Last reviewed: 1 February 2022


Service mapping

Show the step-by-step journey of your product or service in a visual way.

  • 3 to 10 people
  • 2 to 3 hours per session

Advice on service mapping

Why create a service map

Service maps can help:

  • you to see the bigger picture of your product or service
  • your team work together with a focus
  • bring clarity in times of change
  • make decisions obvious
  • make knowledge accessible
  • to quickly identify pain points and opportunities
  • you involve stakeholders and agree how to progress together

Who is involved

People with a range of different perspectives and knowledge which usually includes:

  • a facilitator
  • team members with an understanding of the service
  • subject matter experts
  • people that input into the service
  • service users

When to create a service map

You can do service mapping at all stages of product and service development.

Things you’ll need

A shared digital or physical space so that everyone can see and create the map together.

Digital or physical sticky notes and marker pens.

Any reference, data or other context that could help.

Tips on running the session

Provide the group with:

  • visuals of what a service map looks like
  • handouts with clear instructions if you think it will help
  • copies of existing research if it is relevant
  • time limits for each activity

Be as open as possible and make it clear that there is no wrong answer.

Get the team stood up and involved as soon as possible.

Be specific about what you want people to do, for example, where you want people to contribute or put their post-its.

Close the session at least 10 minutes before the end so that people have time to ask questions.

Learn more

Service mapping and different types of maps - Ben Holliday

Service mapping to make friends and influence people - Co-op Digital blog

How to create a service map

  1. Welcome and introductions

    Welcome everyone to the session. Ask everyone to introduce themselves if the group don’t know each other.

  2. Introduce the aims for the session with your team, for example:

    “We’re here to understand the bigger picture of the service (or product) that we are working on.”

  3. Discuss any blockers or limitations, for example:

    The service map might change as you go through the project - it takes a few versions to get the level of detail and format right.

  4. Introduce the service mapping method using a visual example

    Service map example

    An example of a completed service map.

  5. Explain that it is important to do the top row first, which is usually the ‘steps’ of a user journey or service.

    It’s helpful if the facilitator asks the group to identify the steps and makes the notes on post-its to get the service map going. All the post-its in each row should be the same colour.

    The top row of steps fall into stages or categories called ‘epics’. If you’re developing a digital product this could be: Awareness, Log on, Task and Log out.

    Some participants have more experience of the subject matter than others. You could ask them to work on the area that they are more familiar with.

  6. Now you can identify the service map rows that sit under the steps, for example:

    • Who
    • Action visible to user
    • System
    • Data available
    • Pain points
    • Opportunities to improve

    You may not need all of these or you might need to add rows that are specific to your project.

    Go through each layer or row type with examples.

    Ask the group if they have any questions before you get started.

  7. Fill in the service map

    Get the team to write post-its and stick them up. Don't worry about getting things wrong, that's why we map out the service - to bring clarity!

  8. Review the service map

    Ask the team to look over and make any immediate changes or corrections you can. You might then need to do this again with different people that have different knowledge.

  9. Close the session

    Review the aims you set at the start of the session - is there increased clarity or knowledge?

    Ask if anyone has any questions or would like you to explain anything.

    Explain what will happen next.

  10. Post session tasks

    Digitise the map if you need to so that the steps and layers are neat and easy to follow.

    Put the service map in a place where all your team can access it. Revisit it regularly, keep it updated, and use it to make decisions.

    Transfer all pain points and ideas to a spreadsheet or synthesis board for tracking if it is valuable at this stage.

To decide what to work on next go to ways of working activities.

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