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The Magic of Wardley Maps

Anyone who has used the word “strategy” in a software development context has probably also muttered “Sun Tzu” under their breath at some point or other as well.

The “Art of War” is the famous book that Sun Tzu (died 496BC) wrote about what to do, and what not to do, to be successful in military combat. His philosophical and strategic thinking has informed not only generals, but also boardrooms for a very long time now. “Yes, but what is our strategy?!”

Simon Wardley likes Sun Tzu. He also likes OODA loops. He likes strategy so much that, over 15 years ago, he invented a new way of visualising it. Having been a CEO of a successful software startup, he decided that strategy statements were BS – what you needed to do was draw a map of the future instead.

This is the essence of Wardley Maps.

One can’t describe them quickly, so I won’t. What I do know is this: drawing a Wardley Map is an exercise that forces you to consider how the technology that you think is perfect now, will change in the future. From innovative to commodity – the Wardley Map makes you consider and visualise the progress of time vs value to your customer through your (product) strategy.

Sounds impossible? Sounds magic? Well as Arthur C. Clarke once famously said:

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

You can start here for the back-story, and here is a 15-minute version video version of Wardley Mapping by the man himself.