How to create a working Impact Map

For more than 8 years I have been using Impact Map for IT product analytics. I quite actively shared knowledge about this approach: I wrote articles, spoke at conferences with reports and master classes, told students at universities and interns at the company. Listeners and participants of master classes easily grasp how to create and use Impact Map, i.e. theory is no problem. However, I see great difficulty in applying this approach in real practice when you need to come up with and describe ideas for a complex IT product.

In this article, I will attempt to explain how ideas are formulated, which are the most difficult and most valuable part of the Impact Map, and I will also share mine inAndlearning how to most effectively perceive each part of the Impact Map.

Articles and speeches in which I collected my experience through Impact Mapping:

1. Speech at AgileDays 2015 Impact Mapping in Practice.
2. Master class at AgileDays 2016 as part of a speech The Five Most Important Components of the Product Release Process.
3. Article Impact Mapping in Practice.
4. Article Push-button thinking versus a holistic IT product.
5. Description IT product analyticswhere the first part is Impact Map.

Briefly about Impact Mapping

In his book by Gojko Adzicthe author of Impact Map, gives this diagram:

The idea is to draw a connection from the tasks (Deliverable) to the goal (Goal). As planned, the tasks have an impact (Impact) on some group (Actor) and this impact leads the business to the goal. Thus, there are no useless tasks and it is clearly visible that why we’re going to do.

In this seemingly understandable scheme, there are many nuances that cause stupor. I will give my interpretation of each part of the Impact Map and give “keys” so that you can more accurately understand what exactly needs to be entered into each of them:

  1. Goal – to be described here measurable result. The “key” will be the answer to the question that you ask yourself and the business: “Imagine that time has passed and we have already made a release. By what criteria will we understand that we have achieved success?”. A question like this helps us think about the future and think about how we are going to evaluate the result. The wording is chosen so that a person begins to reflect, and this is not the same as asking “what is your goal?”. Goals can be all sorts of different, but the final result in the future will be evaluated according to some business-critical parameters, and write them down in Goal.

  2. Actor Who are we going to influence. Usually here offer to write those who can help us or hinder us in achieving the goal. You can do that, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t focus us enough. I suggest thinking about whose life we ​​want to change with the help of impact, so that this change life led US to the goal. The trick is that we are not just going to influence, but we hope that our influence will change people’s behavior in the right direction. Such a view forces us to more accurately delineate the boundaries for Actor and we have to think carefully about Impact.

  3. Impact is the impact we are going to make. This is the most difficult part, which is given to very few people. I compare it with the creation of a hypothesis in the scientific method or the birth of an idea in TRIZ, i.e. the technique is understandable, but where the idea comes from, how it is born in the head, how to teach a person to create these ideas, is decidedly unclear. Here, the “key” may be the understanding that in this column we describe the key ideas of our product, what will ultimately bring money. If we collect all the impacts from the final map, then we should have a unique selling proposition. This part of the Impact Map will be the rest of the article, where I will use the example of a parable to describe how ideas are described.

  4. Deliverable – This is a list of tasks, everything is simple here.

Common Impact Mapping Mistakes

Impact Map usually fails for the following reasons:

  1. Goals are immeasurable or unclear. This is the case when you want to do a lot of things, but it is not clear why. The anti-pattern will be to close your eyes to the lack of a goal and throw tasks into work, as they did in the days of “flat” TK.

  2. Abstract users are described, but it is not clear how our influences will change their behavior. The anti-pattern would be to simply indicate “users”, because the connection with reality will be lost, in these “users” there is no life and real needs. This will lead to us describing ideas but not understanding how they will affect the world.

  3. Instead of ideas and hypotheses (Impact), user stories or tasks are written. This is the most common problem. I will even specifically repeat that this is a very common problem that kills the whole idea of ​​​​Impact Map! In this case, ideas are replaced by tasks, because analysts have no ideas and no hypotheses, and they write to-do lists out of habit.

The vast majority of failed Impact Maps are due to the third reason, so I’ll give an example below to help you deal with this problem.

Potter’s Impact Mapping

I took the old and famous parable of the potter. The potter will face a problem, formulate a goal and try to come up with an idea how to achieve the goal.

The Parable of the Potter and the Boys

There lived an old potter. He made pots, sold them at the market and lived on it. But then the neighbor boys got into the habit of breaking his pots. He asked them not to do this, persuaded, scolded, complained to their parents – nothing helped …

The potter had three main ideas and two groups of people he hoped to influence in order to achieve his goal. Initially, his Impact Map could look like this:

Please note that each idea has a “to” block, which reveals the practical value of the idea, shows its basis.

As we see from the parable, the potter tested all three hypotheses and did not achieve a result. Hypotheses do not always lead to the goal, this is a common thing when we create products. Therefore, the potter continued to search for ideas:

… Then he called the boys to his yard and said that for every broken pot he would pay them a ruble. The boys were delighted, they broke all the pots, got the money and ran away. The next day, the potter said that he had little money, he could only pay 50 kopecks.

The boys again broke all the pots, got their money and ran away. The next day the same thing happened again, only for each broken pot the potter paid only 20 kopecks.

The next morning, the children again ran into the yard. The old man came out to them and said: “I have almost no money left, guys, because I had nothing to sell. Now I can only pay one penny for every broken pot.” “Found fools free to beat your pots!” – the boys were indignant. They didn’t break any more pots.

This is a very important point! I ask you not to look further, but to independently formulate the idea that helped the potter achieve the result. Be sure to include the “to” part. Describe the idea in such a way that it is completely and completely understandable to anyone who reads it, i.e. leave no hidden meanings. To the idea, write down a set of tasks that are needed to implement it.




One more paragraph while you think about the wording. I suggest you gather your colleagues and try to formulate an idea together. Try to write down several options. If you manage to write down the idea briefly and clearly, then you can consider that you are ready to make an Impact Map of an IT product of almost any complexity.




I hope that by this point you have formulated at least one version of the idea that helped the potter. Below I will give my version, which seems to me good enough:

When the potter got frustrated with talk and threats (the first two hypotheses didn’t work), he had to look for an idea that would actually work on the boys. He realized that smashing pots was fun and fun for them, so he set his sights on the core of their motivation. He turned a fun hobby into a job, then stopped paying for it.

My wording of the idea is: “Turn a boy’s hobby into a job, and then stop paying for it to kill their motivation.” It describes what the potter wants to do and what his hope is based on in achieving the result. He hopes to greatly reduce the boys’ motivation to hit his pots. He seems to be an excellent psychologist!

I would be interested to see your options, write for discussion in the comments.

Why is it so difficult to formulate an idea?

When creating an IT product, we also need to understand the internal structure of user motivation in order to influence key points. We need to understand the relationships within our system, in external systems, and how they intersect. In fact, when formulating ideas or hypotheses, we work like professional engineers who, out of the whole variety of options for action, are able to choose the most effective impact, based on the limitations and principles of the system.

From practice, I see that the formulation of ideas is very difficult. Why it happens? An analogy with solving direct and indirect problems comes to mind. It turns out that preschoolers can quite easily solve direct problems like: There were 3 birds on the branch, 6 more birds flew in. How many birds are on the branch? Children answer 9. If the same task with the same numbers is made indirect, i.e. problem-oriented, then children are lost: 3 birds flew off the branch, 6 birds remained. How many birds were originally on the branch? In the second task, you need to look at the situation backwards, as it were. Adults also have a problem with describing ideas: they are good at writing direct tasks (Deliverable), but they have a hard time with indirect / problematic scenarios (Impact).

I recommend training in describing ideas in simple life scenarios and in everyday life. This helps a lot in a real Impact Map session when you need to formulate the idea of ​​​​achieving a goal in a complex IT product.


I hope my thoughts and “keys” will help you to use Impact Map. I welcome your questions and stories about what else helps you create an Impact Map in your daily practice.

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