Anxious to Get to Future State?

Fortune teller gazes into glowing crystal ball.
Image courtesy of Gerard Fritz

As part of your journey mapping efforts, you’ll likely create two types of maps: current state maps and future state maps.

Current state maps show the steps that customers take today to complete some task, while future state maps show the steps they will be taking to complete the task after the process has been redesigned.

Future state maps are realistic (not ridiculous) representations of what the experience will become. In other words, inefficiencies and painpoints identified in the current state will be eliminated when the script is rewritten for the future state. This should be differentiated from a “wishful state map,” which I’ll define as an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink-wouldn’t-that-be-cool-if-it-could-do-that kind of experience map. Maybe you’ll get there someday, but for now, let’s focus on what’s realistic for the future state, since that’s challenging enough for most to achieve.

I love when people are excited to map the future state; that means that change is about to happen, and for most customer experiences, this is a great thing! But know that the future state map is not the first map you’ll ever create, nor is it something you’ll do immediately after creating the current state map. There’s some research that needs to be done first.

Let’s step back a second and look at the current state map; during the current state mapping exercise, you’ll uncover what the customer is doing, thinking, and feeling; what’s going well; what isn’t; and what those key moments of truth are. Today. What you won’t be doing is problem solving or designing the experience of tomorrow. You’re not looking for solutions at this stage; you’re simply trying to understand what the customer experience is now.

After that map is complete, you are not yet equipped to create a future state map. Why? Because of Journey Mapping Rule #1. If you create a future state map now, you’ll be perpetuating inside-out thinking; you’ll map an experience based on what you believe the customer wants rather than asking – or listening to – the customer. This means that you’ll need to validate the map and talk to customers about what they are trying to achieve, what problems they are trying to solve, what their expectations are, and more before you can design the future state.

During your map validation exercise, you might pose the following to customers:

I’m going to put you in the driver’s seat now. I’m going to ask you to think about this task again and tell me how you would design the journey.

  • What would the ideal experience look like to you?
  • How would you change the process/steps you go through now to {insert your scenario}?

Let customers know that you’re looking for their ideal experience and that this exercise is informative and will help direct your thinking as you move into ideation, innovation, and redesign.

The bottom line is this: We can’t design the future state without first understanding the current state. We can’t move from current state to future state without customer research. We need to stop ourselves from wanting to design the experience for the customer without customer input. That’s how we got to where we are. That’s why the experience is what it is today.