Agile organizations have employed various techniques to scale the business and earn maximal business value. The concept of impact mapping is one of the most effective graphic strategies which helps the Agile team to decide the features required to build the product. The technique of impact mapping has proven useful for many Agile organizations as it begins with a specific goal and branches out from there. Impact Mapping demonstrates how the features that the team identifies have a direct impact on the goal. Gojko Adzic in 2012 in his book called Impact Mapping introduced this method to the world which has immensely benefited a wide range of industries. Agile Methodology has always accepted quick decisions and rapid changes. The concept of Impact Mapping has also been broadly accepted by many Agile frameworks. To understand further impact mapping Agile, this article explains the details of the concepts and explores the benefits of using this concept.
What is Impact Mapping?
Impact Mapping has similar fundamental principles and origins to story mapping and mind mapping. With the use of impact mapping, the Agile team can make a visual image of how a feature for a product can be useful and prioritize it accordingly. Impact mapping helps the team track the progress of the product from its primary goal to a specific feature by looking for relevant factors. This concept also helps the team to look for features that would help them reach the intended goal and discover the functionalities that would make them achieve the desired actions. Impact mapping uses the goal as the center and spends more time identifying and defining the goal. It gives importance to the goal more than anything else. If the team could answer the following SMART goal questions then the goal will be in the right direction. The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Timely. When multiple impact mapping exercises with different groups are conducted, then the team can deduce where the divergence and overlap of impact deliverables which would be based on different cohort biases.
Why should Agile teams implement Impact Mapping?
When organizations are building products and delivering projects, they often get lost in the process and do not follow their initial vision of starting the company. Impact mapping is defined as a technique through which the organization can focus on its primary goal and base all its decisions around its goal. The technique prevents the companies from being lost during the process of product creation and delivering projects by various tools and methods. Impact mapping helps the company to coordinate and communicate assumptions, and helps the team to plan their tasks. Teams make better roadmap decisions by keeping the business objectives in mind. When a big product or project is being worked on, it is often very important to communicate the vision to the entire team as they may get lost in the process and think that they are working in vain. Impact mapping helps the team to visualize the process they are working for and helps the people establish a rapport with the project, the organization, and the community at large.
Impact mapping bridges the gap between the business process and the delivery team which helps them create a plan for the product delivery. The delivery scope of the product and project could be captured by impact mapping. As the map creates an idea about the project, the teams can quickly adapt plans which are effective and respond to changes all while keeping a big-picture view for the business sponsors. Many resistances and obstacles that come during project development and product building such as over engineered solutions and scope creep can be reduced significantly using impact mapping. The collaboration between the sponsors and the team increases which helps the team build exactly what the sponsors expect. The features which are important for the customers and relevant to the market can also be prioritized progress reporting and monitoring. Hence, the primary benefit of using impact mapping is that it ensures the appropriate business result is accomplished and business ideas that cost too much and cannot be possibly completed could be stopped immediately.
Advantages of Impact Mapping over other methods
- This method facilitates team building which implies that collaboration and interaction among the team members enhances. Impact Mapping is significantly less bureaucratic and takes less effort when compared to its other alternatives.
- It helps team members who are from different backgrounds to participate in building the product and help them contribute. These backgrounds are technical delivery experts, business users, and other members of the organization.
- The assumptions in the project could be visualized using impact mapping which could not be possible in alternative models. In environments such as Information Technology, decisions have to be taken rapidly where impact mapping could be applied.
- Effective meetings and big-picture thinking help the organization to align with its goals which is made possible through impact mapping.
- Iterative models are supported with this technique as many clients have said that making changes for the product would take months which could be easily completed in days. Hence, Impact mapping is becoming one of the mainstream methods in software development.
What is Impact Mapping in Agile Software Development?
Visual analysis used impact mapping helps everyone involved in delivery to understand the objectives, key assumptions, and expected impacts of the ongoing project. This helps the team to focus on the project and product and spend less time on other non-effective product features. This makes the software academia use Agile impact mapping in their software development. Before, software engineering methods would only focus on the early requirements phase. This undermines the effectiveness of details which is required during product development as it would only focus on the bigger picture. Lean start-up ideas and iterative delivery in software development have become one of the main reasons for the increase in the popularity of impact mapping. The distance between the worlds of strategic planning and thinking to create a big-picture that is focused on key business objectives could be significantly reduced by using impact mapping. The team learns through delivering the product and helping the organization manage the project roadmaps.
Why Should You Use Impact Mapping?
Impact mapping could be used for various purposes based on the outcome the organization has to achieve. There are various stages of impact mapping Agile or impact mapping scrum which is given below.
New product milestones could be set using impact maps given that the solutions are listed
for the product rather than the objectives. When an external client provides a features list or replacements which are like-for-like, impact maps are mainly useful. When organizations engage delivery agencies which are third-party, request proposals, or prepare statements of work, impact mapping is useful to a greater extent. When creating an impact map, a workshop should be set up by the facilitator by creating a business goal draft and engaging all the key stakeholders. While drafting the goal, the facilitator has to remember that the goal should be detailed enough to focus the discussion but should not be planned too rigidly. It should allow some space for opinions and suggestions by the stakeholders, which helps in refining the goal during the workshop.
The company is clear on the objectives of the project but there may be many objectives and multiple stakeholders who have varying priorities. Impact maps help these conflicts of prioritization to resolve by creating a visual structure for the goal of the project. This helps the stakeholders to identify common priorities and help the development team to work on them. This also could be used in situations when the organizations face large pieces of diverse goals, or when the team finds it difficult to identify which feature is not working out for the product. Hence, when delivery for the product has to be focused on, both the stakeholders and the delivery team should equally participate to create the impact map. Both of these teams could also conduct a separate workshop to discover their priorities for the product and list the common ones which are agreed by both. The delivery team can negotiate the features and agree to the ones which they think could be achieved within the given time. It is always appreciated that the delivery team underpromise and over-delivers the features as it would increase the trust among the stakeholders and the customers. This would also ensure client satisfaction and help the delivery team to work with minimal pressure and give their best effort.
When the organization or the team is not sure about what the objective of the project should be, they could use impact mapping to understand the purpose of their product. Common scenarios in organizations would be when a single person has more complex knowledge of the product which is not comprehended by the rest of the team, or when a project stops or does not provide the value as expected, or starting a large initiative without having defined or clear goals. Hence, to counter this, a single person may collect the information for various impact maps by discussing with multiple stakeholders. Impact Mapping Agile can be used by the person to capture ideas, objectives, and needs of the stakeholders which can be represented back to them via the maps. This includes them to set proper goals and reframe a problem and take action as necessary.
Who Creates the Impact Mapping?
The Product Owner is the main professional who creates the impact mapping by analysing the goals of the product. After the product plan is discussed with the client, an impact map helps the PO to make a flowchart for the ease of explaining and understanding the product plan. By looking at the impact map created by the product owner, the Agile team formulates a product strategy and a product vision. Impact mapping could be thought of as a tool to make the product roadmap a better picture. Let us understand how an impact map will help us devise a product strategy and build a product vision.
How to Draw an Impact Map?
An impact map is a visual map that is framed during a discussion. There are four aspects of impact mapping which is created collaboratively by senior business and technical people. These aspects are:
- Goal: This is the core of the impact mapping which explains why the organization is doing this? This answers the main objective of the entire project.
- Actors: This is the primary branch of the map which answers the following questions-
- Who can create the desired effect for the product?
- Who can obstruct it?
- Who is the target audience, users, or consumers of the product?
- Who is going to be impacted by it?
These are the actors which would influence the outcome of the product.
- Impacts: This is the second branch of the map which aligns the actors concerning their business goals. This section answers the following questions:
- How should the behaviors of the actors change?
- How do the actors impact the project and help the organization achieve its goal?
- How can the actors prevent or obstruct the Agile team from succeeding?
- Deliverables: This is the third branch of the impact map which takes into account the first three questions and talks about the scope of the product. This answers the question of what can we as a delivery team or as an organization do, to achieve the required impacts? In this section, the software features, organizational activities, and deliverables are included.
Example of an Impact Map
Suppose you have a music information website whose main business goal is to increase its mobile advertising revenue. The key actors are the super fans with mobile devices, concert organizers, and artist agents or promoters. In this case, the important factors which contribute to the goal are Super Fans with mobile devices who are easy to influence which is listed first. If the team could achieve their target with this category, they do not deliver features to other groups. The impact the delivery team has to create is to make the users come back frequently, stay longer, and view more ads. The deliverables are also grouped under potential impacts. Push updates can bring the fans back to the website, the chats and forums increase the engagement and get fans to spend more time on the site.
Impact mapping helps the organization to put all the deliverables in a context such that the delivery team can easily support them. This helps the companies to prevent over-investing in areas that are less effective and less important in the system. Also, deliverables could be compared and the more profitable one could be implemented on a larger scale in the product. Also, deliverables that do not contribute or have any impact can be removed so that the goal setting could be achieved. Finally, when we connect the actors, the impacts, and the deliverables properly, the particular goal could be achieved and the product would grow in the market.