How to engage software teams to deliver really great things for you? How to make sure the software team is solving your business goals without being led by the hand? How to avoid distractions, align focus, and optimize efforts? One of the answers to these question is Impact Mapping – a visual strategic planning technique that helps teams align their activities with overall business objectives and make better decisions.
Features, features, more features!
If you are a product owner or represent a client or investor you’ve probably put significant effort to define (or at least got familiar with) the product concept. What you need then, is a software team that will deliver a software product. And typically, you need it fast. Features, features, and more features – that’s what you need.
Engage the team
If you need a highly efficient software team for more than 2 weeks (or a sprint) it is extremely important to engage the team from day one. How to do that? Before showing the list of features (product backlog) to the team, present the big picture. Presenting the big picture will put the software team on a mission of providing the right solution, instead of being commissioned to deliver certain tasks.
What is the big picture?
It is business goals, actors, and impacts those actors could make to achieve goals. In other workds it is an explanation what business problems are we attempting to solve, who (in the real world) is involved, how these people act to achieve goals, and what can be done to help these people achieve goals more efficiently by using software.
But it’s a waist of time!
It might seem that presenting the big picture is a step back, not a step forward. The big picture might seem a domain of the product owner or analyst – not of the software delivery team. It might seem the software team’s responsibility starts and ends with delivering features. Also, presenting the big picture to the team might feel risky, because it could confuse the team with the unnecessary details – a list of features is so much clearer!
What happens without the big picture?
No matter if the big picture is presented during the first day of the project or not at all, a good software team will spend some time to understand it anyway while designing, coding, or testing software. Programmers make assumptions about how the software should work. If the big picture is not presented early on, the risks are multiple: making bad assumptions, providing sort of useful or plain useless features, or not engaging the team in the long run.
Why Impact Mapping is needed?
It aligns thinking about project goals. It helps to find out if the delivered features make a difference in people’s behavior, that is, if they are needed. It verifies assumptions and allows agile decisions that help reach goals faster. It enables teams to be more independent without loosing focus on project goals. It includes everyone through the whole project to come up with ideas. It enables product owners to verify ideas against business goals. It helps to communicate what ideas are helping to reach goals and which are not.
So what Impact Mapping is exactly?
There are so many resources that answer this question. Obviously the starting point is the impactmapping.org website.
There are a lot of publicly available slides for example on the Slideshare.net. The following one is concise and informative.
Last but not least, here is a great presentation by the author himself