Production Pancakes – Effective Impact Mapping

A tool for plotting personas, outcomes and business impacts to help your product deliver value to your customers.

Today I’m hoping to share a useful tool, and even share an impact map I made for a project on the JET Programme. One can use impact maps for software products or physical products, I made the map below for a seminar I was planning.

Definition

Traditionally, impact maps are made up of the goal, actors, impacts and deliverables (source: impactmapping.org). I personally break it down a little differently, and I bring in outcomes (for the customers, that’s who we make products for!!).

Goal

This bit is pretty important. What do we want to achieve? Or better yet, why are we doing this? It’s also good to have something measurable such as “increase DaU by x%” if possible. In my map, we settled on two goals, as the seminar we were planning included mandatory government lectures, in addition to our own workshops, talks and events.

Personas

These are the people who will affect the outcome of this goal. Typically not specific people, but certain archetypes who’ll use your product.

Outcomes

Kurt Bittner sums it up perfectly by saying that the outcome is what the “actor” is looking to achieve.

Business Impacts

Bittner also goes on to say that the “impact” is what we would like to achieve.

PBIs

Product Backlog Item is a scrum term which simply refers to tasks/bugs/stories that are important to your product. Using the impact map should help to organise this list into an order of “most important/valuable” first.

Here’s a simple map I made in Google Sheets in a few minutes; you don’t need fancy software to make these things!

The above table should serve as an example, however you can find many other (prettier) examples by searching online. Despite part of our product being mandated by local law, and therefore unchangeable, we were able to come up with PBIs to improve the “user” experience. In our case, we made sure that attendees knew why they had to attend mandatory lectures. Impact maps should also serve to elucidate the sort of customers using your product, and how we can achieve our goal by serving them.

Measurements

One final point you should consider, is how you will take measurements to ensure the outcomes are achieved. For planning a seminar, we came across the difficulty of being unable to measure things like an attendee’s total knowledge gained, and whether that knowledge is valuable in their job. So how can we be sure that we can deliver the outcomes to the attendees? In a perfect world, you’ll be able to have clean outcomes that are measurable (and therefore reap the benefits of using an empirical method). Ultimately, we should be making the best decisions with the information available, and be flexible enough to respond to changes.

Summary

Used well, impact mapping can assist those on the frontlines to understand the customer and the organisation to link the team’s work to the outcomes. Even in small teams/organisations, it can be a great way to visualise value and the work needed to get there, and understand who will care about that value. I hope that you can use this blog as a jumping-off point to realise the value of this tool.

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