so in the session depending on the need for additional information or time constraints.
Output of the session
Output of the session is a visual representation of the product backlog containing all known work items required to deliver the vision of the product. This backlog contains sequenced/prioritised features and associated user stories, which can be used to make informed decisions about next steps.