A day in a Business Analyst’s life: Developing an impact map for your project

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:

 

impact map

Source: https://www.impactmapping.org/drawing.html

Here is some information to get you started.

In order to fill in the map you answer these questions in order:

  1. 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’
  2. 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’
  3. 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
  4. 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

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A day in a Business Analyst’s life: Business Model Canvas

New job, new year and new resolutions 🙂

As part of that I was looking for new ways to enhance my analysis techniques. One of the Senior BAs in my company suggested the Business Model Canvas as a way to communicate with our stakeholders.

If you are interested in finding out more, there is plenty of information along with a template and lots of easy to follow videos over at Strategyzer’s .

Here is how it looks like:

businessmodelcanvas

And here are some questions to get you started:

Business-Model-Canvas questions

Basically, it is a working document that is quite visual and you can use during your workshops and interviews to understand the problem and the project/company/product (the beauty of this is that it can work at any level) and communicate at a glance in a visual and engaging way.

As the senior BA in my company kept stretching – this is looking at strategic level and you should not expect that this forms part of any requirements document (my background is more of a delivery/technical BA and so as a result I am always looking things at a low detailed level!)

What I found useful:

  • Visual and interactive: Stakeholders were instantly interested
  • Clear and straightforward: Everyone could understand it easily
  • User-testing: this proved to be very useful in user testing in selecting different user profiles and making sure we have not left any customer segment out of our user testing
  • Channels category: very useful as it made sure we are looking at an end-to-end service and did not omit any touchpoints with customers

What I found challenging:

  • Difficult to quantify: it is not very clear how to read the most important or largest entry in any of those columns – even though we tried visual tricks i.e. using bigger fonts for largest groups of customers
  • There is no priority in the entries
  • Partners and customers: depending on your company and industry, these two categories can be hard to separate and entries may be inter-changeable
  • It is hard to understand at a glance if this depicts your as-is or your to-be (especially in categories such as channels and activities)

Have you used Business Model Canvas? What did you think of it?

Weekend Breaks From London: Iceland

Iceland has been on top of my bucket list for years. And not just for the Northern Lights – a couple of years ago Rebecca from The Clothes Horse visited the blue lagoon and that got me properly hooked.

Flights and Hotels

Last year flight tickets were super expensive so this year I pro-actively booked them back in September for £90 return trip with easyjet. I also used their website to book our apartment as well – and that came to another £100 per person for three nights.

By the way, I really love staying in apartments during my vacation no matter how short it is. Just having a kitchen and a couch – even if you don’t plan to cook because you want to go out and try the local cuisine – it is still awesome as you can enjoy a glass of wine in the evening. My favourite websites are Airbnb and Booking for international destinations and Homeaway for UK ones. Do you prefer another one? Please let me know in the comments as I am always on the lookout for one!

Back to the subject now – we stayed in the heart of Reykjavik which was handy as we could walk around in the evening and sample local restaurants and bars.

Car vs Tours in a van

I planned all our tours in advance – scheduled our northern lights tour during the first night (it got cancelled due to cloudy weather) as it can be so easily postponed, you need to allow as many nights as possible. With regards to tour operators, I completely trusted Tripadvisor and I can say I haven’t regretted it.

PS) I chose operators that only use mini-vans. I found that to be a good idea as they were more flexible and could make frequent stops

The alternative is to rent a car as all the Icelandic sights belong to nature and you do not need to pay any extra fees. Still it was snowing when we went so we thought that a mini van and a tour would be a more relaxing option.

Verdict

So I would suggest a car if you travel between May and October and a paid tour after that.

What to do

If you plan to stay around 3 days as we did (a long weekend) I recommend the Golden Circle tour which will take up the first day (about 8-9 hours) and will tour you around waterfalls, geysers and the tectonic plates that separate America from Europe. Our guide also stopped along the way for us to see some Icelandic horses.

Northern Lights is another must-do excursion if you visit Iceland between November and March. Apparently, northern lights can also be seen during the summer, with or without moon and the most important factor is the clear sky (NO DAMN CLOUDS!) but it is really a bit of luck you need as well in this equation.

I also recommend spending at least a few hours in Reykjavik to try out some spots for breakfast and lunch, see that impressive church and walk to the harbor. From what we were told, whale-watching is more probable over the summer so we did not give that a try but I would definitely try it on my second visit. There is also an excellent free walking tour which shamefully did not try as we had very few hours to spend.

And finally… Blue Lagoon aka paradise. And the bar in the middle of it is another highlight 🙂

What to wear

I contemplated between buying a new heavy jacket from a hiking clothes brand OR spend a couple of quid in Dekathlon for thermal underwear – I chose the second option and I think I was OK despite the heavy wind and snow.

I ended up with many layers and a fleece between my clothes and my jacket and I think that was sufficient. As one of our guides said during our Northern Lights tour “everyone remembers seeing the northern lights for the rest of their lives – but everyone forgets the cold quickly so get out there” 🙂

For restaurants we visited and food we ate, check out my sketchnote below:

Iceland

WEEKEND BREAKS FROM LONDON: PORTO

Last month I visited Porto in Portugal. Porto is excellent weekend destination – flying out with TAP, we spent two days port wine-tasting, sight-seeing and eating amazing fish.

For the rest of information, check out my sketchnote:

Porto_sketchnote

[Live Sketchnoting] Build the Right Product

One evening last week, I was invited by Fajer to sketchnote their event on building the right product.  London’s Lean Startup Circle is a forum to meet other “startupers” and learn, learn, learn. Lots of useful tips and resources were exchanged during the event which was organised at Google Campus. Some of the key notes you can find in my sketchnote below.

One thing that resonated with me is the importance of testing your assumptions before you go ahead and spend a massive amount to implement them. And use some of the resources available online (most of them for free) to do that.

Meet people, discuss, debate and up-skill!

 

leanstartupcircle

 

Inspired by that I started a Javascript course in CodeAcademy which in case you do not about is a free online learning academy with lots of interactive examples.

Thanks very much for having me and for giving the opportunity to find more things about starting your own thing!

Live Sketchnoting: An evening with Lightning talks and Salesforce

This is the second ‘Women Who Code‘ event I attend. One superficial reason I love these events is because I get to enter cool offices in London (which compared to my own window-less office space is like oasis!). In the past I have had the chance to attend events in Guardian’s HQ, Mozilla, Twitter and many more.

Two nights ago I was lucky enough to see where the Stack Overflow guys work. If you have ever coded in your life (school level, university level or at work) you must have come across this community. Most of the times I find a helpful answer going through their archives. Some times they feel like a code – God haha – who has all the answers! So it was good to realise that they actually exist!

Event was sponsored by Salesforce. And it was lovely to realise that they employ so many girls. My company often holds salesforce trainings so after this event it might be something I pursue as well!

For more information on what we talked about, check out my sketchnote below.

In other news, I was happy to discovery a few more twitter accounts to follow of interesting people in tech. I have included as many twitter handles as I could get so you can check them out as well!

womenwhocode salesforce

womenwhocode salesforce

Super Women in Tech London

This was a powerful, engaging event I attended the other week at Twitter HQ and forgot to post about!

Organised by Twitter and part of their Flock series – a room full of women.

Lots of interesting questions, suggestions and mentoring on the fly!

super women in tech

super women in tech