In this episode, Gojko Adzic speaks with us about how to deliver solutions that the business truly needs to achieve their goals and avoid creating shelfware.  He’ll also introduce us to a tool that he uses called Impact Mapping.

Gojko Adzic is a software delivery consultant who works with organizations to improve the quality of their software products and processes. Gojko is also an award winning author and wrote several books including Fifty Quick Ideas to Improve your User Stories, Impact Mapping, Specification by Example, and Bridging the Communication Gap.


After listening to this episode, you will understand:

  • How to focus on creating an impact for your organization instead of just creating software
  • How to use impact mapping
  • The different applications for impact maps (there are more than I thought)
  • What to do when you receive a requirement that’s actually a solution

Show Notes

Business representatives like to propose solutions without having the technical expertise and software development teams propose solutions often without fully understanding the business need. Sometimes Business Analysts introduce a third solution. The answer is for Product Owners and Business Analysts to become influential in building a bridge between the business users and technology teams to make sure we build the right solution. However, we must first understand the problem we are trying to solve. What is the business need and goal?

Focus on creating impacts and not software. These are impact in terms of the way people work, the way people interact with our business, and the way people live.

Jeff Patton made a statement recently that most people in the software field think their job is to deliver software, but it’s not. Their job is to change the world. Focus on outcomes, not outputs.

Try to figure out what the change in the world outside us is that we’re trying make happen with our software and then build a plan to shape that instead of just building software.


Impact Mapping

An Impact Map is a visualization of the business goals, the impacts on customers that we want to create to achieve the business goals, and potential scope to deliver the business goal. The format is similar with a mind map.

Impact Mapping helps start creating several levels of value where lower level outcomes get connected to higher level outcomes. By creating a visual tying the outcomes and levels of value together, it can help us choose the right path to have the most meaningful impact to the organization.

Impact Mapping helps create a roadmap to ensure the team is aligned and heading in the right direction to achieve the organization’s goal. But that’s just the beginning. Some organizations have found different uses for Impact Mapping.

To explore the uses for impact mapping, think of a two-by-two matrix where one axis is ability to decide on investments and the other is the risk of making a wrong product management decision.

  1. Where the ability to make investment decisions is high and the risk of making wrong decisions is low (perhaps because we can test and adjust), people most often use Impact Mapping as living roadmaps.
  2. In cases such as banks and insurance companies where there are many stakeholders and many want different things, the risk of making the wrong product management decision is low because the markets are relatively stable, people use impact maps to outline the options and get stakeholders to visualize what they want and make good decisions.
  3. The risk of a wrong product decision is high, such as companies that build physical products, medical devices, or innovative products, they use impact mapping to generate a conversation on discovering a product.
  4. There’s a lot of money of the table and it’s easy to make decisions, but the risk of making a product decision is huge. These organizations use impact mapping to define where they want to do customer research to discover the right product and possibly create multiple products at the same time.


How to Create an Impact Map

To create an impact map, you most often start with the business goal (why are we doing this). The next level is customers or actors. On the third level, you connect the changes or the impacts on those customer segments that could potentially lead to achieving the business goal. The fourth level is typically the software solutions (epic level user stories or high level use cases).

The other option is to start with the deliverables and work your way backwards. This is sometimes useful for organizations with large backlogs to help them make connections and prioritize.


When do we use impact maps?
On a new initiative in which the business goal is well defined, we would start an impact map at the beginning of the effort and review/revise it at the end of each milestone. This allows for the team to focus and ensure you continue to work on the right thing. This creates a flexible, living roadmap. It also allows us to have a good conversation and reporting approach tied to delivering impacts and not just delivering software. We can start changing the reporting structure for software delivery – not hours or story points (activity), but behaviors that lead to impacts. That allows us to report on value achieved.

Impact mapping can be applied to agile environments, traditional (waterfall) approaches, in non-software development organizations, or even in organizational restructuring.


Advantages of Impact Mapping
Impact mapping is a conversation technique. It helps remind people of important questions to discuss. The biggest advantage is that it’s visual, it’s collaborative, and it’s fast.


In Summary
As BAs, we are champions for the business. We’re guardians to make sure we drive positive, impactful change.
Impact mapping can help guard against scope creep, help the team to focus on delivering the change with the most impact, and create small feedback loops to make sure you’re on the right track. It has uses beyond software development to help you achieve your desired outcomes.


Gojko’s Tip
Whenever you receive a requirement that is actually a solution, inquire about the behavior change that the solution is going to create. If we have a behavior change that allows us to monitor progress in a meaningful way, we will get more rapid feedback. Additionally, this helps guard against scope creep and makes sure we are aligning to organizational goals.


What’s Your Take?
Have you used impact maps, mind maps, or a similar tool?  If so, what was the outcome?

Links mentioned in this episode

Thank you for listening to the program

To get more valuable content to enhance your skills and advance your career, you can subscribe on iTunes.

Also, reviews on iTunes are highly appreciated! I read each review and it helps keep me motivated to continue to bring you valuable content each week.