Magazine article Computers in Libraries

How to Manage Libtech Innovation with Wardley Value Chain Mapping

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

How to Manage Libtech Innovation with Wardley Value Chain Mapping

Article excerpt

Wardley value chain mapping is a simple and effective technology planning tool developed by the British entrepreneur Simon Wardley. On his blog Bits or Pieces (, Wardley has an extensive archive of case studies and analyses of value chain mapping focused on innovation for large corporate clients. Value chain mapping is effective across a variety of organizations and hits a sweet spot in IT strategy planning. It is not overly complicated and does not require extensive training to understand.

I discovered Wardley value chain mapping while reflecting on the progress of some IT decisions that I made as the systems librarian for College of the North Atlantic-Qatar. I was trying to compare a number of options that we had for replacing our ILS, and I found it difficult to communicate to library management and the IT department the fundamental differences in workload that each system required.

First, I used value chain mapping to understand the state of the systems that I was in charge of. This orientation phase of creating a map gave a summary view of the processes, systems, and decisions that had already been made. Second, I used the existing value chain maps that I created as a decision-making tool to prioritize my limited time, attention, and resources for future projects. Third, I used value chain maps as a teaching tool with team members to gain a common understanding of what library systems do and how they fit within the broader IT landscape.

The Template

One of the attractions of using value chain mapping in decision making is the simplicity of the tool. Based on Wardley's examples and maps on Bits or Pieces, I developed a simplified template that I use to create my maps. I do most of my mapping work in Google Slides (, but I have also used print maps for sketching and evaluating processes (

My template based on Wardley's processes has two axes. The vertical axis goes from visible to invisible: Visible systems are those that are directly visible to your end user, while invisible ones are hidden from your end user.

Horizontally, the map is divided up into four categories:

1. Genesis systems are systems that are a completely new and novel idea. The basic concepts of what goes into a genesis system have never been developed before and will need to be developed from scratch. Genesis systems offer the most control, but require the most labor and resources for upkeep. The invention and creation of the MARC standards would be an example of a genesis product.

2. Custom-built systems are made up of existing software and systems, but are put together in a new and novel way. They need fewer resources and work for upkeep, but often require coordination and offer a high level of control. As of 2017, the proposed FOLIO library services platform is an example of a custom-built system.

3. Product/rental systems are made up of existing software and systems, but assembled and sold as a complete package. Product/rental systems require fewer resources, but offer much less control over services and operations. Most ILSs and other software sold to libraries and hosted on local systems are product/rental systems.

4. Commodity/utility systems are services sold to libraries on an ongoing basis with no local hosting. These systems offer the lowest cost and the least control. Examples include SaaS platforms such as LibGuides or BiblioCommons.

Wardley offers additional examples and details of his mapping techniques on Bits or Pieces, and there are some paid commercial offerings that allow the easy creation of maps. Atlas mapping is one of the simplest to use (wardleymaps .com).

How to Create a Value Chain Map

Wardley value chain maps start with the user. I place the marker for the user above the lines of the chart. Then, I work step-by-step through the process of a user accomplishing a specific task. …

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