Using Story Mapping and Value Allocation to find your MVP

If you work on Agile teams, you are probably already familiar with story mapping. As an Agile product manager or product owner, you have watched as your product requirements are turned into a piece of Post-It Note art on the wall of a conference room. It's more liberating than painstakingly typing up a business requirement document in Word by yourself, and it's scary because pieces of your product scope can so easily be "descoped" if they fall off the wall and end up in the recycle bin! But that's what your smartphone's camera is for.

For those of you that are not yet familiar with story mapping, Naresh Jane, founder of AgileFAQs, describes story maps as, "A prioritized user story backlog helps to understand what to do next, but is a difficult tool for understanding what your whole system is intended to do. A user story map arranges user stories into a useful model to help understand the functionality of the system, identify holes and omissions in your backlog, and effectively plan holistic releases that delivery value to users and business with each release."

Wikipedia defines a story map as, "a graphical, two-dimensional product backlog. At the top of the map are big user stories [or epics or themes or activities]. These grouping units are created by orienting the order you'd explain the behavior of the system. Vertically, below the epics, the actual story cards are allocated and ordered by priority. In this way it becomes possible to describe even big systems without losing the big picture."

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)?

A minimum viable product has just those core features that allow the product to be deployed, and no more. An MVP is not a minimal product, it is a strategy and process directed toward making and selling a product to customers. It is an iterative process of idea generation, prototyping, presentation, data collection, analysis and learning. One seeks to minimize the total time spent on an iteration. The process is iterated until a desirable product/market fit is obtained, or until the product is deemed to be non-viable.