stpBA Storyboarding: Best Rookie Product I’ve Seen In Years

The easiest Jolt vote I’ve made in years was for stpBA Storyboarding, a product which every architect and team lead owes themselves to evaluate. I would say it is revolutionary, but it is better than that — it simply makes the way you probably already work vastly more efficient.

Essentially, it is a product that transforms screen-based storyboards into requirements and work-items. Based on (and in) Microsoft Office, you mock up screens using Visio and link them together using arrows. And then it transforms that into work-items. That’s it. Simple. Obvious. Just works.

I could say that storyboards are one of the few diagrams that are universally comprehensible and producible by designers, users, and developers. I could say that usage-centered design, as laid out by Larry Constantine & Lucy Lockwood, is the most efficacious way I know to elicit requirements. I could say that the downside of storyboards has always been tracing their detail to and from work-items, and so they’ve traditionally been a “write once” work product. But I don’t need to say that, because it’s all so obvious.

It’s really an eye-opening product — download it, install it in a VM, you’ll be happy.

The only rub being that I really do mean “install it in a VM.” That it is essentially a Visio plug-in is both a strength and weakness of Storyboarding. Today, it only works with Office 2003. An Office 12 version is in development, but this is the type of product that, once you’ve tried it, you don’t want to be without. Like all Jolt judges, I make extensive use of virtual machines (the awarding of a Jolt to VMWare Lab Manager was no shock) but Storyboarding was one where I felt that tuning up a dedicated virtual machine was very much the “way to do it.” Perhaps due to the opaqueness of Office as a plug-in host, getting Storyboarding up and running took a little tweaking. If I recall correctly, before I attached the VM to the Internet to register/validate Office, there was some silent error that led to features not being enabled. Also, the workflow within Storyboarding was not immediately obvious, since it relies on its own pane within Visio and the potential is not quite unleashed by “press the buttons left to right.” It’s not a long learning curve, but it’s longer than learning Peggle.

Highly recommended. (Storyboarding, not Peggle. If you wish to ever have a productive day again, I advise you not try Peggle.)

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