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Story Mapping Method

Jeff Patton's methodology of structuring backlog

Alexander Sergeev avatar
Written by Alexander Sergeev
Updated over a week ago

Product managers need special methods and techniques for determining priorities and getting great business results. There are dozens of popular methodologies from gaming to the most complicated, quantitative and qualitative, for internal and external purposes.

Here’s one of the popular methods - Story Mapping.

Story Mapping Method

The method of Story Mapping was first described in Jeff Patton’s article in the early 2000s, where he shared his experience.

The main idea of Story Mapping is that the product backlog is not enough to organize and prioritize the work. You need to find a more detailed structure.

In general, Story Mapping Methodology is organized as follows:

  • There is a horizontal axis representing the sequence of use. User stories (or tasks) are placed along this axis in the sequence in which they are performed by the user.

  • There is also a vertical axis, which means criticality. Tasks are arranged vertically relatively to how important they are (from the top to the bottom). Equally important stories can be kept at the same height.

Groups of related user stories can be combined as Activities.

Create a vertical line to separate different grouped tasks. For example, the activity can be “managing email”, while “sending an email to one or more addresses” is a user task.

Actions are located above the vertical axis and do not have any sequence. They can be a priority or not.

This method of structuring backlog has many advantages. Here’re the most important:

  • This is a visual tool that allows customers, stakeholders and members of development teams share a common understanding of what is happening.

  • It clearly defines how to gradually produce product iterations that deliver full product releases.

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