Impact Mapping was created by Gojko Adzic, and is based on interaction design, outcome driven planning and mind mapping. It is a technique and a graphic planning strategy method that helps teams to easily create a link between business goals, users and user stories. Impact mapping prevents Agile teams from getting overwhelmed and going off track while building products and delivering projects. It makes the difference of delivering business value instead of just delivering from a list of features. Prioritization is set to business objectives instead of hundreds of user stories in a backlog. 

Why use impact mapping?

Impact mapping is about putting emphasis on the features that will make the most significant impact on your goals. It makes you ask the right questions in order to determine what the development team needs to deliver to succeed with the business goals. Impact mapping helps the team to identify those options that do not contribute to the goal to the same extent as others or that require too much effort in relation to the effect they want to achieve. 

The process of Impact mapping is visual and collaborative and a major benefit is also the conversation during the impact mapping itself. The workshop helps the participants to get a unified picture of what they want to achieve and why they want to achieve it.

What does an Impact Map consist of?

An impact map consists of Goals, Actors, Impacts, Deliverables, and can further be expanded to User stories for each deliverable. 

Goals

The goal is the key element of an impact map and answers the question “Why are we doing this?”. It describes the organizational goal you want to achieve. This can be anything your organization wants to achieve, such as increasing e-commerce sales, getting more blog traffic, or getting more students enrolled in your college. Gojko recommends using the acronym “SMART”: “Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Timely” when defining the Why. 

For this example, we can use our company, Flexiana. We are developing CicadaBank, a self-hosted cryptocurrency wallet for individuals and companies, facilitating people and businesses to take control of their finances and be their own bank. 

If we fast forward 6 months we’ve got a product that has been launched. Now let’s pretend we are seeing a drop-off in the sign-up and onboarding process. We’ve done our calculations and our goal is to Decrease onboarding drop-off by 20 percent before 2023. Our goal is now specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic and timely. 

Actors

Who will help us achieve our goal? Who are the users or actors involved? This first  branch of the map should be able to answer these questions. But in this branch is also where you place the actors who you think can obstruct or prevent you from reaching this goal. It’s easy to think about actors as customers or competition, but remember that there’s no need to limit yourself here and you can include anyone, even employees.

In our example of CicadaBank, this could be anything from New users (these can further be defined based on their tech-savviness, demographics or other data), Design team, Marketing team or Customer service. 

Impacts

If the first step is “Why” and second is “Who” then the third step, impact, should describe “How”. This is the second branch of the impact mapping process and it’s where you set the actors to the perspective of the business goal. How are you going to achieve your goal with these actors? How should their behavior change in order for you to reach your goal? Or how can they prevent us from doing so?

In the example CicadaBank, one of the main Impacts would be that we want the new users to complete the sign-up to the product. We are looking to make an impact on their behavior. 

Deliverables

The final step of impact mapping is about identifying the features that actors will be using to achieve the desired goals and what your team can do to help them. It’s about setting the scope of deliverables and what the organization or delivery team can do to support the required impacts. 

In the example of CicadaBank, deliverables can include actions like designing Progress bars, developing One click sign-up, and including a Live chat, in order to facilitate user sign-up and decrease drop-off.

You can further expand the map by adding your User Stories to every deliverable. User stories are short and informal descriptions of your feature, written from the perspective of the end user.  

Impact mapping helps in Agile teams

What is great about Impact Mapping is the fact that it bridges the gap between business goals and the features of the product, and shows what impacts your deliverable can make. The Impact Map helps avoiding repeated sprints and delivering outputs that are no longer important when working in an Agile organization. Everybody want’s to complete the backlog but it is vital to keep it aligned to the business goals. If a feature does not relate to an impact in the impact mapping process, you should ask yourselves if it makes sense to include this feature. 

Less is more may be a cliché, but as important as it is doing things the right way, it’s just as important doing the right things.

Ado is a marketer at Flexiana. He is a multilingual with passion for digital and has worked for global corporations as well as run his own impact start-up. When he is not connected you’ll likely find him hiking in the mountains or swimming in the mediterranean sea.