Enterprise Journey Mapping Part 1: Creating a Current-State Map

Journey mapping provides a concise, big-picture view of an experience that can align stakeholders around a vision for improving the experience. A journey has a start-to-finish flow — traditionally a consumer making a purchase decision, as shown in the example below.

The Norman-Nielson Group provides a simplified example of a customer journey map — in this case, the journey of “Jumping Jamie” who needs to switch to a different mobile plan.

Journey maps can also depict enterprise experiences, though consumer and enterprise journeys fundamentally differ. One main difference is one of perspective. Consumer journeys usually are written from a single perspective (a customer persona) while an enterprise journey typically needs to capture how work is accomplished across various roles or departments.

In this two-part series, I outline the factors to consider when creating enterprise journey maps. I’ll cover the process of creating two different kinds of maps: We’ll begin with current-state mapping in this part (Part 1) and move on to future-state mapping in Part 2.

What is an Enterprise System Anyway?

First, I’d like to define what I mean by enterprise system. Particularly with the consumerization of IT the definition can be fuzzy. Enterprise systems are not general-purpose applications that a business might use (such as Microsoft Word or Slack). True enterprise systems support the more mission-critical aspects of a business: for example, monitoring network operations, performing legal discovery, processing loan applications, or managing a medical practice. Users are typically captive meaning they aren’t able to perform prescribed tasks outside of the system intended to support those task. The tasks themselves are often part of a larger business workflow. Enterprise systems may be proprietary, internally-developed applications, or they may be commercially-available.

How Does an Enterprise Journey Differ?

In contrast to customer journeys, which usually depict a purchase decision, enterprise journeys typically focus on achieving a business outcome such as evaluating a claim, conducting a patient appointment, or closing a real estate transaction. In this way, enterprise journey maps have an affinity with that old standby, the business process map.

An example business process map.

If you aren’t familiar with business processing mapping, it’s worth getting familiar with the conventions. It’s helpful knowledge to have in your toolkit, particularly if you regularly work with enterprise software. At a minimum, major decision branches (shown by the diamond) are important to represent as these can be potential snags or bottlenecks in an experience.

What we’ll look at then for our enterprise journey map is a bit of a mash-up between a traditional journey map and a business process map:

Example section of enterprise journey map. More details about the components in the map to follow!

A note about roles vs. personas: For enterprise journey mapping, I characterize users in terms of roles rather than personas. Roles often, though not always, conform to job titles in an organization and an individual’s knowledge, skills, and behavior is bounded (at least at a high level) by the requirements of the role. I have more to say about roles vs. personas in this article.

To create a current-state enterprise journey map, we’ll look at six steps:

  1. Defining the Scope and Focus of the Map
  2. Planning the Research
  3. Conducting the Research
  4. Creating the Draft Journey Map
  5. Validating the Map for Factual Correctness
  6. Socializing the Map

Defining Scope and Focus of the Map

The first step is defining the scope of the journey you want to map. It’s helpful to think about the scope of an enterprise journey in terms of a business scenario. These might include:

  • Restoring power to customers when there is an outage
  • Approving a loan application
  • Configuring a conveyer to powder-coat a new part
  • Completing a medical appointment with a patient

In the enterprise, processes may be complex, but there is an advantage to having the entire process represented in a single map, even if it’s a map that runs nearly the width of a wall. The unified representation signals that it is indeed a single journey (rather than a set of separate siloed processes). In fact, one of the most enlightening outcomes of a current-state journey map is seeing how the process works in its entirety —and how each organizational area works together (or not).

You also need to consider the focus of the map — specifically what elements to include. At a minimum the map should depict:

  • The current business process (actions, activities, tasks)
  • The roles involved in that process
  • Touchpoints (tools, devices, information)
  • Pain points (inefficiencies, gaps, and redundancies)

Types of Roles

As you can see in the example below, roles are shown as “swim lanes” with each task assigned to a lane. For example, “Call to Make or Change an Appointment” is a task performed by the Patient and therefor appears in the Patient lane.

Role “swim lanes.”

You’ll also notice that there is a non-human role — the Electronic Medical Records System (EMR) — represented as a gear. The EMR is a system role. System roles allow you to represent tasks that a system performs on its own, without any human interaction. System roles can have particular importance in future-state mapping, where you may be looking to automate tasks further.

Additional Map Elements

The key with a journey map is telling the full story of the experience, and so consider additional elements that would help you tell the story. These might include:

  • Context (environment, location)
  • Portions of the process performed outside the system (for example relying on paper or spreadsheets)
  • Process failure points
  • Current performance metrics or quotas
  • Relevant legal regulations

What additional information you choose to depict on the map might not be apparent until the research is complete and you understand the story you need to tell.

Note that on the example map below, the EMR is both a role (performing fully automated tasks) and a touchpoint (a tool used to perform tasks). An “Additional Notes” area captures a current performance metric.

Example current-state map including roles, tasks, touchpoints, pain points (broken down by role), and additional notes.

Note: The example above does NOT include opportunities in response to the pain points — an element often included on current-state maps. Particularly for enterprise mapping, it can be most useful to identify opportunities collaboratively in a workshop setting. I cover this process in Part 2: Envisioning the Future Journey.

Planning the Research

Once you’ve defined the scope and general focus of the map, it’s time to move forward with the research. Observational research is a critical component of creating a current-state map. A challenge in the enterprise — particularly for internal systems — is that stakeholders in the organization may think they already know how the work is getting done, what the problems are, and how they can be solved. The stakeholder viewpoint is essential to capture, but it should not be the sole input: stakeholders may or may not know what’s actually going on in the trenches.

If you are creating a journey map for commercial enterprise software, you’ll need to visit customer sites and observe people doing their jobs. The situation here is that different customers may use the system in slightly different ways, depending upon their specific business processes. These process variations are important to capture, but it means you’ll be working with more data than when observing an internal system deployed in a single organization.

As a prelude to conducting the user research, you’ll also want to review any available background materials, including documentation of processes supported by the system, current performance metrics, and any past user research.

Engaging Stakeholders

While you don’t want to rely exclusively on stakeholder interviews to create a current-state map, stakeholders are an essential component of the research. They bring an understanding of the domain and perspective on the current state. They can also provide guidance on what roles to include in the user research.

Additionally, it can be helpful to engage stakeholders in creating a provisional journey map that will be validated via the user research. This provisional map can help you learn more about the process before you go into the research, which can shape the research plan. It’s ideal to create the provisional map in a workshop setting with all necessary stakeholders so that you get a unified perspective of at least what people believe is the case.

Recruiting Participants

If you are mapping a journey involving an internal, proprietary system, you will recruit participants from within your organization. Again, this is where having stakeholders engaged is helpful. They can suggest contacts to assist with the recruiting and raise awareness of the project in general so that people get on board with participating.

If you are mapping a journey for a commercial enterprise application, you’ll need to reach out to your customers. Consider getting a mix of implementations, particularly if your application is used across different industries and different-sized companies. If at all possible, plan to conduct the research on-site. There are often environmental clues in the workplace that illuminate what users are actually doing and experiencing. How many site visits are appropriate depends on the variability among customer implementations, time/budget constraints, and travel logistics. I’ve found that four to five site visits provide good coverage, but one site visit is better than none. If travel logistics are a barrier, then interviews via web conference can be used to get more coverage.

I’ve found that the best way to recruit customers is through your sales organization. They have the customer relationships and can also sell the benefit of participation. Often, customers are eager to participate as it gives them a chance for their voice to be heard.

Additional Research Considerations

As a reminder, due to company policies, customers are usually not able to take compensation from vendors, so it’s not appropriate to even offer it. However, company swag such as hats, mugs, and the like is often appreciated. On one project, we brought an especially coveted style of hat for participants.

There may also be restrictions on video or audio recording in a work environment — or photographing information displayed on screens. Up-front, it’s important to understand any constraints on capturing information.

Enterprise systems often support complex domains. Once the user research is complete, and you start analyzing your findings, you may discover unanswered questions. For this reason, see if you can follow-up with participants after the study for any clarifications.

Conducting the Research

In conducting the research, you want to observe people performing their jobs in as naturalistic fashion as possible, while still making sure you understand what is happening and why. You also want to give participants a chance to express their thoughts and frustrations with their current tools. You want to capture all the touchpoints so that you identify all opportunities to improve the experience.

For example: In conducting research for a network management application, we asked users to perform their work as they normally would, but asked them to think out loud. We noticed several touchpoints outside the system, including phones, websites, and even paper-based lists. Later in the session, we asked follow-up questions about the tasks both performed within the system as well as those performed with other tools.

I’ve found it’s most effective to schedule sessions such that you have time to write up session summaries on the same day. It can otherwise be an impossibly large task to go back and capture adequate notes. If you can take a photo of participants, include the photo in your session summaries: it can be a helpful memory trigger for the session.

Additionally, I strongly prefer taking hand-written notes on an iPad for observational research. Typing notes on a laptop during a session can be distracting to participants and physically awkward, depending on the situation. iPad note-taking apps such as GoodNotes and Notability can convert your handwriting to text. If you can audio record, Notability links the audio to the hand-written notes you were taking at the time. This linkage is incredibly useful for reviewing critical portions of the session.

Creating a Draft Journey Map from Your Findings

At this point, you ideally have a set of session summaries and an overall sense of the journey that you’ve just studied. The next step is to create a first-pass journey map illustrating the business process as it’s actually performed.

How you translate your field observations into a journey map depends mostly on the specifics of your study. If you are studying an internal system, the analysis is more straightforward than if you studied a commercial enterprise system across multiple sites. In the latter case, you want to “reconcile” data into a single, representative journey. You can notate any substantial variations in process on the map under Additional Notes.

The written session summaries — ideally with participant photos included — are vital to absorbing both the details and getting a sense of the process overall. I print these out, with key findings highlighted, and post them on a wall, sequenced to the extent possible to represent the journey.

Next, you’ll need a workspace for creating the draft journey map. Using physical (rather than digital) tools at this point has the advantage of being highly flexible, and it makes it easier to work with the entire journey in one view. Post-its, markers, and a large expanse of craft paper are ideal tools.

Eventually, you want to get your draft map in digital form. I do not recommend, however, investing much time in styling it. Instead, consider the current-state map as a stepping-stone on the way to the future journey. If you want a visually compelling artifact, save your efforts for the future-state map.

Checking for Factual Correctness

The representation of the current journey must be factually correct. Nothing destroys the credibility of your mapping efforts more quickly than factual errors. If at all possible, go back to the research participants to validate the details on your map. If this isn’t feasible, engage “user proxies” — such as those involved in supporting users who are likely familiar with their processes and challenges. This situation was the case on a recent project where it wasn’t possible to follow up directly with research participants. As an alternative, we brought in subject matter experts (SMEs) into a casual workshop setting to review the draft current-state map. The SMEs suggested refinements on some details, including terminology, that gave us the confidence we were ready to share the map more broadly.

Socializing the Current Journey

In most organizations seeing the current journey all-up, across organizational silos, is eye-opening. If possible, print out and post the journey map in a public area, such as a hallway or other shared space. Make sure it’s clear that the map is part of an envisioning process for the future-state journey. Invite people to interact with the map by either writing their thoughts directly on it or by having it in an area where people can post post-its with their comments or input.

Next Steps

Of course, the whole reason for creating a current-state journey map is to identify opportunities and act upon them — topics we’ll cover in Part 2: Envisioning the Future Journey.

Principal UX Designer & Partner at Blink UX • iPad enthusiast • GTD practitioner • Crafting better enterprise experiences since 1988