Impact Mapping

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Software is everywhere today, but countless software products and projects die a slow death without ever making any impact. The result is a tremendous amount of time and money wasted due to wrong assumptions, lack of focus, poor communication of objectives, lack of understanding and misalignment with overall goals.

Impact mapping can help you build products and deliver projects that make an impact, not just ship software. Impact mapping is a strategic planning technique that prevents organizations from getting lost, by clearly communicating and visualizing assumptions, helping teams align their activities with overall business objectives and make better roadmap decisions. You will map your assumptions and find the work that can validate them!

Impact mapping is highly driven by business improvement and objectives. With SMART goals, the development is more likely be stopped at the right time because the deliverables have had — or do not have had — the desired impact.

This practice draws on the work of Gojko Adzic (book: Impact Mapping) and some practices from Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden (book: Lean UX).

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Create an impact map for your product/project

Impact mapping is a visual mapping technique for product development. Gojko Adzic invented this method to align teams to business objectives, test mutual understanding of goals and expected outcomes with stakeholders, focus teams toward delivering the highest value and enable collaborative decision-making.

An impact map is a visual mind-map, developed collaboratively between business and technical people during a facilitated workshop by answering the fundamental four questions: "Why (Goals)?", "Who (Actors)?", "How (Impacts)?", "What (Deliverables)?"

Purpose of Impact Mapping?

  • Strategic Planning – Strategic goals for new products; new products for new strategic goals
  • Define Quality – Agreements on the purpose of deliverables and metrics of change
  • Roadmap Management – Agreements to achieve Business goals and their metrics; frequent iterative releases to measure progress

When it’s time to create an impact map?

  • Before the project starts, define the goal and acknowledge assumptions
  • During the project,…
    • when you don’t really know the goal and/or the scope is unclear
    • when you often hear , “why am I doing this, I don’t see the value”
    • evaluating decisions for scope changes and verify that the planned work has an impact on the business goal
    • when you want to prove to your client/business, that a particular feature isn’t worth enough
    • when you want to plan the next sprint or release based on delivering impact to your customer instead of just features
    • getting everybody on the same page in terms of business goals and strategy (shared understanding and commitment)

If impact mapping is not known in your organization, it is a good idea to get first familiar with the technique and therefore it is best to choose a small and manageable project.

Here is an example of a real impact map (in German). Impact Mapping example German