In Agile, Features are chunks of functionalities that provide value to the customer.
Feature Mapping is a technique that helps Product Owners, Product Managers, and teams to visualize the big picture of the product features with the purpose of structure and value creation for the customers.
When to use Feature Mapping?
I recommend you use this technique every time you start a new cycle in your product development. It might be every six months if you are raising investment funds or every 2nd Program Increment if your organization follows the SAFe methodology.
Who participates in the feature mapping workshop?
The three amigos can be a perfect combination:
- business expertise: the product owner or a business analyst
- technical expertise: a developer
- testing knowledge: a tester
If your workshop refers to a big product or a program, the participants must include the product manager and architect.
Have the features prepare vs. prepare them on the spot?
You must prepare them ahead. Leave room for improvements, ideas, but they have the details fill in before the workshop.
What do you need to prepare for the workshop?
For the in-person workshop, you need the list of features, blue, yellow, green, red post-its, ten sharpies, a time timer.
For the features mapping workshop with remotely connected participants you need:
- a video conference tool — Skype, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Leaf, Google Hangouts and the list can go on
- a microphone and headphones for each participant. I strongly recommend to don’t use the speaker of your laptop/tablet because it creates an echo effect
- a collaboration tool — Miro, Klaxon, and Mural are among my top favorites
What are the steps of the Feature Mapping Technique Workshop?
Step 1: The program manager presents the features to the participants in the order of priorities. I recommend the teams to have a short discussion around the feature to make sure everyone understands it. Remember that we need everyone’s contribution to breaking down the features. Write the feature name on a blue post-it and add it to the top of the wall.
Step 2: Identify the actors using or involved in the features from step 1. The program manager or the product owner(s) may describe them, but also the team. Understanding the actors’ behavior, needs, thinking, feels is the foundation for the next steps.
Step 3: Describe each step take by the actors (write their names) when using the features presented at step one. The team adds under the feature all the actions specific to it. The post-its must respect the order of the flow — the first actions on the top and the latest ones on the bottom. Use the yellow color post-its.
Step 4: Add the details. If the team feels the need for recoding additional comments, spikes suggestions, dependencies, risks, you may use green post-its. Try to place the green post-its next to the concerned post-it, and at the bottom of the wall, only the generic post-its.
Step 5: Add alternative scenarios. Challenge the participants to think on “but what if?”, “how might we get the same results?”, “what might happen if..?” It is the magic point of the workshop. The more diverse the participants are, the best the questions help to see perspectives not explored before, and the results are more transparent.
Step 6: The product manager defines the milestones and adds them to the wall. Use a red/pink post-it for that.
Step 7: Slice the big features or group the small features. Out of my experience, when the team arrives at this step, with all the knowledge they acquired, it becomes apparent the split and grouping. Remember to add the ordered actions to the modified features.
Step 8: Review and rephrase
Step 9: Identify which tests can be automated.
Tips for the facilitator: keep the team away from getting into too many details. The participants need just enough understanding of the feature purpose.
What will you gain from the Feature Mapping Workshop:
- shared vision and understanding among product/program team
- create a realistic product roadmap tied to business milestones involving the team
- prioritized features
- clarity on the next steps
- knowledge of how to achieve business value
- if you are using Scaled Agile Framework methodology, this can be excellent preparation for the Program Increment Planning Meeting, and teams can do it during the Innovation and Planning Iteration.
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