Impact Mapping in practice: Part 2

Александр Бындю
Александр Бындю · 19 октября 2015
IT-архитектор · Эксперт в Agile и Lean · Основатель компании Byndyusoft

In the first part we discussed the basics of Impact Mapping. Now let’s look at a real life project and consider key ideas, tips and tricks, and missteps in Impact Mapping.

1 Why?

Our map starts with business objectives. In a past project, one of the objectives was to increase client satisfaction by 2. It is important to realize that Client Satisfaction is not a subjective opinion but an index number from CRM.

We are not focused on an opinion, as it can’t be measured. However, we need a measurable result because in the end we will have to demonstrate the result in numbers which indicates the success of the project for the client. Good objectives must be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.

Step “Why?” is the hardest as it sets the pace for the whole map. Correctly organized objectives lead to trustworthy relations.


  1. Let the client speak first. One can know this simple rule: listen and try to hear, but hardly ever follow it. I have seen hundreds of times how a team interrupted a client giving him ready solutions whereas the client had no chance to share his problems.
  2. Don’t be in a hurry. Technical specialists have quick and witty brains. While a client is discussing his business goal, the technical specialists are thinking about a database structure, an architecture, and other low-technical details. At this moment the team have the wrong idea: “Why listen to the client if have answers for all the questions?” This leads problems and obstacles in achieving goals. It reminds me of a joke: John just said ‘Hello’ to Mary and she got married to him and had 3 kids in her thoughts.
  3. If you don’t listen carefully to what a client needs, the Impact Map will contain your thoughts and ideas but not the client’s. This Map will have no business value.
  4. Frankly speaking, sometimes business goals are hard to measure. For instance, half a year ago I was on a project whose main purpose was To be attractive to a CEO. But you can measure CEO mood. Try to turn any abstract notion into a measurable objective. I can give practical advice: Imagine that you have done this project already, how would you show that all business goal have been achieved? It’s impossible to show if the business goals are not measurable.
  5. Impact Mapping is usually built iteratively. Don’t worry if you can’t finish it on the spot. You will come back to a Map and update it at least 2–4 times during the project.
  6. Unfortunately not every business has a particular goal. Sometimes a client just wants to spend money. In this case don’t invent artificial objectives, just take the task list develop it.

In 2014 I held a master class on how to make Impact Mapping. One of the participants was a client and the others were development team. The ‘client’ asked to create an Impact Map based on his real project. While he was trying to explain the project needs, the development team frequently interrupted him and we realized how hard it is just to listen. Moreover, sometimes the pressure on the ‘client’ was so heavy that he even couldn’t speak. In this master class we learned that it is important to train your listening skills for effective Impact Mapping.

2 Who?

At this stage we reveal those who will make an impact on goals or hinder them. On our project the actors are Marketing Department and Forum Moderator who, due to client opinion, can increase Client Satisfaction:


  1. Actors are not always peers. You can define a particular person, department, market segment or even a country. Choose any level of abstraction you like if it is relevant to your project.

3 How?

Here we create a list of business ideas and assumptions aka “impacts” which will help actors to make impacts on objectives. For instance, Forum Moderator can try to respond within 1 minute. We think it can increase Client Satisfaction, so we add it on the map. The same should be done for the other ideas:


  1. Not obligatory but preferable — these impacts should be SMART. In this case we could choose just Respond on the forum but we prefer Respond within one minute because it is more specific.
  2. Don’t define all possible and impossible business ideas and assumption for every actor. Focus on ideas which can make an impact on the project objectives.

4 What?

Here it is a list of tasks and features, the basket in the supermarket a client comes with to us with in the beginning. Now the difference is that we realize the value of every feature, why we should do it and what impact it makes.


  1. In the last branches you put User Stories, tasks, features and so on.
  2. Full User Story list should be done on User Story Mapping whereas on Impact Mapping you can place only main features and tasks.
  3. Here you can suggest process or organization tasks, not only IT ones.
  4. Each task is mapped on objectives so when a programmer is working on a task he is trying to achieve a goal not just “to create a red button”.


Don’t try to fulfill all tasks at the same time. An essential part of Impact Mapping is prioritization. I recommend using “stars” to define the most efficient path from a task to a goal.


Make sure the team takes the Impact Map into account during the work process. Place your map on the wall in the office so the team and stakeholders can access it easily. If your team is distant, it is reasonable to share the last version of the Impact Map with everyone.

Pet features

Some clients wish to implement a feature that they desire with no reason. On the one hand you cannot place it on the map because this feature is not linked to any of the goals, on the other hand, you cannot put it aside as a client wants it and is ready to pay. We call this feature — Pet Feature.

An Impact Map is a good pet feature filter. Just ask a client where a new feature should be applied. If the client says there is no such place on the map then explain that this is a pet feature and it doesn’t impact on any project goals. Usually the client will decline the feature.

An Impact Map is a good filter for team ideas as well. For example, if a development team suggests to refactor some modules, they have to give reasons why these code changes will lead to a positive impact on project goals.

Kanban board modernization

What column is the last on your Kanban board? I’ll bet that it’s Release, Deploy, Done or something like that. As we start with measurable goals, it is possible to measure our achievements at the end. So the last column on the board should sound something like: Measure the result.


We’ve seen how to create an Impact Map from the example of a project from my experience. We paid attention to collaboration with the client, tips&tricks, prioritization and other essential Impact Mapping processes.

In the next part I’ll share a presentation from an Agile conference where I gave a public report and a master class on Impact Mapping. I’ll also give answers to popular questions about Impact Mapping.