Agile Journey Mapping with Empathy

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Journey maps can be a great tool to create a shared understanding of the user experience between the different functional and organizational silos. The insights from journey maps can be used to evaluate and improve your product based on user needs and expectations. However, journey mapping could become an expensive initiative in terms of time and effort. As such, you want to make sure that you create the journey map in a way that aligns with your work pace and inspires action from stakeholders.

In this post, I am going to describe how we at Salesforce Analytics used agile journey mapping with empathy to find user experience opportunities, the challenges we faced, and some of the frameworks and best practices we discovered along the way.

Note that journey mapping involves a lot of collaboration with your stakeholders from the beginning until long after the study is completed. This post discusses how to effectively communicate the findings with stakeholders but doesn’t cover the whole topic. Finally, this post is about creating customer/user — focused journey maps and not product, service, or business-focused journey maps.


Why Journey Mapping with Empathy?

Nielsen Norman Group lays down a generic format for journey maps that can be used to find opportunities in product.

General model of a Customer Journey Map by Nielsen Norman Group

It gives a quick snapshot of the end-to-end experience of using a product from the user’s perspective — understand their goals, the actions they take to achieve those goals, the tools/channels they use, their thoughts, expectations, and emotional experience at different phases of their journey. Having all this information together in one place can be a great way to get buy-in from stakeholder and drive change, especially when the user’s perspective is very different from the company’s.

Adding empathy lets you go beyond preferences, assumptions and opinions and get a much more practical understanding of why a person is thinking that particular way. It helps the product and executive teams make decisions based on knowledge and not assumptions of how users reason, understand and use the product.
Indi Young, Practical Empathy: for Collaboration and Creativity in Your Work

Below I go through three main challenges we came across in our journey mapping exercise and discuss some of the ways we overcame them.


Challenge 1: Being Agile

Our first challenge was to come up with a framework that would fit into an agile environment. Since traditional journey mapping can be a comprehensive but time-consuming research activity, it risks losing out on buy-in from stakeholders. For our initiative, we were most concerned with:

  1. What does a user experience opportunity look like in a journey?
  2. How do we scope our research so that we are not boiling the ocean?
  3. What kinds of questions should we ask to find these opportunities?

Define your research question

To identify opportunities, we decided to investigate inconsistencies in the user experience of our analytics products. Having clarity on the different types of possible inconsistencies helped not just in planning but during analysis and reporting as well. We intentionally kept the definition of “inconsistency” broad enough to capture unforeseen but critical user needs. Finally, we wanted to understand when, where, and why users were experiencing inconsistencies.

Scope it down

Next we focused on finding inconsistencies in analytics-related tasks that fell within the domain of a specific product and took days and weeks to complete rather than seconds or years. We went after two analytics personas (admins and analysts) that frequently performed those tasks based on our assumption was that these were also the personas who faced most of the inconsistencies. Note that personas are fictional characters, created based on research, that represent the different user types that might use your service, product, or brand in a similar way.

Find a method that works for you

Journey maps should be based on data that describes reality, not any idealistic image or impression you might have.
Jeff Sauro

You can collect data for journey maps through multiple ways such as user interviews, contextual inquiry, diary studies, cognitive walkthroughs, task analysis, user surveys, customer support/complaint logs, usage analytics, CSAT scores, etc.

However, keeping up with agile value and expectations, we broke down our journey mapping into two iterations. In the first iteration we conducted a series of task analysis and internal stakeholders interviews to come up with a sequence of logical tasks users had to perform to get insights from Einstein Analytics. This sequence of tasks became our base journey map.

In the second iteration, we conducted cognitive task analysis interviews with our users to validate the base journey map and understand the various cognitive activities performed at the different phases of journey. To capture the user’s emotions, motivations and mental model we used Indi Young’s framework of listening to the following three things: reasoning (inner thinking), reactions and guiding principles of users when performing the different cognitive activities.


Challenge 2: Working With Empathy Data

Our findings were so diverse that it was almost impossible for us to find any common experiences and themes — almost every user used the product slightly differently, had different resources and processes and therefore had different experiences and expectations. We were left wondering:

  1. How to identify which findings are relevant / important to building empathy?
  2. How do we make sense of such a diverse data of user’s emotions and expectations? Where do we look for patterns?

Identify the right insights for empathy

We used Indi Young’s framework to analyze users’ emotions and identify relevant insights:

First, gather concepts (whether it’s made up of one quote or strung together from different places in the transcript) in your transcripts that contributes to developing empathy: the reasoning, reactions and guiding principles. Make each concept represent a single guiding principle, a single reaction or a single part of the thinking process. Finally, write a summary for each concept.

Having this framework and an initial understanding of “what an inconsistency might be” was useful in identifying the relevant summaries. And so for every interview, we reviewed our transcripts and made one-liner summaries of the following information:

  1. Where in the journey did users have an experience that could be a possible “opportunity” or “inconsistency”?
  2. What were their emotions or expectations (positive/negative) at that time?
  3. Why did they have that emotion/expectation (i.e. what were their underlying thoughts, reasoning or guiding principles that gave rise to that emotion/expectation)?
Hypothetical examples of different types of summary

Use a framework for analysis

Rather than analyzing all the summaries together, we realized it was easier to first organize the summaries using some principle and then analyze to find patterns. We used Nielsen Norman Group journey map format as the organizing principle and placed the above insight summaries in their corresponding place on the journey map. We grouped together those summaries that conveyed the same concept, principle and idea. Depending on your use case, you can further organize the summaries into positive/negative summaries, sentiment, personas etc. to find more patterns.

Organizing summary cards using Nielsen Norman Group’s Journey Map model

Challenge 3: Inspiring Empathy Among Stakeholder

As I said before, journey mapping is like a marathon and coming up with insights is just half of it. The other half requires continuous effort in terms of generating awareness and ensuring engagement. While it is an ongoing initiative for us as well, some of the challenges we faced were:

  1. How do we inspire empathy amongst stakeholders and facilitate collaborative conversations?
  2. How do we help stakeholders incorporate the findings into product roadmap?

Bring out the emotions

As part of the deliverable, we included a 2-minute video where users expressed strong emotions while using the product, whether it was joy as they accomplished a task or pain and confusion when they couldn’t figure out how to implement a feature. We found this to be a great way to make the message sticky, foster empathy amongst stakeholders, and invoke the desire to make changes.

Another thing that has been popular with our stakeholders is the emotion score card — a rough representation of how a user’s emotions varies as they go through the different phases of their analytics journey. It gave a quick apples-to-apples comparison of the different phases of the product at a given point in time and could be used to track impact of future product releases on the overall user experience. Based on the type of data you have, the emotion score card can be qualitative or quantitative in nature and be a part of journey map or an independent of it.

Types of emotion maps

Keep socializing

Socializing means creating awareness and having conversations around the findings so that it is top of mind for stakeholders. To do so effectively, we made sure to address two key questions when communicating findings to stakeholders: What do they need to do differently and why? The more concrete and specific you make recommendations to each stakeholder’s role, the more likely they are to make changes. Depending on the company culture and your relationship with your stakeholders, there are multiple ways of meeting stakeholders but below are some of the ways we have tried:

  1. Putting up posters of journey map on the engineering floors so that people can peruse them at their convenience
  2. Reporting updates made to the journey map at a regular intervals
  3. Having workshops and brown bags where stakeholders from multiple teams can get together, discuss, and ideate on the findings
  4. Coordinating with our stakeholders at individual team-level to translate the journey map into a format they can use

Our vision is to demonstrate the value of journey maps and empower researchers, designers, and anyone who’s interested in evaluating their end-to-end product experience. By following some quick frameworks and best practices, you can quickly create an empathetic journey map in an agile environment. When done right, it can be a great asset for teams and leaders to identify opportunities and track progress.

Did you find our learnings helpful? Do you have some great strategies on how to create or socialize journey maps? Please let us know in the comments below.


Thank you Raymon Sutedjo-The and Steve Fadden for all of your feedback!

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