Impact Mapping And Why It Matters In Business

Impact mapping is a product development technique based on user design, mind mapping, and outcome-driven planning. Impact mapping is an agile technique intended to help teams connect individual product features that can impact the user behaviors while connecting to the key, guiding metrics for the business.

Understanding Impact Mapping 

Many product teams understand the importance of outcomes but nevertheless succumb to prioritising the development of much more tangible features.

Impact mapping was designed to help these teams gain clarity on outcomes that are comparatively hard to measure or appreciate. It is a collaborative methodology that seeks to help agile teams connect individual features to behaviours worth changing – all the while satisfying metrics that matter to the business.

Impact mapping combines elements of mind mapping and strategic planning and is prevalent among start-ups and large enterprises alike. Over the years, it has been adapted for use in:

  • Facilitating innovation workshops.
  • Aligning stakeholders with legacy enterprise projects.
  • Software delivery process improvement.
  • Instituting organizational-wide improvement.
  • Testing strategy definition.

The four key questions of Impact Mapping

Four key questions in the form of levels help stimulate conversation during product development. This conversation forms the basis of a visual and structured mind-map. 

The fifth and final level is not based on a question but instead on validating the solutions arrived it in the first four levels.

Let’s take a look at each below.

Level 1 –  Why are we doing this?

In other words, what goal is the project trying to achieve in the form of an objective? Why is this goal worth pursuing? The “why” can be made more tangible by articulating ambition. What is the timing of the goal and what difference does it seek to create?

For example, a business may have an ambition to increase average Net Promoter Score from 7 to 8 in the next 12 months.

Level 2 – Who can bring the organization closer to an objective? Alternatively, who might prevent the organization from achieving that objective?

Who are the actors who have the potential to impact the outcome? Identifying the most obvious actors is easy, but the real value lies in uncovering “second-degree” actors. In addition to external actors such as customers, consider internal actors such as key stakeholders, marketing, customer service, and administrative support roles.

Level 3 – How should the behaviour of actors change?

Put differently, how does behaviour have to change to change the overall impact? This is the part that many organizations struggle with. Indeed, actors will not voluntarily change their behaviour so that the business can become more profitable.

Insight into behavioural outcomes needs to be earnt through rigorous qualitative and quantitative research. The pains and gains of the current actor workflow must be well understood to selectively identify behaviours worth changing. Does the outcome need to be higher, lower, faster, or slower?

Outcomes should always be reframed as a challenge. If an actor wants to purchase event tickets without calling a call centre, the team can reframe it as: “How might we enable event participants to purchase tickets from their smartphone?”

Reframing also helps product teams avoid reverting to discussing specific features out of habit.

Level 4 – What can the product team do to support the desired impacts?

Now is the time to consider the features (deliverables) that will support an outcome. This can be achieved by running cross-functional ideation sessions involving stakeholders from across the company. 

Note that the inclusion of a feature on the map does not stipulate that it must be executed. The primary goal here is to create a list of potential courses of action.

For the previous example of an event goer ordering tickets without calling a call centre, the actor is most likely to be a smartphone app that sells tickets. Here, the outcome that alters customer behaviour is a more convenient means of ordering tickets. Ultimately, a successful outcome signifies that the business has reached its objectives and made an impact.

Level 5 – Determining whether the solution is worth implementing

Solutions must be validated through qualitative and quantitative experiments. Importantly, multiple experiments should consider every aspect of the solution, from feasibility to validity to usability.

Then, worthwhile solutions can be prioritized using a framework such as the ICE Scoring Model. 

Impact mapping example

In this final section, we will outline some general examples of impact mapping with respect to a variety of common business goals.

Goal – Increase user retention by 25%

Consider a company with a goal to increase user retention in its workplace management platform.

How can it minimize churn? On a theoretical map, the company will list the following actors, impact, and deliverables:

  • Active users (actor) → increase monthly active users (MAU) and daily active users (DAU) (impact) → gamification, in-app messages (deliverables).
  • Future users (actor) → increase onboarding completion rate (impact) → one click sign-up process on social media, sign-up progress bar (deliverables).
  • Customer support (actor) → enhance user assistance (impact) → live-chat functionality (deliverable).

Goal – Improve user experience

In the second example, a company such as Duolingo that operates a language learning platform wants to improve the product experience for its users.

The impact map for this business may look something like this:

  • Teachers (actor) → improve quality of online classes (impact) → spatial audio, HD video, software integration (deliverables).
  • Engineering team (actor) → increase frequency of feature releases (impact) → continuous delivery investment, process automation (deliverables).
  • Students (actor) → teacher review system (impact)  five-star rating feature (deliverable).

Goal – Increase number of active players to 1 million

In the third example, we have an online gaming platform that wants to increase the number of active players to the 1 million mark:

  • Players (actor) → word-of-mouth recommendation to friends and family, posting about the game on social media, live streaming (impacts) → personalization, viral content, more compelling gameplay, referral incentivization (deliverables).
  • Advertisers (actor) → bulk invitations, banner advertising (impacts)
  • Internal (actor) → engage industry network, create public relations event and send invites (impacts).

Goal – Increase school environment to 450 students

Impact mapping can also be used in the education sector.

In this example, a small school has received grant money from the government to build a new classroom wing. To be profitable, the school needs to attract additional students up to a total of 450.

  • Marketing and enrolment coordinator (actor) → advertise, devote more time to recruitment, contract outreach candidates (impacts) → social media posts, email marketing, automate aspects of enrolment process (deliverables).
  • Current parents (actor) → recommend the school to friends and family, identify potential outreach candidates, generate awareness in local neighborhood (impacts) → provide shareable information, bumper stickers, testimonials, and suitable candidates (deliverables).
  • Faculty (actor) → word-of-mouth recommendation to friends, family, other teachers, publicize student and school achievements, improve student test scores and outcomes (impacts)  shareable information, social media campaigns, tailored lesson plans, software and other technology integration (deliverables).

Goal – Increase revenue to $2 million by the end of the year

Sticking with the education theme, our last example is an online learning platform that wants to increase revenue to $2 million:

  • Prospective students (actor) → purchase a course (impact) → free course preview, limited time discount (deliverables).
  • Current students (actor) → purchase additional courses, recommend courses to friends (impacts) → coupons, gamification, weekly emails, shareable information for social media, certificates/awards for course completion (deliverables).
  • Instructors (actor) → develop new/topical courses (impact) → provide instructional documentation, streamline creation process with technology (deliverables). 
  • Internal engineering team (actor) → rollout features more frequently, reduce operation costs (impacts) → improve release process, incorporate adaptive streaming algorithms, improve on-demand scaling (deliverables).

Key takeaways:

  • Impact Mapping combines mind mapping and strategic planning to help teams identify behaviours that will help them reach their objectives.
  • Impact Mapping is a popular and successful framework used in small and large businesses. It is most prevalent in software development but can also be seen in organization-wide improvement and stakeholder alignment with legacy systems.
  • Central to Impact Mapping is the collaborative creation of a visual mind-map based on four key questions that stimulate conversation and develop potential solutions. The fifth level then instructs product teams to evaluate and prioritize solutions based on experimentation.

Connected Agile Frameworks


AIOps is the application of artificial intelligence to IT operations. It has become particularly useful for modern IT management in hybridized, distributed, and dynamic environments. AIOps has become a key operational component of modern digital-based organizations, built around software and algorithms.


AgileSHIFT is a framework that prepares individuals for transformational change by creating a culture of agility.

Agile Methodology

Agile started as a lightweight development method compared to heavyweight software development, which is the core paradigm of the previous decades of software development. By 2001 the Manifesto for Agile Software Development was born as a set of principles that defined the new paradigm for software development as a continuous iteration. This would also influence the way of doing business.

Agile Program Management

Agile Program Management is a means of managing, planning, and coordinating interrelated work in such a way that value delivery is emphasized for all key stakeholders. Agile Program Management (AgilePgM) is a disciplined yet flexible agile approach to managing transformational change within an organization.

Agile Project Management

Agile project management (APM) is a strategy that breaks large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks. In the APM methodology, each project is completed in small sections – often referred to as iterations. Each iteration is completed according to its project life cycle, beginning with the initial design and progressing to testing and then quality assurance.

Agile Modeling

Agile Modeling (AM) is a methodology for modeling and documenting software-based systems. Agile Modeling is critical to the rapid and continuous delivery of software. It is a collection of values, principles, and practices that guide effective, lightweight software modeling.

Agile Business Analysis

Agile Business Analysis (AgileBA) is certification in the form of guidance and training for business analysts seeking to work in agile environments. To support this shift, AgileBA also helps the business analyst relate Agile projects to a wider organizational mission or strategy. To ensure that analysts have the necessary skills and expertise, AgileBA certification was developed.

Agile Leadership

Agile leadership is the embodiment of agile manifesto principles by a manager or management team. Agile leadership impacts two important levels of a business. The structural level defines the roles, responsibilities, and key performance indicators. The behavioral level describes the actions leaders exhibit to others based on agile principles. 

Bimodal Portfolio Management

Bimodal Portfolio Management (BimodalPfM) helps an organization manage both agile and traditional portfolios concurrently. Bimodal Portfolio Management – sometimes referred to as bimodal development – was coined by research and advisory company Gartner. The firm argued that many agile organizations still needed to run some aspects of their operations using traditional delivery models.

Business Innovation Matrix

Business innovation is about creating new opportunities for an organization to reinvent its core offerings, revenue streams, and enhance the value proposition for existing or new customers, thus renewing its whole business model. Business innovation springs by understanding the structure of the market, thus adapting or anticipating those changes.

Business Model Innovation

Business model innovation is about increasing the success of an organization with existing products and technologies by crafting a compelling value proposition able to propel a new business model to scale up customers and create a lasting competitive advantage. And it all starts by mastering the key customers.

Constructive Disruption

A consumer brand company like Procter & Gamble (P&G) defines “Constructive Disruption” as: a willingness to change, adapt, and create new trends and technologies that will shape our industry for the future. According to P&G, it moves around four pillars: lean innovation, brand building, supply chain, and digitalization & data analytics.

Continuous Innovation

That is a process that requires a continuous feedback loop to develop a valuable product and build a viable business model. Continuous innovation is a mindset where products and services are designed and delivered to tune them around the customers’ problem and not the technical solution of its founders.

Design Sprint

A design sprint is a proven five-day process where critical business questions are answered through speedy design and prototyping, focusing on the end-user. A design sprint starts with a weekly challenge that should finish with a prototype, test at the end, and therefore a lesson learned to be iterated.

Design Thinking

Tim Brown, Executive Chair of IDEO, defined design thinking as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Therefore, desirability, feasibility, and viability are balanced to solve critical problems.


DevOps refers to a series of practices performed to perform automated software development processes. It is a conjugation of the term “development” and “operations” to emphasize how functions integrate across IT teams. DevOps strategies promote seamless building, testing, and deployment of products. It aims to bridge a gap between development and operations teams to streamline the development altogether.

Dual Track Agile

Product discovery is a critical part of agile methodologies, as its aim is to ensure that products customers love are built. Product discovery involves learning through a raft of methods, including design thinking, lean start-up, and A/B testing to name a few. Dual Track Agile is an agile methodology containing two separate tracks: the “discovery” track and the “delivery” track.

Feature-Driven Development

Feature-Driven Development is a pragmatic software process that is client and architecture-centric. Feature-Driven Development (FDD) is an agile software development model that organizes workflow according to which features need to be developed next.

eXtreme Programming

eXtreme Programming was developed in the late 1990s by Ken Beck, Ron Jeffries, and Ward Cunningham. During this time, the trio was working on the Chrysler Comprehensive Compensation System (C3) to help manage the company payroll system. eXtreme Programming (XP) is a software development methodology. It is designed to improve software quality and the ability of software to adapt to changing customer needs.

ICE Scoring

The ICE Scoring Model is an agile methodology that prioritizes features using data according to three components: impact, confidence, and ease of implementation. The ICE Scoring Model was initially created by author and growth expert Sean Ellis to help companies expand. Today, the model is broadly used to prioritize projects, features, initiatives, and rollouts. It is ideally suited for early-stage product development where there is a continuous flow of ideas and momentum must be maintained.

Innovation Funnel

An innovation funnel is a tool or process ensuring only the best ideas are executed. In a metaphorical sense, the funnel screens innovative ideas for viability so that only the best products, processes, or business models are launched to the market. An innovation funnel provides a framework for the screening and testing of innovative ideas for viability.

Innovation Matrix

According to how well defined is the problem and how well defined the domain, we have four main types of innovations: basic research (problem and domain or not well defined); breakthrough innovation (domain is not well defined, the problem is well defined); sustaining innovation (both problem and domain are well defined); and disruptive innovation (domain is well defined, the problem is not well defined).

Innovation Theory

The innovation loop is a methodology/framework derived from the Bell Labs, which produced innovation at scale throughout the 20th century. They learned how to leverage a hybrid innovation management model based on science, invention, engineering, and manufacturing at scale. By leveraging individual genius, creativity, and small/large groups.

Lean vs. Agile

The Agile methodology has been primarily thought of for software development (and other business disciplines have also adopted it). Lean thinking is a process improvement technique where teams prioritize the value streams to improve it continuously. Both methodologies look at the customer as the key driver to improvement and waste reduction. Both methodologies look at improvement as something continuous.

Lean Startup

A startup company is a high-tech business that tries to build a scalable business model in tech-driven industries. A startup company usually follows a lean methodology, where continuous innovation, driven by built-in viral loops is the rule. Thus, driving growth and building network effects as a consequence of this strategy.


Kanban is a lean manufacturing framework first developed by Toyota in the late 1940s. The Kanban framework is a means of visualizing work as it moves through identifying potential bottlenecks. It does that through a process called just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing to optimize engineering processes, speed up manufacturing products, and improve the go-to-market strategy.

Rapid Application Development

RAD was first introduced by author and consultant James Martin in 1991. Martin recognized and then took advantage of the endless malleability of software in designing development models. Rapid Application Development (RAD) is a methodology focusing on delivering rapidly through continuous feedback and frequent iterations.

Scaled Agile

Scaled Agile Lean Development (ScALeD) helps businesses discover a balanced approach to agile transition and scaling questions. The ScALed approach helps businesses successfully respond to change. Inspired by a combination of lean and agile values, ScALed is practitioner-based and can be completed through various agile frameworks and practices.

Spotify Model

The Spotify Model is an autonomous approach to scaling agile, focusing on culture communication, accountability, and quality. The Spotify model was first recognized in 2012 after Henrik Kniberg, and Anders Ivarsson released a white paper detailing how streaming company Spotify approached agility. Therefore, the Spotify model represents an evolution of agile.

Test-Driven Development

As the name suggests, TDD is a test-driven technique for delivering high-quality software rapidly and sustainably. It is an iterative approach based on the idea that a failing test should be written before any code for a feature or function is written. Test-Driven Development (TDD) is an approach to software development that relies on very short development cycles.


Timeboxing is a simple yet powerful time-management technique for improving productivity. Timeboxing describes the process of proactively scheduling a block of time to spend on a task in the future. It was first described by author James Martin in a book about agile software development.


Scrum is a methodology co-created by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland for effective team collaboration on complex products. Scrum was primarily thought for software development projects to deliver new software capability every 2-4 weeks. It is a sub-group of agile also used in project management to improve startups’ productivity.


Scrumban is a project management framework that is a hybrid of two popular agile methodologies: Scrum and Kanban. Scrumban is a popular approach to helping businesses focus on the right strategic tasks while simultaneously strengthening their processes.

Scrum Anti-Patterns

Scrum anti-patterns describe any attractive, easy-to-implement solution that ultimately makes a problem worse. Therefore, these are the practice not to follow to prevent issues from emerging. Some classic examples of scrum anti-patterns comprise absent product owners, pre-assigned tickets (making individuals work in isolation), and discounting retrospectives (where review meetings are not useful to really make improvements).

Scrum At Scale

Scrum at Scale (Scrum@Scale) is a framework that Scrum teams use to address complex problems and deliver high-value products. Scrum at Scale was created through a joint venture between the Scrum Alliance and Scrum Inc. The joint venture was overseen by Jeff Sutherland, a co-creator of Scrum and one of the principal authors of the Agile Manifesto.

Stretch Objectives

Stretch objectives describe any task an agile team plans to complete without expressly committing to do so. Teams incorporate stretch objectives during a Sprint or Program Increment (PI) as part of Scaled Agile. They are used when the agile team is unsure of its capacity to attain an objective. Therefore, stretch objectives are instead outcomes that, while extremely desirable, are not the difference between the success or failure of each sprint.


The waterfall model was first described by Herbert D. Benington in 1956 during a presentation about the software used in radar imaging during the Cold War. Since there were no knowledge-based, creative software development strategies at the time, the waterfall method became standard practice. The waterfall model is a linear and sequential project management framework. 

Read Also: Business Models Guide, Sumo Logic Business Model, Snowflake

InnovationAgile MethodologyLean StartupBusiness Model InnovationProject Management.

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Read Next: New Product Development, Storyboarding, Story Mapping, Business AnalysisCompetitor Analysis, Continuous InnovationAgile MethodologyLean StartupBusiness Model InnovationProject Management.

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