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The Birth of Impact Mapping

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Here's the story of how it all began. The story of how Impact Mapping was created and developed. This technique, now well established, took its first steps more than 15 years ago.

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I was so frustrated, and so was the whole usability team! Year after year we found that in every development project where we took part—either as designers or project managers—the business managers actually believed that just building and shipping features would make a desired change to the business and its organization. Managers missed that the features must be carefully defined and designed so that they are valuable and delightful for users. A feature such as, “it must be possible to attach a file” could be designed well, creating desired value, or could be designed badly, ending up as minor hell for users. 

We started working on an idea of expressing the linkage between solutions and desired impact for business as a map. The idea was to help projects in the early stages by drawing a map that described the intended impact that could then be used for project planning, designing and evaluating the service. We were mainly inspired by tools like Balanced Score Cards and Benefits Management, and added the perspective of action theory and user experience. 

The first article

By 2002 we felt that the model was ready to fly, and we published the idea in the first article: From Business to Buttons. At the same time, we left our company and started fresh by founding inUse, focusing on designing digital services that deliver intended impact for business and users, today with operations in Sweden and Colorado. 

By 2004 the book Effektstyrning av IT (Swedish) was published, and we started to give training in how to do Impact Maps. We also decided to make Impact Mapping, the model, and Impact Management, the process, registered brands in Sweden, as Effektkarta®  and Effektstyrning®. 

By 2007, inUse arranged the first yearly conference on UX, sustainability, and service design, that we also named “From Business to Buttons”. We presented the idea of “Effect Mapping” in a workshop, and pubished the book in English: Effect Managing IT

The years have passed. During these 15 years (!) there has been a complete boost for the insight that digital services need to be valuable to users. We have taught Impact Mapping in open courses and workshops attended by approximately 1000 people, and used the technique in well over 400 projects. Impact Mapping has caught on as a basis for understanding user needs and business opportunities. 

Simple and straightforward

During these 15 years, the technique has changed names from “Goal Cards” in the original idea into “Effect Mapping” in the English translation of the Swedish book, still further into “Business Impact Mapping” and to today's simple and straightforward “Impact Mapping”. 

Impact Mapping has made it possible to focus the ideation, design and development of digital services on value instead of listing features. Communicating, exploring and measuring values. That is huge!

All of inUse courses here, visit Academy!