Applying Customer Journey Map for capturing As Is experience across a suite of products

I am a software analyst and in this and a few other posts I will be sharing my thoughts about systemworkflows I am revisiting at work, how I approach their redesign and what difficulties I encounter. This post talks more about development of a customer journey map for a number of personas across existing suite of products.  I haven’t written posts like this in a while and from a writer’s perspective they may honestly suck. I may also be wrong in what and how I do. You are free to tell me what you like, what you did not even get to because it was so difficult to comprehend and what you don’t like/don’t agree with. The way to get in touch is Facebook, email (donotcross03 at gmail dot com)
There are two capabilities we plan to include for users in the feature set we are currently working on: adding persons and vehicles to a CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) call. While it sounds simple, this work becomes quite challenging because it affects multiple products used by different roles.  In the past I have already done the investigation on the side of the product I am working on (911 incident dispatch software) and that research gave me a relatively good understanding of the work to be done in the context of a 911 dispatcher’s workflow.

Information coming from dispatch however can be utilized by other personas like first responders (fire fighters, police officers, command staff) and record clerks (records division in police departments usually) meaning that there are integration points in system workflows between dispatch and responders, booking officers and record administration. This also means that whatever we want to build, needs to be designed in such a way it could be integrated into all those workflows that I still did not have a good understanding of.

I needed to understand the integration points between our part of the puzzle and the other products before putting together a vision of the to-be state for user flows we were planning to add. After thinking about the tools that could let me do that, I ended up selecting customer journey map for definition of as is experience and user story map for description of the to-be state of things.

Below I am sharing my experience with the technique and some of the observations.

I am not going to speak much on the topic of how great customer journey mapping great and provide a lot of details on all of the scenarios where this tool can come handy. There are existing great articles already that can tell you more about customer journey map:, There are even tools online that you can use to start building your CJM (e.g.

The reason I have chosen cjm is that this tool provides a way to decompose user’s interaction with a product or a company in general from high-level tasks and goals to very specific steps and elements the person is interacting with. Besides that, the tool can help to capture the emotional aspect of interacting with the software pinpointing areas of experience today that are causing frustration and are subjects for improvement or on the contrary cause delight and therefore should not be lost.

My plan was to organize a two part meeting where during the first meeting we would build an as is cjm involving person and vehicle information and then during the second part of the meeting we would assemble the to-be part of the process primarily affecting dispatch. Spoiler alert: the second part of the meeting did not work out very well and that is one of the lessons learnt from this exercise. Nevertheless, the part where we have described as is experience, worked out pretty well.
CJM allows to convey the story of using a product through quite a few lens:
  1. Persona – a specific type of the user / customer who is working with the software
  2. A certain segment of user’s entire experience with the product (finding out about the product, using the product, interacting with support)
  3. User goals (understanding what the user is trying to achieve during that specific part of the process)
  4. Touchpoints (parts of the software, specific persons a user is interacting during their experience with the product)
  5. Process / tasks (actual steps of the user, specific actions they take)
  6. Emotion (feelings the software invokes during the process of experiencing it, be those positive or negative)
These lens are coming from Uxpressia’s CJM template (see image below). SAP presents a slightly different view – you can review it by following one of the links above.
Excerpt from CJM
The idea of the technique is to break down the experience of a product by a user to phases and then go through the specific steps in each one of those phases to understand areas of improvement that then can be used as the rationale for new projects and become target outcomes whose project strive to achieve. The length of the process of preparing a high-quality CJM can vary from hours (for smaller products) to weeks (researching the CJM of interacting with a large company like an airline) and can consume a lot of resources.
Preparation for the workshop
Since I was planning to have a 2 part workshop where both as is and to be would be explored, I invited product management representatives as well as onsite developers and quality assurance from my team. There are pros and cons for doing it this way. On one hand, developers may not be as effective in contributing to the as is process since typically they don’t interact with users as much as product management does. On another hand, product management representatives from other products may not necessarily be the best audience to come up solutions specific to your part of the product that they not be very knowledgeable about. The one definite positive outcome of such a team setup is that at the end of the workshop, both development and product management come to a shared understanding of what is typically happening in the product today. In my opinion, another positive side of this setup is that everyone is more alert to the meeting because the conversation about how the interaction takes place is happening now and there are questions being asked and eyeopeners coming up this very moment

Since I knew I was pressured on time, I tried to focus on phase, touchpoints and process for specific personas skipping emotions however those did come up primarily after realizing the deficiencies in the existing workflows.

To actually conduct the workshop, I needed to have some preparatory materials explaining the customer journey map (I had my materials ready from a workshop I ran in January with dispatchers so I planned to reuse those), my rough understanding of the existing cjm (in case the whole conversation turned out to go the wrong way, I needed a plan b that could be used to trigger thought process in the group), and a few reminders (I’ve printed out images of some of the most used screens in the system to remind attendees about the workflow users were going through). That actually proved to be helpful when identifying pain points in the existing flows.

I also took a few large paper sheets we usually use during our periodic SAFe-based release planning (that is something worth another topic on its own) and placed them on a wall.  The idea was to use the drawing board for as is process and then switch to to be and map it out using those sheets glued to the wall.

As for the group size, the workshop included 3 product managers for products that represent a large set of the entire suite, myself, 2 senior developers, 1 QA and 1 UX designer who was primarily observing what was going on. I have sent out the invites in advance however I failed to mention that the workshop is intended as a primarily offline activity. Because of that one of the product managers was present remotely constantly watching what is going on via a camera.

The exercise I prepared as an introduction to cjm is quite simple and easy to do. It is a task to draw a map for ordering food for a family gettogether on a Sunday evening while watching a movie. I have prepared a few slides explaining what I would expect from the participants and even did my own cjm for that in case things really go south however once I’ve explained what I want: phases, steps, touch points and told them it was ok to draw using blocks everything went really smooth. You can review the full example here

Lastly, to run the workshop I also needed to define the approach – whether it is scenario-based and we review everything in context of a certain nature of a 911 call or it is a generic 911 call and we try to outline all of the possible branches the call process may follow. After a discussion with a UX designer, I came to a conclusion it was best to focus on specific scenarios rather than describing a generic call that would add too much often irrelevant facts and make it really easy to forget specific steps that may come up only for certain natures (i.e. how an in progress robbery is handled may differ from a suspicious person or domestic violence call).

The workshop, actually
The workshop was scheduled for 2 hours with the first hour dedicated to investigation of as is experience. It actually took 1.5 hours and one of the contributing factors was that not all of the participants realized it was an offline meeting only so some of the time was eaten communicating updates to the person online however we found a way to mitigate that more or less.

Before we have started I have shared the agenda that included the following main points:
  1. As is process from a 911 call to what happens after arrest
  2. Integration points between P&V throughout different products
  3. To be process for person and vehicle entry
I have explained that we would be using the cjm for this and explained what cjm comes down to (the lens described above).

The first step was to determine the actual phases of a 911 incident and put those on the board. Initially, it felt more like a show and tell activity where I am standing in front of the board and everyone is waiting for me to write stuff and then nod in agreement or disagreement. That however was exactly the type of thing that I wanted to avoid. Because I was pressed with time, I skipped the exercise of trying to draw our own cjm for a pizza evening and very briefly explained it by drawing the blocks representing phases of the process (Determine food, find pizza place, find the right pizza, order, get delivery and enjoy the meal). I had to call everyone to the board to make sure engaging the participants into the conversation was really easy. That actually helped and everyone being closer to the board and given an actual marker had more rationale to do something.

The product managers were the ones who helped me to define the actual phases (911 call, CAD Incident, Arrest, Booking, Report, Report to prosecution, IBR report, Court case, Sentencing and Jail Management). Since the software we are developing does not cover some of those phases like Report to prosecution, court case and sentencing), those were mentioned with diving deep into details of what actually happens in those workflows.
The next step was to actually find out what is being done process wise by involved personas during each of the phases under discussion (911 call, CAD incident, Arrest, Booking, Report, IBR report).

I have used a specific example (domestic violence in progress resulting into arrest). Domestic violence is a frequent flyer in the world of 911 incidents where one of the spouses exerts verbal and/or physical violence onto their partner or children. This scenario may evolve into a variety of others including homicide, shooting, manslaughter, etc.) and can be a good starting point to understand all of the involved public safety processes
Adding meat to the bones
During this part of the workshop, we focused on adding actual details to each process phase. CAD Product manager added details related to the 911 call and CAD Incident. Law Product Manager was collaborating with Records Product Management (both were law officers in the past) on the arrest, report and IBR part of the process. As you can see in the resulting map, some parts were left blank (intentionally). At the end of the exercise, this is what the board looked like.
22555920_10155803295224127_1194948475_o (1)
Digitized map
I have then converted the map into a digital format using that turned out to be a nice tool for my purposes. There are some things that took time to figure out but I was able to put the whole thing together probably in under two hours. The result looks something like this (I removed pain points and ideas from here for the purpose of not releasing sensitive information)
Next steps
The As Is map was intended to be the first part of the meeting and frankly speaking I probably should have stopped right there since the to be part of the meeting clearly did not go as planned. I also had to stop it half through since I already ran over time scheduled for the meeting. I think I will focus on the to be map (I will use storymapping to define it) in one of the next posts.
Lessons learnt

Number one: As is map is a good way of bringing different people to a common understanding. It is helpful for product management, development, myself because all of a sudden you are seeing the whole process in front of you with touchpoints, pain points and areas of improvement. You can challenge your own assumptions and build something common using the parts coming from everyone

Number two: when covering bigger processes, it is a bad idea to combine as is and to be into a single meeting because of complexity, amount of thought involved. Fatigue will develop naturally resulting into lower engagement level among participants

Number three: this exercise can easily take days hence it is important to understand what it is exactly you are trying to find or what aspect of the entire flow you want to focus on

Number four: you don’t necessarily need to build the map of the entire process if you are making changes to a part of the process. The reason I tried walking through the whole process was that I never did it before and felt this would be a good opportunity

Number five: it is important to develop a scenario-based mindset in the events of a complex process or a process crossing multiple products otherwise there is a high chance of getting rid in the myriad of details that may not be relevant in a particular scenario. If you want to compare or build alternative maps, you can dedicate a whole day to running a few scenarios and describe different maps every single time. This time I was unable to organize a day-long workshop with product managers

Number six: it really is debatable whether or not to invite development to as is maps. On one hand, hearing the conversations they are likelier to understand more about the current process and better see the problems we are trying to address. On the other hand, it is valuable time that can be spent on other important tasks. Up to you to decide!

Number seven: it does make sense to do a warm up exercise with a simpler map to build the right expectations with everoyone and transform the exercise into a collaboration as opposed to show and tell the main problem with which is not picking brains of others enough to have the learning happen

Number eight: bringing food (donuts) is a good idea because it gives people sugar, boosting their thinking process and b) who does not like donuts?

Number nine: sharing info in advance is optional. Someone will review it however most likely not

Number ten: prepare screenshots/wireframes/images from existing product, photos of existing customers to trigger thought process. This also means you may need to have done some preliminary cjm yourself just to make sure you can help bring everyone back on track in case someone wanders off
There are more things but I think I will stop here for now

BA Personas – Consumer, Detective or the swindler

Recently I’ve been thinking about Business Analyst personas and their portraits. Right now I am seeing three major categories that I am calling after fictional characters I’ve either read about or have seen in the movies. Of course there are more but these are the ones that nearly jump to my head.

These personas are Johnny Mnemonic, Sherlock Holmes and Moist von Lipwig or Consumer, Detective and the Swindler

Johnny Mnemonic

Johnny mnemonic short story.jpg

In my previous project I’ve mostly tried being Mr. Mnemonic who is a data courier from the future with HDD in his head working as a mule of information. The guy literally dumps everything into his head only to forget about that once the project ends. He has to sacrifice part of his memories to remember what’s needed and stay with that information overdose until its over. Such a BA is trying to read as much as possible about a project/problem, dumping all sorts of data into head without spending enough time to process it. Being Mnemonic is like trying to swallow a Big Mac in one go. It may be possible but you won’t feel well afterwards.

The more I think about this, the less I find this approach working in real life. First of all, concepts from how many domains can a head reasonably hold? I find it difficult to believe it’s possible to keep up with knowledge from more than 3 domains at the same time because a) at some point the knowledge becomes obsolete and is no longer useful unless some maintenance work is done b) its tough and not always useful to be a repository of masses of data because that data needs to be processed and processing takes time c) the devil is in details so dumping a lot of data helps understanding the concepts but it is not possible to become an expert in a short period of time (a few weeks or a month) so that won’t allow to replace a SME on a project d) memorizing way too many things means not being able to do something else and spending time more fruitfully.

To me it makes sense to dive deep down into a certain domain on a long-lasting project or when there is interest in a particular business domain. In the reality I currently face, it is frequent that BAs either spend years on certain projects/accounts becoming SMEs in the industry and customer organization knowledge holders or on the contrary jump between projects of different sizes in different domains. Going deep does not make sense on a 4-6 months project because doing so every time will be too expensive and still does not guarantee quality BA work. I want to avoid being Mr. Mnemonic in the future on the projects I start. What is peculiar however is the root cause of willingness to become Johnny Mnemonic type of character. One of the reasons I see is the fear in not being able to speak the same language as the business guys or technical guys…project stakeholders whatever and lack of domain modeling skills. Another possible reason of why this is happening is the lack of ability to organize communication and build it so that knowledge is owned not just by one person/one BA but a growing part of the team. Finally, a symptom of Mnemonic may signal issues with systems thinking and ability to cut and slice domain into processable chunks

Sherlock Holmes

Well I can’t boast sharing the traits of this persona but the way I see it is an investigator going the other extreme. Instead of dumping as much knowledge is possible, the person spent some time on developing deductive reasoning and invested into learning very specific details to support deductive reasoning. Another important trait is the skill of observation. This is a true skill of Sherlock Holmes type of persona and it provides ability to see specifics that can support or help to determine a hypothesis. Plainly put, this is an extremely meticulous person with impeccable planning skills and a gift for observation. Sadly enough, this is not me. This character is also stifled by boring and routine tasks that may undermine the ability to solve problems.

Moist von Lipwig

Moist von Lipwig on the cover of Making Money.

For those who have not read Terry Pratchett’s “Going postal” or “Making Money”, Moist von Lipwig is a brilliant swindler, playing on fears and greed of the crowd. At some point, he is faced with dilemma of taking a governmental job or losing life. He chooses to live and becomes a very creative and remarkable manager of the postal office and then of a state bank applying all of his conman skills for the public good.

Of all the characters, this one is my favorite and the one I’d like to become one day. Not in the sense of cheating people but being able to combine the needed skills of the two characters above with creativity, empathy and humor.

A swindler or a conman at least one like Ponzi, Mavrodi, Frank Abagnale from Catch me if you can is skilled in dissecting the system and seeing its weak points. This means both observation skills and ability to be an agent of change. Through the con actions, the person challenges the system and makes it strive to adapt to the new challenges. Better security systems come up as a result of successful robberies or fear of such, fraud exists because of imperfect systems and business processes and it helps to detect such imperfections. At the same time, putting a crook at the top of the pyramid can mean one of the few options – either a very bad system with things like nepotism or a very well designed system exactly because it is designed with vile nature of humankind in mind.

A good conman needs to be empathic to understand how to approach a potential victim. A good conman also needs to be quick and witty. A good conman is also lazy and will carefully consider the pros and cons of doing something as time consuming as completely mastering a new domain. A good conman will have his favorite techniques ready at his fingertips. A good conman can be a dreamer and lead others. Sometimes this dream can be a mirage but of a really big scale.

On the contrary, a good conman needs control at least in certain points and this control should be rather strict. Also it requires having someone with an even greater con-artistry talen standing above him.

Another possible challenge with Moist is accountability in the sense that Moist-type of BA will try to avoid situations where he is accountable of something as much as possible. He will accept the responsibility only when properly motivated or controlled (where his head is at stake) and in all other situations will build the system in such a way he gets the most with minimum effort. This can be a particularly good skill when it comes down to things like MVP development to define the minimum amout of work to be done for things to work.

Alright, this is the end of this post which is rather a “speaking out loud” type of thing. Would be interest to hear of other BA profiles / personas from whoever is not bored to look through this. Next thing that would be interesting to do is try to map the profiles to popular types of projects.