User Stories and Mind Mapping

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I read an article recently by Robert Dempsey about how he has recently discovered mind mapping as a way to manage user stories.  His technique was interesting and it gave me the excuse I needed to take another shot at mind mapping.

I’ve tried mind mapping in the past and it never really stuck for me.  It was a little too free form.  I needed some structure for my ideas, that’s why I was looking for something in the first place.  Robert’s post briefly describes the structure that he has used for forming user stories.  The method made the idea click a little bit better.  Basically he starts with the project in the center and then the ring out is the different actors.  Hanging off the actors are the actions that they should be doing.

I downloaded the 30 day trial of MindJet MindManager and tried Robert’s technique out on my current project.  It was a lot easier to get started that it had been on previous attempts with mind mapping, but I kept feeling like something was missing.  Here’s what finally clicked for me: what the user does is less important than why they want to do it.

In the classic user story we have an actor, an action, and a business value that the story provides (As an <actor> I want to <action> so I can <business value>).  I slightly modified Robert’s approach and added a level for business value — the “so I can” clause of a user story.  Now I have the project in the center, next the actors, and then I start listing out the business value that each actor wants to get from the app that we are building.  Under each of these leaves I can then start describing actions that would provide the actor with the business value.

This really make things click.  My ideas started to come together and I feel like the result is clear user stories that are customer business value focused.  I need to thank Robert again for convincing me to dig in to mind maps again.  I think this will be a big help in focusing my ideas in to something communicable and implementable.