Journey maps are a great tool for understanding the holistic experience people have across channels and over time with your company or product before you jump into a journey mapping project, though, there are two critical decisions you must make up front in order to align your team and focus your efforts. First, will you be mapping current state or future state experience? A current state journey map is a visualization of the experience customers have when attempting to accomplish a goal with your product or company as it exists today. A Future State Journey map is a visualization of the best case ideal state journey for an existing product or a journey for a product that doesn’t exist yet. If you want to identify and document existing problems for customers and then identify relevant solutions, you want to create a current state journey map. It will enable you to understand user needs and identify gaps in the current experience. If you want to reinvent journeys for the better or conceive new experiences that meaningfully differentiate your company from competitors, then try a future state journey map. This will help you envision new ways of supporting new customer segments or creating and delivering new offerings. The second question to consider is will you begin with a research first or a hypothesis first approach? There are pros and cons to each with a hypothesis. First approach, you begin your journey mapping initiative with a one to two day workshop with stakeholders where you create a hypothesis journey map based on existing knowledge. The great thing about this approach is that it provides an opportunity to introduce journey mapping to unfamiliar stakeholders gains, buy in and align siloed team members. The risk is that the mapping process often stops here before research validation occurs, with a hypothesis map being used to make critical decisions and a research first approach. You begin with a phase of research and use research insights gathered to create the map. While this ensures mapping of primary data versus stakeholder assumptions, it also has drawbacks. It can be lengthy and expensive, and it misses an opportunity to make use of existing knowledge and make mapping a collaborative process. Here’s my recommendation. Use a hybrid approach. If you have an existing product, create a current state journey map first to understand existing opportunities and then a future state journey map to use as a vision for the future.
Begin with a hypothesis first approach to build, buy in and educate stakeholders and then evolve your assumption map based on a follow up phase of customer research.