Our Thinking Wed 12th April, 2023

What is an experience vision map and do you need one?

What are experience vision maps?

Enterprise technology projects can involve hundreds of team members working across multiple platforms and business departments. Getting an overview of what’s happening, and keeping the overall goal in mind isn’t easy.

Enterprise vision maps can help by providing a single ‘story’ about large projects. They combine text and images to explain how solutions will transform often complex and ambiguous situations within organisations.

Typically, an EVM will tell the story of your future user or customer journey, as they move through a service. It will show the interactions that customers and staff have online and offline, enabled by digital services. The aim of an EVM is to provide a simpler way for people to understand the direction and ambition of a project, which supports better engagement and alignment among different stakeholders, teams and functions.

The real magic of the EVM is the process by which it is created. An EVM is a collaborative, shared vision created by everyone involved in delivering it – from front line staff to product, technical, legal and data teams. When people have co-created a vision of a better future there’s less need to convince them – it leads naturally to conversations like, “When can we have all this? How do we get started?”

Getting to this point takes hard work and commitment from the organisation. While the process can be fast, fun and engaging, it takes significant research and a deep understanding of the organisation’s challenges, culture, and customers. It can also be a challenge to commit the time needed to important co-creation workshops. But the payoff is worth it!

When to use enterprise vision maps?

EVMs are a quick and effective way to set out a vision for transforming products and services. They are most suitable when an organisation:

  • Is focused on transforming services, rather than optimising them
  • A company has complex, messy problems without a single, obvious solution
  • Multiple teams are involved in delivering a service
  • Technology and service standards need to be improved and/or updated
  • There isn’t a clear path to iterate from the current product to industry leading standards
What do EVMs look like?

This is an example EVM we created with a travel client, showing how joined up customer information can be used to deliver better experiences at every touchpoint in the customer journey.

The EVM tells the story of a family as they book, plan, and travel to their holiday together, seamlessly supported by great digital and in-person customer support. This map is built on a shared vision of how the company wanted to use technology. This was then used to plan and prioritise the design and development of systems and services

The anatomy of an Experience Vision Map

An EVM is a combination of human story and tech-agnostic system map. The story simplifies and humanises a complex ecosystem, making it accessible and engaging. The system map points to the technology that’s needed to deliver the target experience.

The key components of an experience vision map are: 

  • The Story 
  • The systems 
  • The ambition
  • The path to delivery 

Below, we outline in more detail what each of these components involve and how it helps organisations to deliver more successful outcomes for complex transformation projects. 

The Story 

The heart of an EVM is the story of a customer, or a group of customers, moving through the client’s products and services over the full lifetime of their engagement. 

An EVM starts with the target or desired experience, described from the customer’s perspective. Like lots of good stories it has: 

  • A hero (the customer) 
  • Struggles to overcome (limitations of the current system) 
  • A saviour figure (the new technology), and 
  • A gang of friends to support the hero (supporting staff, customer service etc) 

An EVM story can take place over an extended period of time, like the example above where we followed the Campbell family booking their summer holiday and following them into the next year, and beyond. 

By telling a story, the EVM introduces drama into the customer journey, with the technology coming to the rescue like a fairy godmother. The story also helps to engage with multiple audiences by creating a universally human scenario that draws people into an imaginary future scenario where the business is delivering better experiences. 

The Systems 

If the customer is the hero in our story, then the system map is the landscape. 

The Experience Vision Map shows every interaction the customer has on their journey with our digital services and systems. This makes it easier to see the key systems that will be needed to deliver the future experience and puts them into a human context. 

Systems that are commonly included in an EVM might include: 

  • app or website 
  • booking systems and CRM 
  • APIs and data management 
  • specialist technology and hardware, i.e. machine learning or customer terminals 

The EVM shows the systems – and how they combine to enable the target experience –  at a very high level and tech-agnostically. At this stage it’s too early to come up with solutions.  Once we have the target experience mapped we can look at the whole landscape and assess what needs building, buying and integrating.

This is the bit of the EVM that leads directly to things that can be built, so the design team must work closely with technical and domain experts to make sure that the experience shared on the EVM is grounded in reality and is painting an ambitious but ultimately deliverable future. 

The ambition

Many people find change challenging and others want change to happen at a rapid pace. This means it’s important that the whole organisation has a shared view of their ambitions – what does ‘good’ look like? Where are we prepared to compromise? What is our goal? 

An EVM should articulate this shared ambition, making it easier to create alignment across multiple delivery teams, operations and leadership.   

Your ‘vision’ should be far enough into the future to encourage people to break free from current delivery constraints, but not so far out that it starts to look like a science-fiction story of flying cars and space travel. Let’s remember that companies change at different rates, and smaller companies might find it easier to accelerate transformation compared to bigger organisations. In general, though, an EVM should aim to look 2-3 years ahead. 

A path to delivery

So far, our EVM has looked at our customer’s future experience, the systems that will deliver those experiences, and identified our vision of the future. With these elements in place, it’s time to stand back and think about what it’s going to take to get there. It’s easy to paint a pretty picture of great customer experiences. It’s much harder to plot a realistic, achievable path to deliver that great experience. 

Using the EVM as a guide, the next step is to identify the key platforms, data, teams, technologies and processes that will be needed to enable the transformed customer experience. Depending on the complexity of the transformation needed and the organisation’s wider strategy, different approaches to planning can be used. 

It’s common to set out ‘swimlanes’ in the main map, and identify what it takes to delivery each component of the system from technology, data, people, and process perspectives.

The map is used to identify discrete projects to deliver that start to deliver the target vision

Some processes might need to be further unpacked before creating swimlanes. By focusing on the customer experience EVMs typically skim over a lot of the complexity and where good technology ‘just works’, automagically, for the use. When this is the case, layering very high-level processes on the EVM – just enough to be able to identify discrete projects and systems  – can add useful clarity.  

Finally, we use the prioritised and roughly scoped items to create a roadmap for delivering the vision. With all teams involved in creating the vision and aligned in the direction to move, we move into the delivery phase. 

Typical EVM project delivery outline

Although timescales can vary, it will usually take about eight weeks to create an experience vision map for a typical project, using an agreed target experience and delivery roadmap. 

EVMs are an efficient way to create a strategic vision for a product or service, and the plan will balance that speed with the necessary depth of understanding of the company and opportunities. A typical project outline could be:

Weeks 1-3: Research.
The design team needs to get a deep understanding of the business, and the challenges and opportunities it has in a short period of time. This will include:

  • Stakeholder interviews – this includes representatives of everyone involved in delivering the services
  • Customer interviews
  • Market and competitive landscape mapping

Week 4: Co-creation workshops.
Co-creation workshops bring together everyone from senior leadership to front-line staff. We collaboratively sketch future user journeys exploring many different scenarios. The conversations that happen in these workshops generate new ideas and ensure everyone is on the same page

Weeks 5-6: Synthesis.
The workshops will generate a huge amount of ideas across different scenarios. The design team pulls out patterns and themes from the sketches and combines the scenarios into one archetypal journey that represents the combined vision of the workshop participants.

Weeks 7-8: Review, planning, and roadmapping.
When the EVM is complete it’s time to look at what needs to be done to get there! We identify the discrete projects required to move towards the vision, these will then be prioritised and planned with full clarity for how they are contributing to the wider vision and strategic goals.

In about eight weeks we have an ambitious, achievable, service transformation strategy and an organisation aligned on delivering it!