Problem to solution impact mapping

What is it

Impact mapping is a planning process that gives you a framework to generate and visualise the connections between goals and deliverables and the impact you expect to make by putting those deliverables in place.

Problem to solution impact mapping is just a particular version we use at It uses specific groups and process to connect together a problem statement with the outcomes you want to influence and the things you can do about it.

An example impact map. Boxes connect to each other

When to use it

We typically use this technique when we’re trying to plot out how to get from insights and research to a strategy or a backlog of improvements we want to make.

This can be from looking at a full service, or a small feature.

We use it in projects where we’re:

  • Doing product development or management
  • Setting or defining business strategy or planning
  • Exploring what solutions to explore next for a product or service
  • Understanding what experience problems could be solved and how

The tool is also useful when you need to align different perspectives and make sure that everyone is on the same page about the goals, outcomes, and initiatives of a project or product.

You can use this technique at the start of a project to align the team, or at any point during the project when the team needs to refocus or realign.

However, you may find there are simpler approaches to small problems. Or where the solution space is obvious and simple. But if you have multiple insights, users or things you can do. This is a great technique to visualise and structure your thinking.

How to do it

The process to create the problem to solution map can be collaboratively or individually. If you’re doing it in a workshop, you may want to consider collaborate structures like a 1-group-room loop. This way, you’ve asking people to individually respond before sharing with a wider group or room.

The process you should follow to create the map is:

  1. Define “what’s happening today”: Write your story of how it is today. Feel free to use existing problem statements to fill this. If you’re working with a product vision, either one that doesn’t exist or a team wants to achieve, you can also tell that story here
  2. Identify impacted users: Identify all the internal and external users who are impacted by the current state of the project or initiative. For example, you might feature customers, warehouse staff etc.
  3. Write down issues: For each user, identify the specific issues caused by the current state of the project or initiative. There may be overlaps. But make sure each issue is linked to a user who is impacted by the issue.
  4. Define desired impact: Identify the positive change or impact that would come about as a result of addressing the identified issues. For example, a support team may get less requests to reset a password. Or users may be able to verify their account first time
  5. Create initiatives: For each desired impact, identify the initiatives or actions that can be taken to achieve it. This is where you can get creative. Not all of the options have to be immediately feasible. Save that for future discussions.

Once you’ve gone through those steps you should have the beginnings of your map. Keep working through the users and their issues.

Once you’ve done that your next phase is to:

  • Prioritise initiatives: Prioritise the initiatives based on their potential impact and feasibility.
  • Review and revise: Review the exercise with the team and revise as necessary.
  • Make it easy to share: The mapping is a process. Involve more people in it. But be aware that some people might see the full analysis and find it confusing at first. Feel free to simplify or summarise for a presentation. Or do a tour

If any of these phases feel difficult to complete it might mean you need more information. When we first started using impact mapping we found it difficult for projects where our insights weren’t as deep as others. The answer was to gather more insights. From users and stakeholders.