Impact Mapping – How Can You Use it to Build An App? Complete Guide

Far too often, software products face a dead-end because their creators entirely rely on assumptions. The ugly truth is your brilliant idea for a game-changing application is not enough. That’s why you need to embrace an efficient methodology to validate your idea. This is where impact mapping comes into play. What is it? How can you use it to develop your MVP? Let’s find out!

It might be tempting to lock yourself up in a secret laboratory and to put your piece of software together in a vacuum. But it doesn’t work this way. Nor is the outside world holding its breath and stopping spinning while waiting for your application to come and rock the market.

Perhaps you already have an impressive list of features that will distinguish your future app from competitors. However, blindly relying on assumptions will take you straight to time and money-wasting hell.

Instead, you need a bird’s eye view to visualize your product strategy, and mind mapping is your way to go.

What is impact mapping?

Impact mapping is collaborative software product management that aims at merging the process of building products with business objectives.

The ambassador of this product development planning technique is Gojko Adzic, an award-winning software delivery strategy consultant.

In his book “Impact Mapping – Making a big impact with software products and projects,” Gojko Adzic provides a definition:

“Impact mapping is a strategic planning technique. It prevents organizations from getting lost while building products and delivering projects, by clearly communicating assumptions, helping teams align their activities with overall business objectives and make better roadmap decisions.”

Why use impact mapping?

It is also a very good tool for reducing the need for resources. A team that executes impact mapping correctly will deliver one product at a time and measure how well it has affected the target. In this situation it is possible to complete the project if it meets the objective. The project must fulfill the needs of the stakeholders without any more code required. This facilitates concentration. Deliverables are chosen by determining their contribution to behavior that enable organizations to meet the objective. This improves collaboration as well.

Why is impact mapping important for product managers?

Many companies become so obsessed with creating their solutions that they forget the problem that was originally being solved. Product development can morph through its lifecycle and the outcome is not necessarily linked to the initial goal which leads to product fit issues or overhyoped products lacking essential features. The impact mapping process enables the product team to stay focused on the primary goal of the program, centered around the primary goal. If the product does have a feature that has no impact mapping then the feature is probably not required.

When should impact mapping be used?

It is not always possible to create an impact maps. When the Context Leadership Model analyzes products in an organisation, impact mapping can provide a good method for the colt or bull quadratic. A Gojko Adzic article called “How do impact maps work?” has been published in InfoQ. This context is influenced by two major factors: whether a person makes a mistake, or makes a good investment decision.


Impact Map can be used for finding opportunities, identifying options, and evaluating solutions. Before determining the right solution you will need to consider many possible alternatives to your existing solution. Impact map analysis can assist in accelerating these experiments by determining the solution that best aligns with the desired results. You have multiple impact map options.


The impact map can help guide stakeholders aligned interests to a specific project or help prioritize them. Gather stakeholders around an impact map to discuss the delivered outcomes that are most important. In these cases, it may be possible for several deliverables of the impact map to be delivered simultaneously so that your attention is less on the impact of a particular delivery. In this instance the impact map may provide an image with an enormous scale.


Your teams can use impact charts and dashboarding tools to identify assumptions, determine desired impact on businesses and engage users. Depending on the solution, the team has the right to quickly test and elliminate faulty concepts. You’ll start by creating an impact map, delivering something on this map and developing that map as a result.


You may also consider using impact maps in your research. The impacts map helps you analyze assumptions about your product development. Your first impact map explains how your initial hypothesis works, and you can add additional info when conducting user research and testing.

What does impact mapping look like?

Before we take a deep dive into this, let’s think about the power of visuals. For instance, why do marketers put so much emphasis on creating infographics? Because they leave an indelible mark because they make a huge impact. Why?

It’s about how our brains work. Deep down, humans are visual creatures. According to Venngage:

Visuals attract our attention, enhance our emotions, and affect our attitude.

  • Our brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text.
  • 40% of people respond better to images than text.
  • 50% of our brain is active in visual processing.

Those dynamics influence the way we work the way we put together ideas. To clearly explain a complex concept to other people, you automatically feel a need to draw this, make a simple diagram, and make a visual out of it.

Not only does it produce results in scholarship or marketing but also works in a startup realm, software product management, and, more specifically, agile development.

And it brings us again to Gojko’s publication. What is an impact map?

An impact map is a visualization of scope and underlying assumptions created collaboratively by senior technical and business people. It is a mind-map developed during a discussion facilitated by answering the following four questions:

  • Why?
  • Who?
  • How?
  • What?

How much money would you flush down the toilet?

Before you learn how to inject impact mapping into your product management’s veins, you need to understand why it is necessary to implement it in the first place.

Gojko Adzic give speeches to agile teams, software project managers, and business sponsors worldwide. In one of his lectures, held during the Agile Warsaw conference back in 2017, he pointed out some common mistakes that are sometimes behind massive agile projects.

For instance, the BBC has spent £75 million (!) on an “agile” IT project that got totally out of control, and it didn’t deliver anything.

Another incredible case is the FBI, who initially spent $19 million on building a case management system with the waterfall methodology and wasted another $360 million on doing it from the top, but this time – iteratively. And eventually, they admitted they didn’t know how to do it.

Impact mapping is an innovative game that helps to avoid such calamities.

Let’s get rid of those Underpants Gnomes

Yes, it’s not a mistake – the Underpants Gnomes. What does it have to do with impact mapping and developing your app? A lot.

The problem with those disastrous projects that have consumed millions but failed to deliver any value is about the wrong approach towards progress reporting.

Gojko nailed it by bringing the Underpants Gnomes story from South Park:

Gnomes kept on steling underpants, and when the kids from South Park found them and asked them why they had been doing this, they said: “we don’t know, the Planning Gnome should know.”

And it turned out that the Planning Gnome did have a planning board. But he was only clear about phase number one, which was collecting underpants, totally clueless about phase number two, and confident again about the last phase – gaining profits.


It’s hilarious and scary at the same time. Because many software projects come down to developing tons of features without discovering what’s valuable or not so, that’s doing work for the sake of doing work, nothing more.

How can impact mapping help in creating a product strategy?

Having a board is a step in the right direction, but not in the way those gnomes worked it out. To assist delivery teams get back on the right track and get a shared understanding of connections between goals and features, you need to create a storyboard – an impact map.

As we’ve outlined before, to set up a goal and to measure the progress, you need to structure your project along by four fundamental questions:

  1. Why? – the phenomenon of Simon Sinek’s bestseller, “Start with why” didn’t come out of anywhere. To avoid the underpants gnome effect where “we’re doing something, but don’t have a clue why are we doing this,” you need to be crystal clear about your business goal. In your case, why do you want to create an app?
  2. Who? – your second column will be about defining actors – internal or external players that you need to include in this game. Imagine your app; you should be thinking of sellers and buyers as actors, but also media or influencers in your niche. Each category of actors will have an impact on your outcomes.
  3. How? – setting up an initial business goal will influence the desired actions your players would have to take. Influencers might be posting about your product on their social media channels, engaging their audience in some way. 
  4. What? – stages described above will lead you finally to define deliverables – your product features that will break down to epics and user stories. This way, you will avoid building features based on your gut feeling (“yes, that feature would be amazing!” – perhaps for you, but not necessarily for your end users), and focus on a few that will bring you closer to your business goal.


How to put impact mapping into action?

Let’s take a few steps forward – as soon as you define your deliverables and your outstanding features, you will have to think about who will develop them. Who will you outsource to build your app from scratch (putting your impact mapping strategy into play)?

Most likely, hiring a software house will be an ideal solution.

And what if your software development company of choice was able to conduct iterative, collaborative impact-mapping workshops for you?

At DeSmart, we have injected the impact mapping method to work with our customers. Thanks to running those workshops, we can develop a vision of what needs to be delivered to achieve customers’ business goals.

Instead of wasting time and money developing features based on wrong assumptions, we focus on user stories that will move the needle.

Besides, it’s fun! Take a look at this picture – that’s our office, with a black wall to put handy magnetic cards on and rearrange them as we work away during workshops:

Are you ready to start building a strategy for your app?

To wrap it up – you could choose the BBC or the FBI path and be reckless about spending time and money without a clue where you’re heading at and at the end – without delivering anything.

Or – you can do it SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based) and follow the impact mapping planning technique.

We at DeSmart can help you out with the entire process. We ar himan-first and impact mapping software development company 🙂

Are you ready to start? 

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