Building Strategy with Wardley Maps for Product Development

As a founder, you have rocky terrain to navigate when building your product. However, having a strategy can be the compass you need. From all the tools available to consider when building your strategy – Wardly Maps stands out as a simple yet powerful aid. 

SaaSboomi recently hosted a Playbook Roundtable session in Kochi for SaaS founders. This session was led by Vivek Khandelwal (iZooto) and covered building a strategy using Wardley Maps as a framework.

Here’s a brief overview of the session highlights and learnings. 

What are the strategies? Why should you consider building one? 

In simple words, a ‘strategy’ is a choice or set of choices made to win.

Unfortunately, there is no identical strategy that can be adopted. What works for someone, may not work for another. Most often founders will need to build unique strategies to navigate their own set of challenges or ‘terrain’

Before trying to build a strategy, the first step is understanding this terrain. You can do this by talking to your potential customers, competitors, and stakeholders.

Once you are done with the first step and have a fair understanding of your terrain, you’ll then need a visual map of how to outline and tackle the next steps, and this is exactly where Wardley maps come in handy.

How Wardley Maps help you think through your strategy

Working on the Wardley Map requires you to iterate on 3 areas: 

  1. Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
  2. Category Choice
  3. Tailwinds

When your ICP changes, your Wardley map changes too. If you are building in an existing category, you will need to have strong marketing and branding to stand out. Whereas if you are building in a custom category, you may need to first educate your audience.

Using a Wardley map will help you to have clarity over these aspects.

Wardley Maps: A breakdown with examples 

What is a Wardley Map?

It’s a way to create a value chain that maps user needs against the four stages of market evolution (Genesis, Custom, Product, and Commodity).

Wardley’s map has 2 axes:

  • X shows the evolution of technology,
  • Y describes how value is stacked.
Wardley’s map has 2 axes: X shows evolution of technology, Y shows value stacked.

Now, let’s look at a simple illustration of what a Wardley Map looks like for a customer who wants a cup of tea. Using this, we’ll break down how needs and requirements are mapped out. 

Example of Wardley map for a customer that wants tea, mapping out needs & requirements to make it.

In this example, we’ll assume the customer needs a cup of tea.

To make tea, you typically need water, tea, and a cup. To heat the water, you would need a kettle too. A set of requirements are stacked and then connected to create a value chain. Each of these requirements or needs is stacked according to their abstraction level – if there is a higher level of need, it will be placed at the top. A need placed at the bottom left will be an emerging or speculative need that has not yet been fully developed or validated.

To position exactly on the Wardley map, check the x-axis on the map – Genesis, Custom Built, Product or Rental, Commodity or Utility section.

Here’s a handy table reference to help you further understand mapping needs. 

Table reference to help you further understand mapping needs

Using this simple framework, you can build a strategy, mitigate risks, and facilitate communication among stakeholders. The idea is to build a strategy and keep iterating.

The session wrapped up with an engaging Wardley mapping activity, enthusiastically participated by the founders.

About the author

Sradha Suresh

Fellow - Startup Porfolio | Kerala Startup Mission
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