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Building a great product

A few weeks ago, the Austin and Wayne show (aka Austin Fagan @austin_fagan and Wayne Pringlewood @pringlewood) gave a talk called “Building a great product” for the July SUGSA event. Here are my brief notes.

They talked about Impact Mapping: a planning technique that brings back the focus to delivering business goals, not just software. It’s strategic planning, and it makes you think about metrics and measurable success criteria.

Austin and Wayne talked about their experiences facilitating impact mapping sessions, and how convincing people to try different approaches can be difficult. They recommend keeping the number of people in a session low, and not having too many passengers (people who aren’t actively contributing to the session, or directly involved with the project). They also said that doing impact mapping early is a good idea, and that there’s a strong connection between Impact Mapping and story mapping.

An Impact Map looks like this:

Why? > Who? > How? > What?

with a branch occurring at each question.

The Why? is the goal. It helps to keep it tied to a financial gain. Have one per impact map.

The Who? is the actors: this can be a project, an organisation, or people.

The How? is the most important bit, and the hardest. Make sure that you identify the behaviour that needs to change.

The What? is the the part that we usually, mistakenly, focus on. As a software development team, it can be easy to think that the way to achieve the goal will always be with more coding, but this isn’t always the case.

The talk was followed by a hands-on section where we split into groups of five and ran through a very quick, minimal, impact mapping session with a made-up example. This was a really great way to end the session, and was a great illustration of how powerful impact mapping can be, and how complex and brain-bending.