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Understand Users and Processes with User Journey Maps

Implementing a business application starts with understanding the users and the business processes that they follow. Identifying pain points and challenges in order to come up with solutions to overcome those challenges.

My go to tool for capturing and documenting the current state of a user and their journey through a business process is a User Journey Map.

Before using a User Journey Map, I would struggle to work with clients to extract the information I needed to help them and come up with solutions. I didn't know where to start, what questions I should be asking, how to make sure all ideas were heard, if was I capturing everything... the list goes on.

The objective of a User Journey Map is to produce ideas to overcome challenges based on a timeline of activities.

A User Journey Map helps consultants to:

  • Quickly gain an understanding a user and the process without getting stuck in "analysis paralysis"

  • Ensure end to end coverage of the process; nothing major is missed

  • Visualise processes to gain alignment with stakeholders

  • Uncover a range of solution ideas from multiple stakeholders; not just one person dominating the conversation

  • Focus on the ideas that will deliver the biggest impact with the least effort to implement

In this post I share the User Journey Map template that I use and how to work with your stakeholders in a workshop to complete it in 3 simple steps:

  1. Prepare for the workshop

  2. Empathise and ideate

  3. Prioritise solutions

Example Scenario

To help illustrate this process I am going to use an example client in the construction industry who installs piles as part of the foundation for buildings and structures. On a building site they may have 100s of piles they need to install and as part of the installation work they need to record what they have done and document it to meet compliance requirements. This is a paper-based process, very manual, time consuming, involving duplication of work and has a high risk of human error resulting in non-compliance. A great example of a problem that technology can help solve.

Engineers on a construction site

User Journey Map Structure

User Journey Maps come in a variety of different flavours. I structure my User Journey Maps as per the following diagram. It consists of 4 different aspects (actions, interactions, thinking/feeling and pain points) triggers us to think more deeply and empathise with the user on their journey through a process. Once we have a good understanding of the user, we can generate ideas for possible opportunities to solve their pain points.

User Journey Map Structure
User Journey Map Structure

User Journey Map Template
User Journey Map Template

Step 1: Prepare the Workshop

A general rule of thumb is to have one User Journey Map per user persona per process. In our construction scenario we have one process - a pile installation checklist process but there are multiple personas involved in the process:

  1. Site Engineer

  2. Site Crew

  3. Office Administrator

In this example, you would prepare three user journey maps, one for each persona.

From initial discussions, observations and interviews you will have some idea of each persona, the steps they go through and what they are interacting with. We want to make the most of the workshop time with stakeholders, so I prepare as much of the user journey maps, up front, based on what I know. This allows the workshop to be focused on reviewing, making changes and filling in the gaps - rather than starting from a blank canvas.

Prepare a user journey map by completing the following top sections of the template:

  1. Journey Name - a descriptive name of the process

  2. Persona - the name of the persona we will focus on for the journey map

  3. Phases - list 4 high level steps that the user goes through on this journey. We want to stick to 4 so we don't get bogged down in the details and suffer from analysis paralysis.

  4. Actions - list the actions that the user is performing in each phase

  5. Interacting with - list the systems, tools, processes or other people that the user is interacting with when they perform the actions.

Below is an example of a User Journey Map prepared ahead of a workshop. The greyed-out sections will be completed in a workshop with the stakeholders in Step 2.

Example User Journey Map Prep
Example User Journey Map Prep

Step 2: Empathise and Ideate

Host a workshop with the key stakeholders for the business process that you are mapping. The participants should include representatives of:

  • 🌟The persona that the user journey map is about🌟

  • People who are involved in the process that the journey map is about

  • People from the project team (who will be implementing the solution)

  • The project sponsor or product owner

⚠️ Please do not run the workshop without at least one of each of these people.

In the workshop run through the following exercises with the participants:

1. Review the Phases, Actions the Interacting with rows and make updates based on participant feedback

2. Get participants to start empathising by asking them to use emojis to signal how they think they think the user is thinking and feeling in the different phases of the journey. Discuss any differences or outliers.

3. Get participants to write pain points on sticky notes to describe the challenges that the users face as they move through the journey.

4. Based on the pain points, get participants to write the potential opportunities to overcome the pain points of the users.

By the end of these exercises, you should have a bunch of ideas for opportunities to improve the users journey the process. Here is an example based on our construction scenario.

Step 3. Prioritise Solutions

In business application projects we know we can't implement everything at once, so we need to narrow down the solutions to the ones that will make up the MVP solution.

Get participants to think about the impact each of the solutions will make on the user and their organisation and compare this to how much effort it would take to implement these solutions. We should be aiming to initially implement high impact / low effort solutions.

Using a dot voting technique, give participants 4 - 6 dots each and get them to place the dots on the ideas that they think will deliver the most impact for the least amount of implementation effort.

You will end up with a heat map of dots on the idea sticky notes. These are the ideas that you should take forward and develop into the MVP solution.

Want more like this?

Let me know in the comments below if you want to see more content on how to run workshops and collaborate with clients in your business applications projects.

If you are a fan of Miro, like me, and would like the Miro template of the User Journey Map, direct message me on LinkedIn 👉 Hamish Sheild | LinkedIn

This article is an excerpt of the content from the Defining Business Applications coaching program. If you to accelerate your learning of executing User Journey Maps and facilitating the workshops, we offer a free discovery call to see if the program is a good fit for you.


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Apr 12, 2023

Very interesting article, thank you. Do you give each attendee access to the miro board so that they can create sticky notes and use the dot voting?

Hamish Sheild
Hamish Sheild
Apr 25, 2023
Replying to

Yes, all of the attendees have access to the Miro board so that they can participate and collaborate.


Feb 15, 2023

Love this article. But I have a question with regards to the dot maps. You mentioned dot voting technique and getting participants to place dots on opportunities that they think will create high impact with least implementation effort. Is it normal to expect a site engineer to think about the implementation effort? How does this help?

Hamish Sheild
Hamish Sheild
Mar 07, 2023
Replying to

Great question. It's not normal for a site engineer to understand the implementation effort. It is important that you have a good mixture of people in the workshop with diverse perspectives. From both the business side (e.g. Site Engineer) that will understand the business impact and then also developers or people from the IT side that understand the implementation effort. If the workshop participants are going to really struggle with the dot voting then I use another exercise called Impact / Effort Matrix which guides the workshop participants through the decision making process.

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