Impact Mapping: Making a big impact with software products and projects

Impact Mapping is a collaborative technique created by Gojko Adzic to visualize connections and make decisions based on the business objectives, participants and the impacts that they want to generate in their behavior through tangible deliverables.

This technique tries in the first place to discover the objectives of the business and the necessary metrics to measure the fulfillment of these objectives in time. With the Impact Maps, we are changing from an operational approach to a strategic approach in order to achieve better results.


Delivering quality software is not enough. It is not about delivering quick results, but having the ability to change direction quickly when you realize you’re on the wrong path as well. It is like a GPS that recalculates the route when another alternative is chosen, or the street is mistaken, as someone approaches its destination. With the Impact Mapping, we ensure that the correct product is built and that we deliver projects that make an impact, not just ship software. Deliverables are aligned with business objectives. It's like taking a backlog to another level by aligning it to measurable and quantifiable objectives.

Let's see in detail what is impact mapping and what is the structure of an Impact Map:


Objective -  Why?

The focus is on identifying the objectives and then ask "why". If you want to clarify them it is even better to ask "for what". This one is a term that opens even more possibilities.

"For what" implies understanding the objectives so later you can identify the fastest way to meet them independently from the field of software so they are not necessarily related to the construction of products or the delivery of functionality.

It is presented as a problem to solve. It is specific, and it is expressed in positive and clear terms, it is measurable and it will answer the question: How we will know that it was achieved? As a result, will it generate savings, profit or protect capital? (here is the relevance of "for what").

Actors - Who?

The ones that influence the success of the project. Who can produce/obstruct the desired effect? They may be end users, internal staff, decision makers, investors, stakeholders, etc. Identify primary and secondary actors and be specific with their definition. By mapping out different actors, we can prioritize work better.


Impacts -  How?

Place the actors in the perspective of the objectives. How should the behavior of the actors change? How could they help us achieve the goals? Or, how could they obstruct from meeting the objectives?

Prioritization: What impacts help to understand the risks better? Don’t try to list everything an actor wants to achieve, but what is aligned with the objectives.


Deliverables - What?

This is the least important level of an impact map and here deliverables are mapped to business objectives through the impacts and actors. What can we do as an organization or a delivery team, to support the required impacts?

The Impact Maps incorporate the definition of actionable metrics and milestones associated with the objectives where they are continuously monitored. The visual nature of the Impact Maps allows decisions to be made in a collaborative way, generating learning among the decision makers and members of the development team, capitalizing on the collective intelligence of the group.

With the Impact Maps, we create dynamic plans, a "roadmap" of the product that evolves. It seeks the shortest path to meet business objectives. And if the objective is achieved, you do not need to invest in other branches, therefore not always the entire Impact Map is covered. 

By limiting the number of impacts and objectives in which you work at the same time you avoid bottlenecks and waste. The fact of planning how to measure the objectives opens the doors to generate conversations about the viability of the impacts and the priorities.

It avoids working on deliverables that do not generate impacts and concentrates the effort towards the shortest path to success creating the maximum impact with the minimum amount of software.

on November 6, 2018