What are the concrete uses of Wardley Maps for a CIO?

Hello, my name is Joaquín, and I hit my head with Wardley Maps.

Yes, literally I use Wardley Maps to find answers that I do not have and Gen-AI is still not ready, and during the last few weeks, I’ve been looking for concrete answers to a specific question:

What are the concrete uses of Wardley Maps for a CIO?

What are the concrete uses of Wardley Maps for specific roles?
What are the concrete uses of Wardley Maps for specific roles?

What are the concrete uses of Wardley Maps for specific roles?

I have some hypotheses, but I’m trying to understand how real or unreal they are.

Before we begin, and with the purpose of providing more context, I would like to explain my particular view about how Wardley Mapping is seen by companies now at the end of 2023.

Particular view about Wardley Mapping

My view:

  • Companies use strategic approaches that are established in the industry, where the main source of practice is strategic planning frameworks (red ocean).
  • Suddenly some individuals (*) of these companies discover Wardley Mapping and they find it useful. They start using it by themselves and few of them start to use it with others.
  • Wardley Mapping as an emergent practice is difficult to use: there is not enough information to determine some patterns about how people use it, and this makes adoption more difficult.
  • Wardley mapping still has to navigate through the blue ocean till find the ways the companies are open to use it and find space into the competitive landscape of strategy.

Here, I have some questions for the reader.

  • What is your view of the use of Wardley Maps in companies?
  • How do you see the challenge of introducing the use of Wardley Mapping in your professional space?

This high level view is important as I will zoom into a concrete role that companies have, and it’s important to understand the challenges that a CIO has when using Wardley Mapping in a context where its CxO peers uses other tools.

So let’s come back to the CIO. So here is my hypothesis.

What are the main duties and challenges of a CIO?

Well, the main advisory firms have given me a good bunch of answers about this and I have summarized these 5 duties and challenges.

What are the main duties and challenges of a CIO?

Well, main advisory firms have giving me a good bunch of answers about this and I have summarized on these 5 duties and challenges.

Some of the challenges are present every single year, and some others change the adjective; for instance “Digital” may turn into “metaverse” or “AI”… trends.

My question then is, what are the main uses of Wardley Mapping CIOs can do? The classic answers are:

  • Use as a visual tool for discovering the competitive landscape.
  • Think about the situation they have and figure out what choices can be feasible in that context.
  • Use it as a communication tool for sharing thoughts with the team.

I have heard these answers many times, and this time I am not happy with them, that’s the reason I have tried to go beyond with this theoretical exercise.

To do it I have taken the CIO challenges as reference to organize and focus the concrete answers.

Digital Transformation & Legacy Systems

  1. Visualize Current State: Map out existing technology infrastructure, highlighting where legacy systems exist.
  2. Identify Evolution: Determine the maturity and evolution stage of each component, helping to pinpoint which systems are ripe for transformation.
  3. Highlight Dependencies: Understand how various systems interact and rely on each other, essential when planning migrations or integrations.
  4. Prioritize Efforts: Determine which areas of the map (and thus which systems) are most critical to business operations and should be addressed first.
  5. Guide Strategic Decision-making: By understanding the landscape and its evolution, CIOs can make informed decisions about where to invest in new technologies and when to retire or replace legacy systems.

Aligning IT with Business Strategy

  1. Value Chain Analysis: Visualize the flow of value across the organization, helping to identify where IT can enhance or enable core business activities.
  2. Spotting Strategic Opportunities: Identify areas in the technology landscape that are evolving or undergoing a shift, allowing for proactive strategic moves.
  3. Stakeholder Alignment: By visualizing the strategic landscape, discussions with other business leaders become more tangible, facilitating alignment on priorities and efforts.
  4. Resource Allocation: Determine where investments in IT can have the most significant strategic impact, ensuring resources are used effectively.
  5. Risk Management: Identify vulnerabilities or over-reliance on certain technologies, systems or vendors, helping to shape a more resilient IT strategy.

Managing IT Costs & ROI

  1. Identify Commoditization: Recognize which components have become commodities, signaling opportunities for cost reductions.
  2. Spot Duplication: By mapping the landscape, redundancies in the technology stack become evident, enabling consolidation and cost savings.
  3. Prioritize Investments: See which parts of the landscape offer the most strategic value or are evolving, guiding where to invest for the highest ROI.
  4. Evaluate Vendor Value: Determine if vendors are providing value commensurate with their costs based on the maturity and importance of their offerings in the map.
  5. Forecast Future Costs: Understand the trajectory of components as they evolve, helping to anticipate future costs associated with migrations, upgrades, or decommissioning.

Cybersecurity Threats & Data Protection

  1. Highlight Critical Components: Identify and prioritize systems that are crucial for business operations, revealing where heightened security measures are needed.
  2. Visualize Data Flow: Understand the flow of data through the organization, pinpointing potential weak spots or areas of vulnerability.
  3. Assess Vendor Risk: Evaluate the security maturity of third-party components or services, aiding in vendor selection and risk management.
  4. Guide Security Investment: By visualizing the landscape, determine where security investments can best mitigate risks and protect valuable assets.
  5. Track Evolution & Threat Landscape: As components mature and evolve, so do their associated threats. Wardley Maps can help anticipate these changes and adjust security strategies accordingly.

Talent Acquisition & Retention

  1. Skill Gap Analysis: By mapping out the current technology landscape, identify areas where there might be a lack of expertise, directing talent acquisition efforts.
  2. Future-Proofing: Understand the trajectory of technology evolution within the map, predicting future skill requirements and allowing for proactive hiring or training.
  3. Identify Key Roles: Highlight areas that are crucial to business strategy or undergoing rapid change, helping to determine roles that are critical for retention or competitive hiring.
  4. Talent Deployment: Use the map to allocate talent effectively, ensuring that skilled professionals are working on the most impactful and strategic areas.
  5. Career Path Visualization: For retention, use the evolution insight from the map to guide conversations about career development, showcasing potential growth areas and future opportunities within the organization.

This last section have been the most challenging.

So what’s next!

The list is insane, it took effort to list five concrete uses per challenge, and at the end of the exercise, the feeling is: well that’s just theory, probably nobody thinks about all this, CIOs just use it.

So what’s next!

Next, I am trying to understand how much of this is real, understanding that not everybody uses Wardley Mapping in the same way, but they do have something in common: everybody is trying to solve a problem.

Here a summary of these main uses:

Some final questions for the reader:

  • What is your view on this exercise?
  • Do you identify some of these uses as feasible?
  • What do you think that Wardley Mapping practice should improve to enable better adoption in the professional space?

The questions I have added are there with the purpose of provoking you on them. You are free to comment if you want, as the conversation is the key part of Wardley Mapping, but it was not the main purpose of these questions.

I continue exploring with curiosity the different uses of Wardley Mapping, and if you have just a moment to answer 3 questions, I would be grateful.

3 quick questions 

My commitment? I will add your answers in a month to this same blog.



By Joaquín Peña Fernández

I discovered Wardley Mapping in 2013, looking for something that enable me to deal with the role I had during that time. Since then I have explored with curiosity many details and aspects of Wardley Mapping. I write in https://joapen.com where you will find thoughts, maps and other stuff.

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