5 Questions to Help Guide Impact Analysis

A simple and efficient way to help your team achieve more effective backlog refinement


If you are in the tech world you’ve likely come across Agile methodologies at some point in your work. A considerable amount of time and effort is spent by Agile teams on backlog refinement. After all, a healthy, well-refined backlog is a product owner’s pride and a developer’s road to a successful sprint.

Going into a refinement session as a product owner, the expectation is to be the all knowing, all seeing Subject Matter Expert. Reality often falls far short. Oftentimes product owners are starting on new teams, and since effective refinement requires a lot of preparation they don’t have adequate time to get started. The developers on these teams may also feel their time is better spent coding rather than attending refinement sessions. And the real issues come when stories are pulled in for sprint planning. Stories may not be detailed enough for developers to start work, leading to the obvious question of how was this missed in backlog refinement?

On my team supporting Capital One’s Small Business Lending, I have gone through this cycle a few times. The Agile leads in my organization created a list of five questions to help us prepare for, and perform, good impact analysis, an important stepping stone for effective backlog refinement. This has been an immense help for me and my team. For illustration purposes, let us use an e-commerce site as an example while going through these five questions to help with impact analysis and backlog refinement.

1. How is this making someone’s life better?

If the user story is not making someone’s life better, why have this story in the first place? This is a key question to help prioritize and identify the right user story for the teams to work on.

Sample User Story: As a customer looking at a product on an ecommerce site, I need to be informed if a product is on sale, so that I am encouraged to purchase it.

Sample Response to Question: Helps customers make quicker decisions. Increases purchases or revenue. Serves a quicker way to perform benefit analysis of the user story.

2. Does it conflict business intent or other user stories across the value stream?

In large enterprises or organizations that are on SAFe it is likely that their Agile teams fall under a release train or a value stream. In these models, individual teams work on components with varying levels of dependencies on other teams. Effective program increment planning should address dependencies and risks between and across teams. Leading with this question helps identify upstream and downstream impact. 

Sample User Story: As a customer looking at a product on an ecommerce site, I need to be informed if a product is on sale, so that I am encouraged to purchase it.

Sample Response to Question: Legal and Financial Impacts. Action item is to ensure change is compliant with legal and other financial regulations.

3. Can the regression/automation scripts run as-is after this story?

Quality is everyone’s business since user retention and engagement are built on the foundation of a quality product. Test driven development takes considerable time. Asking this question helps effort estimation.

Sample User Story: As a customer looking at a product on an ecommerce site, I need to be informed if a product is on sale, so that I am encouraged to purchase it.

Sample Response to Question: User Interface change that does not impact the functioning of the site. No impact to regression testing. 

4. Does it impact users across all channels and products?

User impact identification is a critical role for change management communication. User flows define impacted components and the regression tests to be run for a specific change.

Sample User Story: As a customer looking at a product on an ecommerce site, I need to be informed if a product is on sale, so that I am encouraged to purchase it.

Sample Response to Question: Impacts mobile and web channels for all products. Action Item is to run cross browser and mobile testing across supported versions.

5. What external partners are impacted by this story?

In a world of open source software and public APIs, software applications are an orchestration of multiple components and services. Generally, many of these components are external services. Identifying such impacts during refinement helps discovery, communication, and successful implementation of changes.

Sample User Story: As a customer looking at a product on an ecommerce site, I need to be informed if a product is on sale, so that I am encouraged to purchase it.

Sample Response to Question: Impacts vendors who sell their products on site. Action item is to set up communication channels with vendors to coordinate sale details. Ensure vendor sends sale details for display.

Conclusion

Asking these questions during impact analysis and backlog refinement have greatly benefited my team. They have helped us to have more productive refinement sessions that act as a precursor for successful planning and implementation. I hope this list of five questions helps you to perform better impact analysis and backlog refinement on your own teams.


Maran Chandrasekaran, Master QA Specialist

Testing Specialist @ Capital One | Python 🐍 programmer , Learner of applied ML, Agile and Product enthusiast.


DISCLOSURE STATEMENT: © 2021 Capital One. Opinions are those of the individual author. Unless noted otherwise in this post, Capital One is not affiliated with, nor endorsed by, any of the companies mentioned. All trademarks and other intellectual property used or displayed are property of their respective owners.

Related Content