How to Use Mapping Techniques to Tell Your Business Story: Tools for Business Growth

Telling Your Business Story with Maps

Every business has a story, from its humble beginnings to its future goals. Being able to clearly tell these stories — where the company is now, where it wants to go, and how it plans to get there — is crucial. Not just for those within the company, but also for stakeholders, customers, and partners who play a part in this journey.

Throughout my career, I've worked with companies that have struggled to share their story so that all stakeholders are clear on what business challenges to focus on next :

  • The retailer that didn't have a clear understanding of their customer journey through the store. That made it difficult to engage with customers on a personal and relatable level.
  • The utilities company that knew they had a problem to solve. But each of the component parts of the business were siloed and in individuals heads, making it impossible to identify which part of the business to improve first.
  • The games company that had a massive audience, following and culture. But weren't able to keep up with content demand and deliver engaging experiences in a quick, responsive and timely fashion.
  • The music company that were destined to revolutionise the fair distribution of royalties to rightsholders. But were unable to transform the complex rules and legal clauses that impacted the workflow of the whole business, into software that just worked.
  • The ecommerce store that found it difficult to onboard new staff to develop new software because the product they were building was poorly documented.

This is where we can use maps to tell the story of our past, inform the current and develop the future of our business, products and services.

Putting Your Business On The Map

At Cariboo Digital, we use mapping techniques as a way to make sense of our business environment. Maps like systems thinking, roadmaps, customer journey mapping, value mapping, and user story maps help us lay out the big, and little, pictures that span our organisation. They give everyone a shared, visual representation of where we are and where we are headed.

🌎 Systems Thinking: Your business isn't just a collection of individual parts; it's a complex, interconnected system. Systems thinking helps you understand these interconnections and their impact on the whole. By looking at the bigger picture, you can identify inefficiencies and discover opportunities that might otherwise go unnoticed.

🛫 Journey Mapping: Trace your customer's footsteps. From the moment they hear about your brand to their post-purchase feelings, understand and enhance their complete journey.

😀 Value Mapping: Dive deep into your business operations and visualize where value is created. Identify bottlenecks, waste, and opportunities to enhance customer value. A well-crafted value map can guide you in optimizing your processes for maximum ROI.

🗺 User Story Maps: User story maps help you view your products and services from a customer perspective so you can prioritise delivery of the most valuable product capabilities.

The Power Of A Good Story

People relate to stories. They make complex businesses, products and services accessible, relatable and understandable. By telling our story through maps, we create a clearer, more relatable narrative for everyone involved. We don't just see where we are; we understand where we're headed and why.

From Maps to Action

Each of the mapping tools we're about to discuss can be used independently on their own, or together, or indeed find the parts of each that work for your business right now. Over time you'll leverage the benefit of each and understand how they interact and tell the story of your current and evolving business, product or service. Using these mapping techniques is as much about the conversations they spark, which lead to better understanding and more valuable decisions to be made. Let's kickoff with Systems Thinking.

Understanding Your Business through Systems Thinking

Analyzing Business through a Holistic Lens

Systems thinking is a holistic approach to analysis, which sees the whole rather than isolated parts. In the context of a business, it requires us to view our company not just as a set of independent departments or units but as a cohesive system where each part affects and is affected by others.

This perspective is pivotal for growth. When businesses encounter challenges or disruptions, they often make the mistake of treating symptoms rather than root causes. For example, if a product is underperforming, it might not just be a sales issue; it could stem from product design, customer service, or even marketing misalignment. By adopting a systems thinking approach, you can identify and address the root causes, facilitating sustainable growth.

Identifying Interconnections and Dependencies

Every business, irrespective of its size or sector, has interconnected parts. Consider the domino effect: a delay in product development can impact marketing timelines, which in turn might affect sales projections. Through systems thinking, you'll be better positioned to identify such interdependencies and plan for potential pitfalls.

To effectively apply systems thinking:

1. Draw a system map: Begin by mapping out the different components of your business and their interactions. This could include everything from supply chains to customer feedback loops.
2. Identify feedback loops: Recognize which actions in one area of your business might cause reactions in another. For example, improved customer service might lead to increased sales, which could then demand enhanced production.
3. Consider external influences: No business operates in isolation. Understand the larger systems your business is part of – be it the local economy, industry standards, or global market trends.

Leveraging Technology to Enhance Systematic Growth

Technology plays a critical role in supporting systems thinking. Here's how:

- Data Analytics: Modern analytics tools can gather and analyze vast amounts of data to provide insights into how different business components interact. Platforms that offer real-time analytics are particularly valuable as they provide a dynamic view of the business system.
- Collaboration Tools: As you identify interconnections, effective communication becomes paramount. Collaboration tools can help different departments seamlessly interact, share insights, and address challenges cohesively.
- Automation: Once you've mapped out your business system and understood its feedback loops, automation can help optimize processes. For instance, automated inventory management systems can ensure that production scales based on sales data.

Understanding your business through systems thinking is about seeing the bigger picture. It's realizing that every choice, every strategy, and every action has ripple effects throughout your company. By embracing this mindset and harnessing technology, businesses can anticipate challenges, optimize operations, and position themselves for enduring growth.

Mapping Your Customers' Journey

The Power of Customer Journey Mapping

In the world of growth-centric business strategies, understanding the customer journey is paramount. Journey mapping is a visual representation of every experience your customers have with you. It aids in understanding not just the path they take, but the thoughts, feelings, motivations, and pain points they experience along the way. By deciphering this journey, businesses can create a more seamless, intuitive, and customer-centric experience, paving the way for both customer loyalty and growth.

Journey Mapping and Customer Needs

Touchpoints and Moments of Truth: Every time a customer interacts with your business, whether it's through visiting your website, calling customer service, or receiving the product, it's a touchpoint. Among these, certain interactions carry more weight and are deemed 'moments of truth.' Identifying and optimizing these crucial interactions can significantly influence customer satisfaction and business growth.

Emotions and Pain Points: A customer's journey isn't just about actions but also emotions. Maybe they felt elated when the product exceeded expectations or frustrated when a query went unanswered. Capturing these emotional highs and lows provides deeper insights into areas of improvement.

Channels and Consistency: Customers might interact with your business across various channels: online, in-store, on social media, or via email. Ensuring a consistent experience across all these channels solidifies brand trust and promotes customer retention.

Aligning Technology to Enhance Customer Experience

Analytics Tools: Understanding the customer journey starts with gathering data. Tools like Google Analytics for websites or CRM systems for sales interactions can shed light on where customers drop off, what they engage with, or how long they stay.

Feedback Platforms Direct feedback, whether through surveys, feedback forms, or review platforms, can give authentic insights into the customer's experience and perspective. Technologies like Net Promoter Score (NPS) systems can quantify customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Personalization Technologies: Once you've mapped the customer journey, using technology to personalize the experience can foster deeper connections. This might mean recommending products based on browsing history, sending personalized emails, or tailoring content to user preferences.

Mapping your customer's journey isn't a one-time event but an ongoing strategy. As businesses grow, and as markets, technologies, and customer behaviors evolve, the journey will need revisiting and refining. But by consistently focusing on the path your customers tread, businesses can ensure they're always aligned with their audience's needs and desires, driving both satisfaction and growth.

Creating Value through Value Mapping

Introduction to Value Mapping in Lean Processes

At its core, value mapping in the context of lean processes centers on maximizing customer value while minimizing waste. By doing so, businesses can streamline their operations, ensure that every step adds value, and optimize the delivery of value to customers. This philosophy is borrowed from lean manufacturing principles but is now applied across sectors, from service industries to tech startups.

Understanding Value from a Lean Perspective

Value in a lean context refers to what the customer is willing to pay for. Anything that doesn't add value from the customer's perspective can be considered waste. Thus, the goal becomes two-fold:
1. Enhance processes that contribute directly to what the customer values.
2. Eliminate or reduce processes that don't add value or create waste.

The Principles of Value Mapping

1. Define Value: Clearly understand what customers value in your product or service. This might involve market research, customer feedback, or data analytics.
2. Identify the Value Stream: Map out every step in your workflow, from concept to delivery, and identify which steps add value from the customer's perspective and which ones don't.

3. Flow: Ensure that the value-creating steps flow smoothly without interruptions. This might involve reorganizing teams, restructuring processes, or adopting new technologies.
4. Pull: In a lean system, production is often driven by customer demand, ensuring that resources aren't wasted on creating products that won't be sold or used.

5. Seek Perfection: Continually look for ways to refine and improve the process, aiming for an efficient system with minimal waste.

Eliminating Waste with Value Mapping

A key aspect of value mapping is the identification and elimination of waste. In lean terminology, waste can be categorized in various ways, such as:

Overproduction: Producing more than what's needed.
Waiting: Idle time where resources aren't being used efficiently.
Transport: Unnecessary movement of products.
Over-processing: Doing more work than what's necessary.
Inventory: Excess products or components not being processed.
Motion: Unnecessary movements by employees.
Defects: Products or outcomes that don't meet quality standards.

By identifying these wastes through value mapping, businesses can take actionable steps to eliminate them, improving efficiency and customer satisfaction.

The Dual Benefit: Business Efficiency and Customer Satisfaction

By focusing on value creation and waste elimination, businesses achieve two major outcomes. First, they optimize their operations, leading to cost savings and improved efficiency. Second, by centering processes around what the customer values, they enhance the customer experience, leading to increased loyalty and growth.

Creating value through value mapping is about streamlining, refining, and focusing on what truly matters, both to the business and its customers. By continually evaluating and re-evaluating processes through this lean lens, businesses position themselves for sustainable growth that resonates with their core mission and customer needs.

Navigating Growth with User Story Maps

Introduction to User Story Mapping

User story mapping is a transformative exercise that translates insights from discovery and research activities into a prioritized, visual representation. It's about understanding the tasks users undertake, the jobs they're trying to achieve with your product, and laying out a clear path of execution for your team.

The Genesis of a User Story Map

Every user story map begins with in-depth discovery and research. This phase might involve customer interviews, user behavior analysis, surveys, and more. The essence of this activity is to gather as much knowledge as possible about what users aim to achieve using your product.

Translating Insights into Actions

After you've gathered a comprehensive understanding of user behavior and needs, the next step is to channel those insights into actionable tasks. The user story map does just that, and in the process, fosters deeper conversations about how the product achieves its goals. Here's how:

  1. Break Down Tasks: Detail each step or task that users need to accomplish. Each task represents a specific user need or behavior that the product must address.
  2. Engage in Goal-Oriented Discussions: Before prioritizing, engage stakeholders, product teams, and even users in discussions. Dive deep into the ‘why’ behind each task. Why is this task crucial? How does it align with the product's overarching goals? Such conversations ensure that there's alignment and clarity in understanding the broader vision.
  3. Prioritize with Purpose: With insights from the discussions, prioritize tasks. This isn't just about urgency but also about value alignment. What fulfills the user's immediate need while also propelling the product towards its defined goals?
  4. Visualize the Workflow: Create a visual representation that captures the user's journey. This visualization becomes a conversation starter in itself, prompting discussions about user flow, potential roadblocks, and areas of enhancement.
  5. Align with Product Backlog: As tasks are integrated into the product backlog, continue the dialogue. How does each task feed into the overall product strategy? How do they connect with one another to create a cohesive user experience?

By facilitating these goal-driven conversations, user story mapping doesn't just act as a tool for organization but also as a catalyst for alignment, ensuring everyone involved understands and is directed towards the product's core objectives.

Delivering Value with User Story Maps

User story maps are more than just a planning tool; they're instrumental in value delivery. By visualizing tasks and their priorities:

  • Teams Gain Clarity: Every member understands what's crucial, ensuring that everyone's efforts align with delivering maximum value.
  • Iterative Development: With a structured map in place, teams can approach product development iteratively. This ensures that the most valuable features are developed and delivered first, providing immediate value to users.
  • Flexible Adaptation: As insights evolve or market conditions change, the user story map offers a flexible blueprint. It can be adjusted, ensuring that product development always aligns with delivering the most value.


By grounding product decisions in user insights and facilitating goal-driven discussions, user story mapping ensures that product development is more than just a series of tasks. It's a deliberate journey towards fulfilling both user needs and product objectives. As we chart the course of growth, these conversations act as the compass, always pointing towards value delivery and alignment with the bigger vision.

The Strategic Role of Roadmaps: Aligning Opportunities with Vision


A roadmap is a potent tool for growth, not because it outlines a timeline but because it serves as a strategic alignment between your vision, objectives, and opportunities. Here’s how roadmaps complement the previous mapping tools and connect to the bigger business picture.

Aligning Vision and Strategy

  1. Visualize the Vision: Your roadmap paints a picture of the destination. It’s not about the exact path but about clarity on where you want to go.
  2. Connect with Objectives: Every opportunity on your roadmap aligns with your business objectives. The roadmap ensures all efforts are united in purpose.
  3. Measure and Evolve: With defined measurable results and KPIs, roadmaps allow for ongoing evaluation, keeping your business agile and responsive.

Roadmaps as Opportunity Maps

Rather than a story of sequential steps, roadmaps articulate opportunities. They work on multiple levels:

  1. Where You Are: A reflection of the current state, recognizing both strengths and areas for improvement.
  2. Where You Want to Be: The future state, not described as a fixed route but as a vision guided by strategy and objectives.
  3. How to Get There: The available opportunities, considering customer needs, value creation, and efficiency.

The roadmap is the strategic layer that ties all the tools and insights together. It offers a shared understanding of the business's direction, based on opportunities rather than a fixed path or timeline. As you move towards growth, the roadmap becomes a guide, illuminating the vision and aligning every effort with the broader business goals.

Practical Guidance, Actionable Steps, and Real-world Examples

Charting a path towards growth requires a thoughtful blend of tools, insights, and strategy. Below, you'll find a practical guide that encompasses everything from discovery to roadmaps, providing actionable steps to drive meaningful growth.

1. Begin with Discovery

Action: Start with in-depth discovery sessions. Engage with customers, conduct surveys, and analyze user behavior.

Why it matters: A comprehensive understanding of your customers' needs, pain points, and aspirations forms the foundation of every subsequent step.

Real-world Example: Airbnb’s early discovery phases led them to understand that high-quality photos were crucial to listing success. This insight led to a program where Airbnb offered professional photography to its hosts, significantly boosting the platform's appeal and growth.

2. Embrace Systems Thinking

Action: View your business as an interconnected web. Grasp how different parts influence and affect each other.

Why it matters: This holistic view reveals opportunities and bottlenecks that may remain hidden in isolated evaluations.

Real-world Example: Toyota's production system, based on systems thinking, paved the way for the Lean movement. By viewing their production as an integrated system, Toyota dramatically improved efficiency and quality.

3. Chart Your Customers' Journeys

Action: Draft a detailed journey map for your customers. Understand every touchpoint, decision node, and potential friction point.

Why it matters: This knowledge allows you to tailor experiences, resonating with and adding value at each interaction.

Real-world Example: Starbucks meticulously maps its customer journeys, resulting in design decisions such as the placement of its order pickup locations to optimize customer flow and experience.

4. Lean into Value Mapping

Action: Scrutinize all business processes, evaluating them for efficiency and value addition. Streamline by eliminating waste and focusing on value.

Why it matters: Efficient processes accelerate delivery, curtail costs, and enhance customer satisfaction.

Real-world Example: Dell's direct-to-consumer model, built upon value stream mapping, eliminated several wasteful processes in PC manufacturing, enabling faster delivery and reduced costs.

5. Craft Strategic Roadmaps

Action: Develop a roadmap that aligns with your vision and strategy. Identify and prioritize opportunities based on their alignment with your business objectives.

Why it matters: Roadmaps provide a strategic direction, bridging the gap between current realities and your envisioned future.

Real-world Example: Spotify’s publicly shared product roadmap has been a key tool in aligning both internal teams and external stakeholders, showcasing their future vision and their strategy to achieve it.

6. Employ User Story Mapping for Product Development

Action: Convert insights into user story maps. Prioritize tasks and align them with the product backlog.

Why it matters: This offers a clear, actionable blueprint for product development, emphasizing value at every phase.

Real-world Example: Atlassian, the company behind tools like JIRA, regularly uses user story mapping to break down and prioritize feature development, ensuring that the product continually meets user needs.

7. Iterative Development and Feedback Loops

Action: Champion an iterative approach to product development. Release features progressively and solicit user feedback.

Why it matters: This ensures that the product is continually refined based on real-world feedback and user needs.

Real-world Example: Dropbox’s initial Minimal Viable Product (MVP) release gathered significant user feedback. This iterative approach, fueled by real-world feedback, played a crucial role in shaping the product we know today.

8. Commit to Continuous Learning

Action: Foster a culture of ongoing learning. Stay updated with cutting-edge tools, methodologies, and best practices.

Why it matters: In a fast-evolving business environment, maintaining an edge ensures resilience and relevance.

Real-world Example: Google's culture of continuous learning, manifested through its famous "20% time" policy, has led to the development of several key products, including Gmail, by allowing employees to pursue side projects.

In Conclusion

Each of these tools has its unique role in helping us narrate the story of our business and customers. Through them, we articulate our present understanding and envision the future, forming a clear strategy to bridge the two. By consistently utilizing and updating these maps, businesses can stay on top of the ever-shifting dynamics of the market, ensuring sustained growth and customer satisfaction.

The journey to sustainable growth is both art and science. By adopting a structured approach, rooted in user insights and facilitated by strategic tools, businesses can plot a course that guarantees growth and forges deep, meaningful connections with customers. Remember, growth isn't merely about expansion—it's about evolution, ensuring that as the business flourishes, it remains anchored in delivering unparalleled value.

Book a discovery call

Don't miss these stories: