Agile software development relies heavily on a work item type called user stories. For example, you have a backlog full of user stories and you can select a few of them to work on during the next sprint.

But where and how do you find user stories to put into the backlog? There is a popular technique for doing that called story mapping. Jeff Patton invented it and here is the definitive guide on how to do it.

The question is, what electronic tools are out there that support Patton's story-mapping technique?

I've done a bit of research, found Pivotal and Rally plug-ins (but I'm not a customer of either) and I'm currently experimenting with SilverStories.

What other tools are out there? What have you used? What do you (not) recommend? Why?

UPDATE: Some people who wrote comments seem to lean towards an answer that applying this technique is simply impossible with an electronic tool and we should just accept that. Can't someone write it up as an answer?

UPDATE (to clarify the question in light of Alex Feinman's comment): the question is about identifying options for story-mapping. Since Jeff Patton's technique can obviously be done on a white-board with stickies, the question focuses on additional options that might be provided with electronic tools. (Premature) commitment to any particular tool or class of tools is not the point of this question.

  • You should indicate your needs. – JeffO Oct 3 '11 at 18:22
  • @Jeff, do you care to elaborate on "indicate your needs?" The question refers to a very specific technique. The "need" or the reason why anyone would ever use story-mapping is to identify the stories and create the product and release backlogs. I'm researching Web-based tools that can adequately support this activity. – azheglov Oct 3 '11 at 18:48
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    The "put a bunch of cards on the floor" approach works pretty well. What features do you require in a solution that that method doesn't provide? – Alex Feinman Oct 3 '11 at 19:05
  • @Alex I know that putting a lot of cards on the floor or a similar approach (sticking cards to the wall) will work. I'm currently in a workspace that has far less than enough wall or floor space for that plus an org culture that much prefers electronic tools. So, the top "feature" is being Web-based. – azheglov Oct 3 '11 at 20:10
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    Organization culture is the most dangerous agile killer. I haven't seen any tool which would work half as good as paper cards and wall. – Ladislav Mrnka Oct 4 '11 at 7:41

Silver Stories made by Silver Stripe Software seems to fit the requirements of this question. (They reached out to me after I complained online about my problems with their product and got the problem resolved.)

I've been able to use the story-mapping technique with this tool and create a small sample story map:

enter image description here

I've been also able to take stories identified my the mapping exercise into the backlog and start pulling them across a kanban board:

enter image description here

This tool is definitely an option if you want to start with story-mapping. Of course, the real-world maps will be much larger and a large flat-screen monitor is recommended.


Based on the information in the comments on this question, some of my own research, and existing suggestions of general Agile planning tools, it looks like there is no tool right now that is built with the Patton technique in mind.

Adapting another digital whiteboard/sticky notes tool and applying the mapping technique yourself is probably your best bet at this point.


We use Pivotal Tracker to manage our projects. For story mapping, we use trackerstorymaps which syncs stories from PT and uses labels as mapping areas!


If you must use an Electronic tool because you have a distributed of dispersed team look into any electronic postit tool that allows many users at one time. However they all miss the interactive value of index cards and none are as large as a good floor or wall.

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    my goal when I asked this question was to identify multiple options for story-mapping. Since it's already given that whiteboard and stickies are an option, the question focuses on options for replicating Jeff Patton's story-mapping technique with electronic tools. Then of course I want to maintain these options and defer commitment to any of these options until the last responsible moment. – azheglov Jul 19 '12 at 19:06

Ladislav nails it above in re culture, but have you checked out JIRA & Greenhopper from Atlassian? We have no interest in agile here, but I did evaluate it and found it to be a reasonably priced, easy to use and suitable digital approximation of stickies on a whiteboard. And it's web-based.

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    -1: i'm not looking for a general agile or task management tool – azheglov Oct 4 '11 at 14:46
  • @azheglov: You may not be looking for a general tool but it may well be the one that does the job. – Manfred Oct 11 '11 at 4:31
  • @John: "Digital approximation of stickies on a whiteboard" is a very unhelpful remark and reads as if the responder didn't read or understand the question. Why don't you create a story map using your copy of JIRA and post a screenshot here as an answer? You'll have my upvote! But this answer is the opposite of that; it's mostly noise. Hence the downvote. – azheglov Oct 11 '11 at 21:06

You can use tools like Gravity which comes as a chrome extension and available for free in chrome web store.

Or alternatively, if you are looking for complete Agile Management Tool for your project or development, look for VersionOne on Google. The initial trial is free and you can get the full licensed version for not a lot of money.

Hope that helps.

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    Please explain how the tools you are suggesting work with Patton's story-mapping technique the question is asking about. – Adam Lear Oct 4 '11 at 14:44
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    -1: i'm not looking for a general agile or task management tool – azheglov Oct 4 '11 at 14:46

Take a look at Jama's contour. It's a requirements management tool, but it is quite lightweight compared to the competitors and you can next stories under other ones. It may not have the card visualisation gear you want.

Now that I think about it you could probably mock his with MS project as well.

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