Product Ownership

Which tool to use to start your storymap?

There is nothing like a beautiful wall of sticky notes to bring a storymap to life. However, it is sometimes convenient to also have a digital version, which you can share with colleagues and with your client… or save the day when the person in charge of cleaning has decided to throw out your masterpiece of coloured papers.

Several tools exist on the market, each with its own target audience, strengths and shortcomings. Here is a quick tour to help you find the service that best suits your needs.

FeatureMap.co

FeatureMap.co – Storymap example

FeatureMap.co is probably the best-known Story Mapping tool. Offering quite a complete feature set, it has many features similar to Trello: you can assign a team member to each note along with a status; a level of importance; an estimate (in points or in currency). You can attach files, create to-do lists, etc. In short, FeatureMap.co looks a lot like Trello but it is presented as a Storymap rather than Kanban.

The interface is not very practical when you need to quickly select and move a lot of stories. There seem to be no keyboard shortcuts available. And when it comes to exporting your work into a Word or an Excel document, the result is quite limited – Featuremap.co produces a simple, flat list of tasks, that isn’t very useful or visually appealing.

The pros:

+ Very detailed when managing the status of each Story

+ Easy filtering system with various criteria (size of the story, importance …)

+ Possible integration with Jira or Trello (Premium Plan only)


The cons:

– Duplication with Trello

– Potentially a bit too complicated for what is relatively  simple need (creating an online Storymap)

– Excel / Word exports are not very explicit

– Relatively high price for what is included

– Limitations of the free version: maximum of 2 storymaps, no integration with Jira or Trello

– Price of the premium version: USD $6/month

StoriesOnBoard

StoriesOnBoard – Storymap example

StoriesOnBoard is a well-designed Story Mapping tool. The interface is also very convenient to use with the keyboard, offering shortcuts (“N”) to quickly enter dozens of tasks one after the other, before letting you reorganise them.

Like FeatureMap.co, StoriesOnBoard allows you to add various types of information to stories, like statuses, or levels of complexity. You can also comment on stories and attach files. It is more straightforward to use than other competitors.

StoriesOnBoard offers integrations with a variety of tools you might already use, like Jira, Pivotal Tracker or Trello; and, more unusually, to Slack, Flowdock and Hipchat. One of the greatest features is the Excel export, which allows you to download a table that visually represents the storymap, maintaining the formatting based on columns and blocks of colours. You can also export to PDF, which is just as useful.


The pros:

+ Nice and easy to use

+ Very high-quality Excel and PDF exports

+ Many possible integrations with third-party tools

The cons:

– No way to generate a link to share a given storymap: you need to invite users one by one via email.

No free version (except 30-day free trial). It costs a minimum of USD $7/month and up to $15/month for access to all the features.

Cardboard It!

Cardboard It! – Storymap example

Cardboard It! is a Story Mapping and brainstorming tool with a strong focus on collaboration, community management and group sharing.  It can also be used to build storymaps.

Of the three tools, Cardboard It!  presents the user experience that is closest to working with a stack of sticky notes and a  wall or board. The structure is less formal; tickets can be dragged and dropped easily, and can even be stuck on top of each other. The colour of each note allows the user to define functional groups or versions, and it is also possible to insert horizontal or vertical separators to group the user stories.

An estimate of complexity can be associated to each note, but the participants can also (as part of a brainstorm for example) react with emojis: “must be discussed” or “confused”!

Cardboard It! offers an original feature that can be very useful for a Product Manager: the ability to define “user paths” by selecting a part of notes. These tracks are saved, and selecting one of them highlights it on the storymap.

Finally, Cardboard It! can be connected to JIRA, Pivotal Tracker, Rally andVersionOne Hower, the export features are quite limited.

The pros:

+ Nice to use and easy to handle

+ Adapted to online brainstorming, with many collaboration features

+ Very flexible

+ “User journeys” functionality is a big plus


The cons:

– Very limited export possibilities

– Design very basic

– Little information about each story (no comments, history management or files)

Free option with a Public CardBoarder. Premium version price: USD $7/month or $8/month depending on the team size.

MURAL

MURAL storymap template

MURAL offers more than just a story mapping tool. They position themselves as the service for co-creation for remote teams, with a design thinking perspective in mind. MURAL comes with lots of frameworks and templates to help you and your team design and work collaboratively in an agile manner. From creating a business canvas, to prioritising ideas, experience maps, personas, and of course story mapping templates, it is very easy to set up a new board and start working with your teammates.

They also offer lots of collaborative tools like link sharing, commenting, and anonymous voting sessions. A ‘follow me’ function enables a team member to take control of the board and become a presenter (like a screen sharing feature), participants are able to follow the presenters moves on the board in real time.

Regarding the story mapping feature, the template is very useful and will help you get your map started quickly. Sticky notes can have colour codes, icons, be gathered in sections, and can be duplicated easily. You can drag and drop notes like on a real wall, put them on top of each other and mix them with any other type of content (PDF, image, PPT, Excel, video). Another nice feature in MURAL enables you to copy and paste tables from an Excel document into MURAL and have them displayed separately as one note per line. It also works the other way from MURAL to Excel.

On the flip side, a MURAL storymap isn’t very easy to export. They only offer a PDF or a JPEG export option. Also, you cannot add additional types of information to stories, like statuses, or levels of complexity.

The pros:

+ More than just a story mapping tool

+ Tons of templates and frameworks to use

+ Adapted to online brainstorming, with many collaboration features

+ Very flexible


The cons:

– Very limited export possibilities

– Little information about each story

No free version (except 30-day free trial). It costs USD $12 per membership, per month.

Conclusion

If you are primarily looking for a tool to collaborate on an online storymap, that will also let you exporting it in an easy-to-present format (Excel or PDF), we can only recommend StoriesOnBoard which – in addition to being powerful and quite easy to learn – has the best export capabilities of all the tools we tested.

If you are looking for a more collaborative tool, or even a brainstorming tool, Cardboard It! or MURAL is an interesting alternative. Really pleasant to use, they give users the impression of being in front of a real virtual wall on which multiple users are creating and moving sticky notes!

Source: http://blog.thiga.fr/boite-a-outils-du-po/outil-choisir-demarrer-storymap/

2 Comments
  1. Regis Mahoukou 9 months ago
    Reply

    For cosmetic reason and the easy to use citeria I would have added realtimeboard.

    • Anne-Laure Jourdain 8 months ago
      Reply

      Thanks for your comment Regis. Realtimeboard is a great tool indeed! We will add it to the list.

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