5 reasons why your project needs a user story map

User Story Mapping helps to assign stories to higher-level epics and thus provide a better overview of the project. This not only helps sort out the backlog, but also simplifies release planning. 

Build the right product at the right time – this is one of the central challenges of agile software development.
Product owners, product managers and finally the development teams are confronted with never-ending tasks on a daily basis: Just implement this story! Can we put this feature into the release? Can you do it in this sprint?

Even if the Scrum Master* raises the team to the highest performance level, a poorly managed Product Backlog can jeopardize the success of the project. So how do you get past the product backlog, which is usually a long (hopefully prioritized) list?

Mit einer User Story Map! Wenn einer dieser fünf Gründe auf dein Projekt zutrifft, ist es Zeit für eine Runde User Story Mapping.

What is a User Story Map?

It’s pretty simple: All tickets, issues and tasks are visualized in a big map. The big issues (often called features and epics) go at the top of the map and run from left to right. Below that come smaller tasks (e.g., stories). The columns represent versions or releases.

This way you can easily determine with your team which tasks make sense to fit into which release. One option is to print out or write down all tasks and hang them on a wall; there are also digital solutions for this.

From a long, chaotic list to a clear map

In your product backlog you have more items than lines of code? With luck, the first five stories are in the right order? And what’s at the bottom you don’t even want to look at?

Then it’s time to create transparency and look the backlog in the face: Create a user story map that includes all items from the backlog. No matter how old, no matter how big, put it in!

What now?

Your team needs to know what is in the backlog

With luck, your team has an idea of the Sprint Backlog and knows roughly what the other colleagues are working on? Planning and refinement are team tasks and therefore your team should also know what is coming up in the next sprints. Furthermore: What is the idea of the product, the goal of the whole? Are the team members haphazard? If this is the case, get an overview together and use the knowledge of all team members to move the product and the planning forward.

Your stakeholders don’t understand how the project works

Do the stakeholders put a gun to the head of the product owner and demand releases, updates and features? Or do they just shrug their shoulders in the review because they don’t know what they want?

With a user story map you can show your stakeholders where the project currently stands and what the plan is. What is already done, what is still on the plan, when should what happen? Agile working does not mean working without a plan. Quite the opposite!


Your release planning is based on the lunar calendar

Don’t get distracted now: When the moon is full, it’s Sprint Planning. According to the Scrum Guide, a Sprint lasts 4 weeks (maximum) and so does the lunar cycle, so…

There are actually better methods for smart planning: Use the user story map to create meaningful releases. Discuss with the team the efforts, estimates and think about which stories you can assign to which release.

Everyone works remotely, even your Post-It notes

What can I say after 2 years in the home office? Everything works online. And a lot of things are better! You can connect your issue tracking tool with clever whiteboard tools (e.g. Jira with Miro) or get the right add-on.

Then your user story map is safe from dropped notes, transcription errors and you save yourself work by having everything in one digital place.

So put your feet up, invite your team, and make a User Story Map that will get your project’s heart pumping! But don’t worry: you can always wrap your used gum in those paper Post-Its you still have in the drawer.

Links to book and blogpost:


Nina Raabe
Scrum Master