Impact Mapping

Product Planning

What is Impact Mapping?

Impact mapping is a graphic strategy plan that aligns initiatives and delivery activities with overall organizational goals. Gojko Adzic introduced impact mapping with the publication of his book, Impact Mapping, in 2012. Adzic explores the idea that products often die a slow death due to inaccurate assumptions, lack of focus, poor communication and misalignment of overall goals. With this in mind, he created a simple and effective method for teams to collaborate on strategic planning with the goal of making an impact on a product.

Structuring an Impact Map

Collaborations are often ineffective due to unshared, unexamined and unproven assumptions. Structuring an impact map helps to bring clarity to each areas of discipline helping to solve the main problem of unproven assumptions. Impact maps visually layout the Why, Who, How and What of the areas that we are confronting and attempting to solve.

Why = Goals – In short, the goal question asks the group, “Why” are we doing this? Is it to reach 10k in web traffic a month? Is it to see 1M in software sales? The answer to this question will affect the rest of the exercise, so spend a lot of time making sure everyone on the team is clear and in agreement on the overall goal.

Who = Actors – The actors refer to the user of the product that is being developed, as well as who will be developing the product, who may obstruct the product and who can create an impact like sales and marketing. The “who” explores all of the people that will touch the product from every aspect. It’s important to be detailed about every person/actor that may play a role in the success or failure of the product.

How = Impact – Once you’ve identified the actors that will play a role in the success of your product, you can now determine “how” you would like them to help you achieve the goal with specific actions or tasks. 

What = Deliverables – Last but not least, now you can determine what features will tangibly have an impact on the product. A good example would be to create a blog post about the new product on a well-trafficked site.

This exercise is meant to be visual and can be done with a grid on a whiteboard or with post-it notes. The key is to have everyone on the team contribute. Impact mapping is intended to incorporate multiple viewpoints and opinions, this is not a solo exercise.

Creating the Impact Mapping Goal

Impact mapping is goal-oriented creating a path that takes you from the primary goal to building specific features. For this reason, it’s advantageous for the goal be a SMART goal. 

  • Specific – Is the goal specific?
  • Measurable – is the goal measurable?
  • Action-oriented – is the goal action-oriented?
  • Realistic – Is the goal realistic?
  • Timely – Is the goal timely?

If you can say that the goal meets all of the above criteria then you’re on the right track. If any of the criteria does not match, you may want to rethink the goal. 

In Summary

An impact map is designed to assist in first proving assumptions and later validating them. The exercise of working through an impact map creates explicit context for making decisions and exposes uncertainty, creating clarity for the whole team as to what their overall goal is as well as their role is in achieving it. Impact Mapping prevents a solution-driven approach that can stray away from the original goal.

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