Impact Mapping - great book, great tool

Posted by Marcus Hammarberg on December 3, 2012
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I've just got my copy of the Impact Mapping. It was long awaited for me and apparently for others too since it went out of stock in a couple of weeks. My own copy was 'hijacked' by a client that read it overnight and started to use Impact Mapping the day after.

In this post I'll write down some thought after reading the book from cover to cover. I wanted to do this on Amazon but sadly I cannot since they only accept review from people how bought the book directly from the. Well - this will have to do instead then.
I'll hint right now that this would be a 5-star review (to add to the 9 other 5-start reviews that's already on Amazon).

I've just got my copy of the Impact Mapping. It was long awaited for me and apparently for others too since it went out of stock in a couple of weeks. My own copy was 'hijacked' by a client that read it overnight and started to use Impact Mapping the day after.

In this post I'll write down some thought after reading the book from cover to cover. I wanted to do this on Amazon but sadly I cannot since they only accept review from people how bought the book directly from the. Well - this will have to do instead then.
I'll hint right now that this would be a 5-star review (to add to the 9 other 5-start reviews that's already on Amazon).


What is it?

Impact mapping is described to great effect at the official site; www.impactmapping.org. So here I'll present my own journey up to Impact mapping. This is by no means the journey everyone have done but it helps me to place it in the right place. 

I started my agile journey doing TDD. That was a great improvement for the quality and stability of my code but pretty soon I found myself asking; so what happens before this? How do I know where to begin? Or stop for that matter? Am I even doing the right thing?
There must be some pieces to the puzzle I'm missing. 

This got me looking at BDD at first and later on Specification by example. Now I got the pieces together better and found a way to communicate and understand business users. I was introduced to two new heros; Dan North and Gojko Adzic
However after awhile I found myself asking the same question again: what happens before this? How, on earth, do the business people come up with the scenarios? What if they don't know what the best thing to start with? Or just; here's the 342 user stories that we want you to implement - why did you need scenarios now again? 
There must be some more pieces to the puzzle that I was missing... Again. Why were we doing this now again?

Impact mapping is the next logical step. This is how to come up with the next important thing is to implement. I've read and heard about it for quite some time, tried it a couple of time but never really got the hang of it. Could Gojko's new book shed light in the dim corners of my knowledge? 

The book

The book is divided in three parts and I think that works effectively to show different aspects of Impact mapping. The first part is an introduction (Duh?!) to the subject and places Impact mapping on the map (sorry couldn't resist myself) with a context and place for it. Gojko has, of course with the Specification-by-example-background he has, supplied us with a couple of concrete examples that made sure I understood Impact maps here. 

The next part puzzled me for awhile. It's called "The roles of Impact mapping" and for me it came out as a lot of different "sales" pitch on when and where Impact mapping can make an impact (again; sorry. I'll not do that again). "When would I ever need this?", was my first thought but then it hit me. Not only was this a great way of introducing the roles that impact maps can play but also did it give me fuel when i have to describe and present this to people in different situations. It was great actually and a lot of quotes and sentences was underlined here.
This part is also littered with reference to further reading which I really appreciate. 

The last part is called "Creating Impact maps" and by now I my whole body itching for this; practical matters. This is a handbook that helps you to create impact maps and facilitate workshops to help others. Lots of examples and concrete do's and don'ts through this part. 

The form

I am, by no means, a designer. But when I got the book I was struck by the format. It's a magazine shaped, thin little book. A book that you easily read in a couple of hours. There's a lot of space and pictures that make each page an easy read. Add to that the it's very focused to it's subject and we might have a new type of book showing it's face here (?). 
I'm for one would love to read more books like this. Nothing feels heavy about it. 

The illustrations deserve a special mention too: crystal clear and with a fun, cartoon feel to them. There were a couple of them that I didn't quite could connect to the text (Hollywood - London - Hollywood) but that's probably me and my lack of english culture, I presume.

My thinking

Gojko has for a long time called Impact Mapping a "game changing technique". I am very much inclined to agree. This is a tool that fits perfectly to the part of agile that often gets neglected; how to include the business side of things into the flow of agile. 
And it really should be the other way around, right? Business goals should be the driving force behind us wanting to move IT-stuff faster. For more on this check out this great presentation

To get there I see impact mapping as an essential tool in my tool belt. I cannot wait to try this out. It one of those things that just feel right. 

The only thing that worries me, when I think back on previous projects, is that the people I have talked to didn't have position or knowledge enough to be able to create a map like this. 
So that's bad then, right? 
No - Gojko repeats this throughout the book; You need to have senior business and technical people in the room. Otherwise you are just guessing and secondly stand the risk of being overruled later. THAT have happend to me a couple of times. 

Someone asked: but if you don't know the goal (or have the people in the room that are 'allowed' to decide this) - what should you do? 
Answer: Stop! "Without a goal success is random" - Gojko Adzic at Avega Group 2012-11-28.  

Impact mapping is a business tool. To help the business find and prioritize between the efforts to achieve their goals. It's not very hard to grasp but is very powerful. And you all know what comes with great power, right? Great responsibilities. 

Loved the book. If you take agile or lean seriously you should check it out. It's a great tool that can will you. 

5 stars out of 5 possible.


Published by Marcus Hammarberg on Last updated