There is a customer journey mapping detail that no one seems to freely share… How in the world do you get the data from hundreds of sticky notes into an editable, digital document?
Here’s how I did it.
For the past 3 hours, you’ve been successfully orchestrating a customer journey mapping workshop with a collection of subject matter experts representing multiple business areas. You’re furiously writing every thought onto a sticky note and reminding others to do the same.
But now… everyone is gone.
It’s just you and an enormous wall of Post-It notes. So now what?
What Comes After the Journey Map Workshop
Next, translate your pile of Post-It notes into a digital file. There’s no right way to do it. Every organization’s journey map will be different. Once that’s finished…
LOL! Have you read something like that online before, too?
This is a daunting challenge, not a single step in a journey mapping tutorial. Where to even begin?
Through a bit of trial-and-error, here’s the approach I used to transform a pile of Post-Its into a vibrant, shareable digital journey map:
1) Immediately Photograph Your Work
Before you breathe a sigh of relief, quick photograph everything. Post-Its fall down. Post-Its get moved.
In this particular case, I had conducted the journey map workshop on a giant whiteboard, so there was no way for me to transport it.
I photographed the sticky notes where they were stuck, then put them into semi-organized stacks and paperclipped them together. However, please know that I was working with a very manageable 50 or so notes for this particular project.
- Take overlapping photos and close-ups.
- Do NOT rely on other people to photograph for you. You can find out too late that the images are blurry or too far away to be readable.
2) Open Up Your Favorite Diagramming Program
Going straight from sticky notes to software program is pure torture. I tried it, and trust me, it’s impossible to get the overall structure or canvas size right the first 50 times you try. Go ahead and close it out now.
Defeated by Visio and my inability to visualize the entire journey map in my head, here’s what I did instead—step-by-step—to create a digital rough draft.
3) Set Up Your Physical Workspace
First, I re-created the journey map near my home office. (Note to self: next time ensure home office has lots of wall space.)
I taped up several large sheets Kraft paper (from the Dollar Store), and then reconstructed the sticky note sequence from my iPhone images.
On another wall, I set aside space for a parking lot.
- Set up in a hallway. It’s incredibly convenient to be able to turn around to grab parking lot items, or to create a secondary map or workspace directly behind you.
4) Clean Up Stickies
Next, I cleaned up the duplicates and created new sticky notes when there was more than one idea on the same sticky.
I also started writing down my questions (or at least drew question marks) on the notes that I didn’t understand or needed more information about.
5) Draw Columns, Then Label Them
This step might be too early for you, but for my project, the columns were set in stone — or so I thought at the time — so it was logical for me to do this next.
Your number will obviously vary, but next I drew 15 columns directly on the Kraft paper. Because my particular journey map included 13 milestones, I knew that I wanted 15 columns… One extra column for the “before” state of each row and another column to label each row.
6) Categorize Stickies
The original sticky notes had been categorized into columns and rows by my workshop attendees, but by now, it was clear that the row categories were much too broad.
When I started splitting apart the original categories of information, I realized that not everything was fitting neatly into my new 15-column framework. Some groups of stickies had a specific sequence, other groups of activities were recurring or non-linear.
At this point, this is where having a large sketchbook, electronic scratchpad, or whiteboard comes in handy.
Once I (mostly) perfected my framework sketches on my son’s Boogie board, I transferred my new diagrams to the Kraft paper wall and adjusted the stickies accordingly.
As of now, my journey map included 4 buckets of information:
- 14-week timeline with swim lanes for each audience segment, which encompassed the majority of the stickies
- 6-step linear process in the “pre-state”
- 6-step non-linear process, recurring every week of the journey
- 10-step process that was part linear, part non-linear, but also recurring every week of the journey
As a side note, none of this work is happening very quickly. Since I first put up the Kraft paper near my home office, about 10 hours have passed so far.
7) Label Rows
I labeled each row individually, breaking apart or combining rows of stickies as I went. Once each row was labeled, then I looked for larger themes among the rows, then grouped those.
At this point in my process, the questions are pouring out of me. To keep track of them all, I created a spreadsheet of questions, categorizing by topic or business function. I also started creating questions I wanted to ask my client’s customers directly.
8) Now, Create the Digital Version
Next, I photographed all of my work again. I opened up Visio, created the framework, and filled in the details. Because I worked out all of the kinks on my wall, this step only took me a few hours.
Next, I printed the journey map as a 36″ x 48″ engineering print at Staples.
Once printed, I tacked my journey map poster to a piece of blackcore foamboard, so that I could easily transport it to meetings.
My Journey Mapping Tools
- Kraft paper or other large rolls of paper
- Painter’s tape & Scotch tape
- Post-its (heavy duty stickiness preferred)
- Thin Sharpies (or markers that won’t bleed through paper)
- Extra scratch paper
- Excel or spreadsheet software
- Phone with original sticky note images
- Whiteboard, portable whiteboard, or Boogie board
- A helper (this is hard work to do alone!)
- Blackcore foamboard
- Push pins, map pins, or thumbtacks
My Next Steps
With my digital draft in hand, my next 2 steps are:
1) Socialize the Customer Journey Map
At the end of this process, the goal of the journey map isn’t a one-time “ta-da.”
Its goals are to create awareness of the customer journey, build customer empathy among internal business teams, and influence change. Close gaps. Minimize or eliminate pain points. Introduce new features.
I bring the journey map with me to client meetings — sharing the process I used, the insights I’ve gathered so far, and invite others to participate in the process with me.
2) Continue to Gather New Insights
For as much work as all of this was, it was only the beginning. The next phase of the journey mapping process was to conduct interviews with real users. The original workshop was only meant to build the initial framework and establish hypotheses.
Next, my clients’ customers will help me fill in the details and gaps.
Since starting this process, my digital journey map is now covered with 100+ new sticky notes. Rinse and repeat!