How to get the most out of impact mapping

im-contexts Ingrid Domingues, Johan Berndtsson and I met up in July this year to compare the various approaches to Impact Mapping and community feedback and investigate how to get the most out of this method in different contexts. The conclusion was that there are two key factors to consider for software delivery using impact maps, and recognising the right context is crucial to get the most out of the method. The two important dimensions are the consequences of being wrong (making the the wrong product management decisions) and the ability to make investments.

These two factors create four different contexts, and choosing the right approach is crucial in order to get the most out of the method:

  • Good ability to make investments, and small consequences of being wrong – Iterate: Organisations will benefit from taking some initial time defining the desired impact, and then exploring different solutions with small and directed impact maps that help design and evaluate deliverables against desired outcome.
  • Poor ability to decide on investments, small consequences of being wrong – Align: Organisations will benefit from detailing the user needs analysis in order to make more directed decisions, and to drive prioritisation for longer pieces of work. Usually only parts of maps end up being delivered.
  • Good ability to make investments, serious consequences of being wrong – Experiment: Organisations can explore different product options and user needs in multiple impact maps.
  • Poor ability to make investments, serious consequences of being wrong – Discover: The initial hypothesis impact map is detailed by user studies and user testing that converge towards the desired impact.

We wrote an article about this. You can read it on InfoQ.

Fifty Quick Ideas To Improve Your User Stories – Now Available

web 750x750 gradient-01 The final version of my latest book, Fifty Quick Ideas To Improve Your User Stories, is now available on the Kindle store, and the print version will be available on Amazon soon.

This book will help you write better stories, spot and fix common issues, split stories so that they are smaller but still valuable, and deal with difficult stuff like crosscutting concerns, long-term effects and non-functional requirements. Above all, this book will help you achieve the promise of agile and iterative delivery: to ensure that the right stuff gets delivered through productive discussions between delivery team members and business stakeholders.

For the next seven days, the book will be sold on the Kindle store at half the normal price. To grab it at that huge discount, head over to the Kindle store (the price will double on 22nd October). Here are the quick links: Amazon.com UK DE FR ES IT JP CN BR CA MX AU IN

Zone of control vs Sphere of influence

In The Logical Thinking Process, H. William Dettmer talks about three different areas of systems:

  • The Zone of control (or span of control) includes all those things in a system that we can change on our own.
  • The Sphere of influence includes activities that we can impact to some degree, but can’t exercise full control over.
  • The External environment includes the elements over which we have no influence.

These three system areas, and the boundaries between them, provide a very useful perspective on what a delivery team can hope to achieve with user stories. Evaluating which system area a user story falls into is an excellent way to quickly spot ideas that require significant refinement. Continue reading

Forget the walking skeleton – put it on crutches

TL;DR version: Modern technology and delivery approaches, in particular the push towards continuous delivery, enable us take the walking skeleton technique much further. By building up the UI first and delivering the back-end using continuous delivery, without interrupting or surprising users, we can cut the time to initial value delivery and validation by an order of magnitude! Continue reading