Impact maps, in a highly visual manner, visualize how items from the product delivery plan connect to the high-level goals and help to align tactical work to strategic priorities.
As the name suggests, Impact Mapping aims at clarifying the impacts that a product idea aims for before tackling the actual solutions. A typical Impact Map looks like on the right and shall indicate that: in order to achieve a certain goal, a specific actor has to change behavior (the impact) which we hope to achieve by certain deliverables.
Others use a slightly different vocabulary and refer to
In this case, the map is labeled differently but, apart from the 90° rotation, looks very similar.
Taking the latter view here, the goal is to have everything connected top-down and bottom-up, in other words:
When starting fresh, an impact map can be created by following a sequence of questions:
As a hint, think broadly. Sometimes there are indirect actors that might not be obvious right away. For example, to increase safety for pedestrians (the impact), car drivers (the actors) may need to slow down (the change in behavior) which is forced by speed limits or speed bumps (the product features).
Also, while the visuals suggest a strict hierarchy, it may well be that, for example, a single feature supports multiple outcomes or affects multiple actors. So the tree could become a directed graph, mathematically speaking. In the aforementioned example, installing traffic lights would increase safety for pedestrians by making car drivers stop as well as pedestrians cross the road at safe places.
In order to empower product teams to own the decision-making process of what to build, they need to be aware of different paths to create an impact. This is where Impact Mapping can unlock empowerment for product teams.