Having attended a few Lean Agile Edinburgh events (the next one being next week at the Skyscanner offices), I was excited to learn there was a similar event starting in Dundee which is significantly closer for me.
The welcome was warm and enthusiastic, the platters of food were plenteous and as I sat keenly at the front I chatted with the guy next to me.
“What do you do?” I said, feeling like a member of the royal family for asking that.
“I’m just a software engineer here at SolarWinds.”
“There is no just in software engineer,” I said.
“Thank you,” he said with a smile. “You’ve passed my test.”
A short conversation later I learned that he was also a fellow St Andrews alumnus and we talked about people we knew in common from the School of Computer Science.
The main (and only) speaker was Santiago Lizardo Oscares, a software engineering manager also at SolarWinds. He spoke about his experience of using impact mapping—a simple planning technique that communicates assumptions.
I’ve used impact mapping a couple of times, mostly when deprecating services so we could clearly see which audiences would be impacted and for making decisions about what to do to facilitate the transition. But it can equally be used when introducing new services.
At its simplest, an impact map comprises four columns, or four levels of a mind map:
- Goal (Why?)—Why are we doing this? This is the goal we are trying to achieve. It can help to make this SMART (specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, time-based).
- Actors (Who?)—Which stakeholders will be positively or negatively impacted? Who are the users? Who can produce the desired effect and who can obstruct it?
- Impact (How?)—How will these stakeholders be affected? How should their behaviour change? How can they help us achieve the goal, or prevent us from succeeding?
- Deliverable (What?)—What can we do as a delivery team or organisation to support the required impacts? These are the deliverables, the software features, the organisational activities. These can be anything from epics, through user stories to simple tasks.
Much like user stories, the real value here is in the conversations that it encourages within the software development team. As well as reading the diagram from left-to-right, it can also be helpful for developers to read it from right-to-left to trace back from a feature they are developing to understand why they are developing it.
Impact mapping can be a useful tool for writing user stories:
- As an Actor (Who?)
- I want Deliverable (What?)
- So that Impact (How?)
After his presentation, Santiago ran through a practical example with us.
The goal we were presented with was to double the attendance of the next Lean Agile Dundee (probably in three months’ time) from 6 to 12.
We identified the actors as the organisers, previous attendees, and other Lean Agile groups, and then set about looking at how these actors could help achieve the goal—move from EventBrite to Meetup.com, provide incentives, share on social media, word of mouth, etc.
It was a useful example, I’m just sorry that Santiago stopped the exercise after completing just the organiser branch. It would have been helpful to have at least completed the map in full as a first pass, not least because we attendees could have taken away some practical ideas of how to help grow the event.
The evening was over within the hour, but wasn’t that entirely in keeping with Lean Agile. I really enjoyed the evening—meeting new people, discussing useful tools and how to improve communication and processes. I’ll definitely be back and may even offer to give a talk.
If you are interesting in Lean, Agile, Scrum, DSDM, XP, Kanban and live in Fife, Dundee or nearby definitely keep a look out for the next meeting. Check Eventbrite and Meetup for details. I’ll also try to remember to post the next date here.
Find out more
You can find out more about impact mapping in the book Impact Mapping by Gojko Adzic.