The goal of an SIA is to analyse the impact of a feature (or change) and apprise the PO of the options he has to achieve it. It typically results in a document –but the document is not the goal (and shouldn’t be)!

As we will see below, the goal of the SIA is to guide the next development steps: Does it bring (business) value? (typically: yes) and what is the best option to realise it? After making those two decisions, the impact analysis –and the SIA document itself– quickly loses its value.
In that view, the write-a-document part can even be considered a waste! That is not what I recommend, however. A written document is also helpful for discussing and reviewing the SIA.

Business value

Before one can decide whether and how a feature brings value, one needs insight into the necessary investment [1] This is not only (development) costs (sw: mostly man-hours). Usually, duration (Time-2-Realize, or Time-2-Marked) and risks (e.g. to introduce bugs) are as important. Depending on the ecosystem, other topics should be addressed too.

Generally, there are multiple (technical) means to accomplish the same innovation [2], [3]. The SIA should offer a few (typically: 3 main) solutions, possibly with variants. They all fulfil the demands but differ in quality, luxury, and more relevant for the PO: primary value and investments.

Avoid common mistakes

  • A SIA can get too technical and appear more like a design document, which makes it difficult for people to understand the impact. And to expenses to write.

    As a consequence, deciding not to go forward becomes impractical.
    At the same time, it’s often “too much work” to offer multiple solutions. Then, there is nothing to choose. –making the SIA useless.

    • A design (phase & document) may be needed –even in a lean, agile approach. It is planned after the SIA.

    • Remember, should the PO lower the priority –based on the Agile SIA– the design effort has become a waste.

    • Even when not: When the SIA present three options and so three designs are made, we use only one.

  • Not thinking about design options.
    Sometimes only one option is presented. Then, the PO can’t choose. But usually, it implies somebody else has made the choice (implicitly). That is not the role of the team.

  • No upfront design thinking. This is the other extreme of the first mistake (too much design), and as bad.
    Even though the document shouldn’t be “too technical” (as it should focus on business value, and in the language of the PO), that does not imply the team has to think about the design. A bit of “whiteboard design” is needed, to estimate the cost (etc) of that option.

    • There is no need to convert those (3) design sketches into real designs and present them in the SIA.

    • Only the effect of that design is presented to the PO (and so globally described in the SIA)


    Remember those sketches

    It is wise to store all those sketches, and possibly some notes, for later. Most likely one of the three will be needed in an upcoming phase/sprint. Then it (only one) will be converted into a real design and worked out.
    In a typical lean, agile approach, those provisional designs are stored as a photo in a wiki, along with the notes.

Use the 5 chapters template

As we present in The 5 chapter template, an (agile, lean) SIA has five chapters, only 5!
However, it not the exact number that counts – some prefer to combine the 3 “solutions chapters” is a single chapters, other may varie a bit on number of solutions, or the place of sub-chapters.

Still, using that template (as used in Demo: Make a bumper) will typically result in a nice SIA.

Footnotes & Links


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