journey map repository

The why and how of a journey map repository

March 30, 2020

A journey map repository allows you to organize all your journey maps and make it clear and accessible for yourself and your team. This is a crucial step towards using journey maps as a visual management tool and organizing all projects that impact experiences throughout the organization.

Journey maps can be based on several levels of experiences, from very high-level (search – buy – use) to very detailed (open website – scroll – click button). Each level has its value and deserves its own journey map, however keeping sight of the bigger picture can be challenging. If you have several journey maps analyzing different levels of experiences, a journey map repository is an essential resource.

In this article we discuss what a journey map repository is and how to create one. We’ll also look at a few examples to better understand the use cases of a journey map hierarchy.

Purpose of journey map repositories

To start, let’s think about geographic maps; for example, a city map. Depending on the zoom level of the map, you have different levels of detail. If you zoom in closely, you can see names of streets and buildings, however your view is restricted. When you zoom out, you can see city districts, maybe even neighboring cities. If you zoom out even more, you can see the country in which the city is located, and so on.

The more you zoom out, the better you understand the big picture, however the more details you miss.

What zoom level is the best then? The answer won’t surprise you: It depends on your use case. If you’d like to find your way to a restaurant closeby, you will use a different zoom level than when you’re driving to a different country for holidays. So whenever you navigate, you need to decide: What’s the view – or even, the views – that I need now? Do I need to zoom in, or zoom out?

Designers know the rule: if you want to design a table, you need to know the room in which it’s supposed to be placed. If you need to design a room, you need to know the building.

Hence, it’s always important to at least understand the next higher level of the hierarchy.

Why and when should you build hierarchies of customer journey maps?

Zooming into steps of journey maps changes the timeframe one looks at. Many more details become visible – but one sees less of the larger picture. The maps on the following illustration are linked to each other. A step in a higher level journey usually becomes the stage of the lower level journey, that then includes many more detailed steps in the next level journey.

Mortgage loan experience

Let’s further discuss this customer experience of a 30-year mortgage loan. The customer life-cycle is probably a bit more than 30 years, when you take into account their decision-making time. If you’d visualize this on one map, you wouldn’t see much detail, but you would get an understanding of the overall experience of 30+ years. When you zoom into the first year, you’ll see more details: How was this loan was set up? How did the customer compare an offer with other offers? How did the customer collect all the necessary paperwork? When you zoom into, for example, one meeting, you’ll see even more details of this one meeting, and so on.

When you zoom into the first stage, you’d see how the customer compared the offer with other offers, how they collected all of the necessary paperwork, and how they made their decision. In the first year you would see how the loan was set up and started, perhaps how the first statement came in the mail and was interpreted, etc. When you zoom into, for example, one meeting, you would see even more details of that one meeting.

Over many projects, you might create dozens or even hundreds of journey maps.

How to structure networks of journey maps

How do you find that one map that another team was working on two years ago? Find the connected research data?

A repository of your journey maps structured as a hierarchy will help. This is why you should build a repository of your journey maps structured as a hierarchy: You can create a journey map hierarchy by linking journey maps into each other. This helps you to structure your maps, as well as the hierarchy itself.

visualization of journey map hierarchy
Hierarchy of a journey map repository; in this example we’re looking at a flight experience

Based on one high-level map (e.g. your customer lifecycle), you can link other maps to see how all of them are connected. This allows you to zoom in deeper and find all journey maps that you’ve ever done regarding a specific part of your customer experience. If you’ve linked your research data to the respective project maps, it also allows you to find respective research data. This means you can build on previous work instead of repeating research again and again.

Use cases

Through a hierarchy of journey maps you can solve several pain points of journey mappers.

Providing context

A journey map hierarchy provides context to people who don’t work with these specific maps on a day-to-day basis. Background information on certain projects helps them to comprehend the overall concept. They can navigate through the zoom levels and understand the larger experience in which a particular journey map is embedded.

Centralizing experience research data

A repository of journey maps organized as a hierarchy allows you to search for existing or previous projects including their research data and findings across teams and departments. You can find research data collected from others, make your own data available, and together build on top of this.

research data
Use your journey maps to collect research data and make it accessible for others

Connecting organizational silos

In larger organizations, there are many projects going on at the same time impacting customer experience.There are also many overlaps or contradictions between projects – often due to organizational silos.

Sometimes, a project contains multiple smaller parts conducted by different teams. Is each team aware of this? Do they know the boundaries, intersections, responsibilities, common goals?

By structuring your maps and linking them into each other, you can find intersections between different parts of your organization. For example, you might find an employee journey map from your HR team linked into a certain customer experience based on an interaction. This could help you to identify other teams in your organization, working on the same problem or experience area from a different perspective.

Visualization of a journey map and responsible persons
Use your journey maps to clarify responsibilities

Pointing to related journeys may also help to avoid multiple teams working on similar things, redundant work, preventing waste of resources. It can also make you aware of opportunities for synergies.

How to create hierarchies of journey maps

Many times our users are not sure about what zoom level is the best one to start with. Detailed or high-level experiences? Here’s our suggestion, summarized in 4 steps.

1. Start with a very high-level map

How would you visualize the entire customer journey in 2 steps? For example, the experience a customer has before, during, and after a service. Create a journey map for this high-level experience and use it as a basis for other maps. Don’t hesitate to go back to this big picture map and make changes. Always challenge journey maps so they evolve over time

Here are journey map pen and paper templates for you to get started.

2. Zoom into the most crucial step

What step of your high level map is the most essential one at this moment? Purchase? Recommendation to others? Zoom in and create a dedicated journey map for it.

When doing so, make sure you’re not switching between zoom levels on the same journey map. Stick to the scope that you defined in the beginning of the process and the aim of your journey mapping activities. Always create a new map for every important zoom-in-experience.

3. Zoom into pain points

At what moment is your customer the most unsatisfied? Indicate the step on the zoom-in map. Then use a third level journey map to find out: Why is this moment happening? How does it evolve? And what do you need to do in order to get rid of it?

4. Visualize hierarchies

Whenever you’re working on a detailed experience, link the journey map to the respective higher level map. A clear hierarchy is essential: link maps in a way that is comprehensible. This way you can quickly find and access the maps that are zooming in or out of a specific experience.

For many teams this is the point where they find out they don’t have the overview on their pen and paper journey maps anymore. If you feel like you’re stuck, consider a digital solution. This enables you to link journey maps and access and update them in a central place.

Using hierarchies for journey map operations

Often journey maps are in some way connected to each other. Keeping a well-cultivated, clearly structured repository of journey maps helps people keep an overview of projects and resulting responsibilities. A common, cross-silo understanding can improve outcomes and help better distribute limited resources. As soon as you use journey maps as a more strategic management tool, a journey map repository is essential.

A core requirement of Journey Map Operations – a customer-centric management approach that helps organizations manage multiple agile projects – is such a repository of journey maps. One of the first steps of the process is building a hierarchy of journey maps mapping a high level customer experience, like a customer lifecycle, and linking detailed journey maps into it.

visualization of journey map operations

Each map in your hierarchy can house information about KPI’s, ongoing projects, etc, in addition to things you would usually house in a map such as customer or employee pain points. You can link these “project” maps to the higher-level “management” map. Then carry over the most important pieces of information so that they are effectively rolling up to the top map.

This helps to identify overlaps and contradictions between projects and it helps you to continuously prioritize your most important pain points and opportunities – both from a customer and an employee perspective.

If you'd like to get more specific information on the benefits and challenges of a journey map repository or journey map operations – here you go!

Wrapping it up

Creating a journey map repository helps us stay on top of all the experience information we have collected by linking related maps. We can zoom into a step to see a detailed journey map with more detailed descriptions, or zoom out to remind us of the big picture.

Besides enabling you to find sub-journeys, a journey map repository also helps you find previous projects, research data, redundant work and synergies. It also allows you to find different maps depending on different use cases, audiences, main actors, or from different times.

If you want to embed and scale service design in an organization, or even embrace journey maps as a management system, it is essential to establish and build upon a structured journey map repository.

Create my own journey map repository with Smaply