One of the biggest problems I have faced as a Business Analyst is how to make sure we only add features in our software (or website) that add value. This ‘adding value’ element is quite a buzz word in recent years. However, a lot of the times I did find myself writing requirements for one of below:
- features that were in our backlog for a long time and suddenly came up. By that time we had forgotten why we want to add them and we just ended up adding them anyway
- features that a senior person in my team requested
- features that were visual and design-pretty but did not really solve a problem our users had
At the same time our department had its own strategic goals that I struggled to connect with an individual project I would be working on. For example our department’s goal might have been ‘getting more users’. At the same quarter, I would be working on a project to ‘improve latency on our internal systems’.
Finally, I had a hard time making sure that any new members in our dev team came quickly onboard with the bigger picture and what the project is about and not focus on specific deliverables.
I discovered impact maps by chance (a Project Manager in my old company went to a meet-up and someone showed him an example) so I was excited and ordered the book from Amazon straight away.
It is a quick read with clear instructions and a lot of images so I finished it quite quickly.
Here is how an impact map looks like:
Here is some information to get you started.
In order to fill in the map you answer these questions in order:
- Start with your goal: What do you want to achieve?
i.e. in my old company’s case our goal would be ‘Increase our daily users’
- Identify your actors: Who is going to be impacted in order to achieve the goal above? Or Who do you need in order to achieve this goal?
i.e. our actors would be ‘existing website users’, ‘partners where we syndicate our content’, ‘e-mail subscribers’
- Move on to impacts: How should your actors’ behaviour change?
i.e. for our existing website users we want them to: a. come back more often b. refer us to more of their friends
- Then come to deliverables: what do we need in order to influence those impacts.
i.e. in order to have our users refer us to their friends, we might introduce a £10 discount
If you are familiar with user stories, each deliverable can become your epic and you can link your stories to it. What I found most useful was adding our success metrics tied to each deliverable i.e. increase referals by 10% as an extra shape in the map.
What tool I used to develop it:
I used Mind Mup which I liked because you can connect it to your Google Drive and quickly open an impact map from there
This could also work in Powerpoint or any other diagramming tool like Lucidchart
What I found useful:
- Visual and clear: as with most diagrams, you can follow this without too much of an intro. I stored this on Confluence and spent a few minutes going over it when we introduced the project to different people in our company to get their buy-in or new team members
- Helps to connect strategic goals to individual deliverables: it reduced instances where we add a feature but we don’t really understand why
- Helps to focus on our key success metrics as opposed to tracking everything we can 🙂
What I found challenging:
- Even though there is a suggestion to add your user stories in this map, I found it made the map difficult to read. Especially, because we may split our deliverable in many user stories. Also it made the map hard to maintain.
Have you used impact maps? What did you think of them?
PS. Here is my review of another strategic planning technique: Business Model Canvas