Satalyst Brilliance on 25 Jan 2016

Requirements Elicitation Using Impact Mapping

Requirements elicitation, also referred to as requirements gathering, involves drawing out requirements of a system or solution from stakeholders such as users, project sponsors and any individual or group who can affect or be affected by the system or solution.  A key part of any project that Satalyst undertakes is to fully understand the problems faced by our customers and their requirements in addressing these problems using impact mapping.

Some background on impact mapping

Addressing the other side of our topic today, traditional use of impact mapping is directed at strategic planning, defining quality and roadmap management.  Impact maps aid in keeping the organisation focused on the value to be delivered by the project, whilst staying aligned with the organisational goals and objectives. The use of impact maps helps steer delivery teams and their activities in the right direction by communicating scope, goals, priorities and assumptions.

Impact mapping first made its appearance in the late 90’s under the names Impact Management and Effect Management.  Given the focus within Agile methods on the early delivery of business value and risk reduction, Impact mapping as a “Value Driven Delivery” technique was quickly embraced by the Agile community. Impact mapping is based on the Why-How-What cycle.

Agile is a methodology typically used in software development.  It encourages collaborative planning and development in an iterative manner with early delivery and flexibility to change thereby driving continuous improvement.  Satalyst has had great success in employing the Agile methodology both with our customers and internally.  Impact mapping was a next logical step for Satalyst to adopt in its Agile ventures to find new ways of delivering excellent business value to our customers.

Utilising the technique of impact mapping in a different way

Seeing as impact maps focus on the delivery of business value, we felt that it created a great platform for requirements elicitation by helping to focus the thought processes of stakeholders on the value they would like to see as the product or project outcome.  This in turn provided guidance towards what needs to be changed, stopped, started or implemented to get to the desired value outcome, thereby presenting the high level requirements of our customer.

We used a right-handed map to visualise the main project goal, similarly to pure impact mapping. From there we delved into what can be seen as “sub goals” or the “how” which feeds into the realisation of the main goal.  The sub goals individually provide business value at a lower level.

Impact Mapping

The next level down on the right-handed map focused discussions and requirements documentation on what each department or individual stakeholder needed to do or needed from the project in order to attain the sub goal in question.

We also used relationship links between items, which can be done at any level, to indicate constraints, dependencies or re-use.

Grouping stakeholders

Before embarking on requirements elicitation workshops and getting the whiteboard and sticky notes ready, take some time to familiarise yourself with your stakeholders, their roles and where they fit in within the day-to-day operations of the business.

By grouping stakeholders into communities, such as delivery, business operations, external, etc., we were able to simplify and focus our requirements workshops by grouping similar requirements across a number of roles and departments.

Impact Mapping - grouping stakeholders

The outcome

Below is an example of the resulting outcome of the above techniques which we applied during a requirements elicitation phase of a recent customer project.  This image shows one of the main objectives of the project, which formed part of a broader organisational goal of improving efficiency, flexibility and adaptability.

Impact Mapping - resulting outcomes


The increasing focus on the Agile delivery of business value early, demands a higher level of involvement and understanding from project sponsors and other business stakeholders than ever before.  Requirements gathering remains a key element within any project and by leveraging off the extensive range of tools, methodologies and best practices available to business analysts, we can evolve and adapt with our customers to produce what every sponsor longs for at the end of a project… business value that moves the needle.