As we find ourselves approaching nearly two years of unprecedented fluctuations during the pandemic, the way we live, work, and play have all needed to change. In work settings, many businesses have entirely reshaped the way they operate. This reshaping has led to bottom lines remaining similar to pre-pandemic times, and other attempts have seen institutions fail outright.
Meanwhile, some companies have utilized this forced change to restructure positively. You or those you work for are looking for a way to join the latter group and use our ever-changing times to experiment with potentially more beneficial practices. If that is the case, you need not overlook story mapping and quality assurance. In this article, you can learn more about the background, uses, and implementation of these valuable tools.
What Is Story Mapping?
Also known as “user story mapping,” story mapping is a practice that allows us to connect user stories related to products and services in a visual and often tactile manner. It gives a personalized look into the lived experiences of customers using a team’s products, tools, and/or software, then lays them out in a visual enough format to shed light on the big picture.
Its success has resulted from the excellent structure it gives to addressing the needs of both current and prospective customers.
It has become popular in a wide range of settings, from aerospace product manufacturing to technology in medicine, to the engineering of software and tech. The unique tactile and visual combo present in a user story map stems from a team’s ability to physically organize product backlogs (with cards on a desk or sticky notes on a wall for example) and then step back (literally or metaphorically) to see the bigger picture.
The process was developed by Jeff Patton, who saw an opportunity to organize user activities by their priority on a vertical and horizontal axis. These activities and elements are broken down into epics (or themes) that piece together the backbone or basis of the story map. User Personas are created to simulate potential users of a product or customers at a business. Their stories are broken down into the aforementioned epics or themes. This allows the map to be very creative. Its ever-changing nature reflects the changing nature of the business landscape, giving teams a great amount of flexibility and freedom. Curious to learn more about this valuable technique? Greater detail can be found here.
What Is Quality Assurance?
While user story mapping is a term used to describe a specific practice, Quality Assurance is a broader term that encapsulates any methodical process of holding a product or service up to one’s defined standards. It is essentially a systematic way of “measuring twice and cutting once”, which can be applied to monitoring the functional quality of products ranging from medical equipment to engineered transport technology, to software and tech engineering.
For example, it is paramount in the medical field that laboratory and hospital equipment remains functioning at peak levels. Doctors, nurses, and technicians are occupied with their own work, and thus outside regulatory bodies are responsible for maintaining quality assurance. In an industry like aerospace engineering, the technology involved could have similarly dire consequences from even a small mishap, causing a company massive financial loss or even harm to humans.
Quality assurance in the tech industry involves a balancing act between the innovations customers want and how managers wish to organize. It also involves the hoops engineers will have to jump through to keep all parties happy in a streamlined manner. More on this process as it pertains to tech can be found here, where apps are used as a perfect display of the range of needs present when developing for iOS or Android.
How and When Would You Implement These Techniques?
Now that we have learned about story mapping and quality assurance, can we mix and match the two concepts and customize them to apply to even more situations than those mentioned above? The answer is a resounding “yes”, as story mapping can help determine the specific standards we wish products and services would uphold.
While monitoring quality assurance can require an initial investment in a team to conduct reviews, these costs are very likely to be recouped when quality services build customer loyalty. Quality products limit the potential need for fixing defects.
Story mapping and quality assurance can both be applied to a myriad of situations and settings, so what better time than the ever-changing 2020s to learn more about them? You’ve taken the first step reading this, and now the streamlining possibilities are endless!