Underpinning scrum is the need for a product backlog. There are many ways to create a product backlog and one of my favourites is User story mapping. Now, there’s a book dedicated to just this technique. Is it worth your time and money?
It’s All in How You Slice It
Almost a decade ago, Jeff Patton wrote an article in Better Software magazine titled “It’s All in How You Slice”. In this article, he described what became known as user story mapping. I think the article is brilliant and it was a catalyst to my use of the technique in creating product backlogs. Fortunately, the article is still available on Jeff’s site. It’s short (seven pages with lots of graphics) and worth fifteen minutes of your time. Go have a read. I’ll wait.
If you liked the article you might be a candidate for a book on the topic. You’re in luck. Jeff Patton, together with Peter Economy have written that very book. Titled “User Story Mapping: Discover the Whole Story, Build the Right Product”
Is This the Whole Story?
Yes, it is. It’s very comprehensive. It takes the original article and re-provides it with a whole new story.
But that’s not all. Not by a long chalk. It embellishes. It adds masses of detail. Yet all in a light, conversational tone. It’s easy to read and understand.
Discovering the Whole Story
There’s so much more to this book than just user story mapping though.
It covers lean principles. It talks about the ruthlessness needed to remove stories (because we always have more features than time available). We learn how to use pictures to help with the stories. In one instance, we’re even introduced to writing a comic as a way of testing the true usefulness of a prospective feature. Techniques and ideas abound in this book.
Are you vexed by how to create vertical slices of functionality? Not sure how to order your product backlog to best effect? Wondering how you actually deliver value? Do you worry about the right way to test your proposed solution? This book will help.
Not only that, it’s not short on aspiration either. One of my favourite quotes from the book:
As a Reader, I want …
There’s a well worn template in the agile world. You know the one : “As a , I want , So that “. It’s served us well for many years now. Used well, it’s still excellent value. But, like any technique, it can be applied like a sledgehammer. I’m sure we’ve all seen examples of this.
Crazy thing is, the template is meant to act as a reminder to us to consider the important things. But in reality, it’s sometimes used as handcuffs. We’re forced to use the template even when it doesn’t make sense.
Delightfully, the book under review offers readers a whole new way of considering stories. It encourages you to throw away the shackles of template slavery. Instead, it wants you to think. To engage. To share stories. To understand.
An epiphany awaits the receptive.
Is This the Right Product?
Simply put : Yes. This book deserves a place on your bookshelf and/or kindle. Better yet, it deserves a place in your hands, because it’s easier to read that way. Go get it.