Bridge the gap between dev team and business people! – Idea #2

This article is the second out of an unlimited series (let’s say at least 5!) where I’m gonna try to give you some ideas and easy things to put in place in order to bring your team closer to business people so that you can work collaboratively and efficiently with them.

Written so far:

Impact mapping

One of the worst things about specifications is that they are boringly linear. They just tell you what to do, from point A to point B, no alternative. Have you ever seen specifications with options in them? nah!

Smart as they are, business people are nonetheless error-prone. Well, to be honest I would not want to do their job. It would be impossible for me to know exactly how the future will be and write this into documents weeks before any project start. Even if I’m currently working for a betting company I’m not used to place bet on what should coming on!

Impact Mapping is no crystal ball, it won’t tell you the right path to follow to reach success, but it will give you options! Impact Mapping is like a real roadmap, not the kind of roadmap that gives you only one way to go from point A to point B (as specifications do) but the kind of real roadmap that will tell you what are your options based on the current traffic jam and potential road works ahead.

But who’s gonna find those options? Everybody!

First interesting thing Impact Mapping brings, is that every people involved will share the same goal! With the development team having the same goal to reach as business have, is a key success factor. Think about a military unit engaged on a mission without having the main goal in mind, what would happen if something comes up that specifications had not anticipated? –> Fail!

Sharing the same goal will help people to find out options on how to reach it and one of the best way I know to do it is to make an Impact Map.

As Gojko Adzic says:

An impact map is a visualisation of scope and  underlying assumptions, created collaboratively by senior technical and business people. It is a mind-map grown during a discussion facilitated by answering the following four questions: WHY? / WHO? / HOW? / WHAT?

The WHY? is obviously the goal I was talking about. The WHO? are the actors that can influence the outcome. The HOW? are the impacts, the options. And finally, the WHAT? are the deliverables, all the features that we might deliver.

Of course, everything should be measurable in order to be able to switch from one option to another if we see quickly that it won’t reach the goal. Like if your project management was switching from working with commitments on a linear plan to GPS navigation system that reacts to unexpected events!

Keep in mind that your options must be on a survivable scale, meaning that if it fails the project must stay alive! That’ why they must be measurable, achievable, realistic and timely!

When do you need to do Impact Map? Well, obviously before the project start so that you can define all the different goal-to-deliverable paths – the assumptions. But you should do Impact Map during the project as well to check if the chosen option is producing the expected impact!

When you do Impact Map, the first thing to focus on is the goal. If it’s too big or if it contains sub-goals, then cut it into milestones. Do not spend to much time on the What part, focus on the actors and impacts instead (and stay tuned for the next idea to come that will focus more on the What and how Business people could help there)

At the end, Business people will share their goal and everyone involved will think about the best ways to reach it. As Ron Jeffries said:

It shortens the communication lines between the people who want things and the people who do things.

Mission accomplished!

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