There has been a number of posts on mapping recently, most notably on 'Mapping the way to a strategy' by James Findlay (CIO of HS2) and 'Revolutionising Digital Public Service Delivery' by Judge's Business School in Cambridge.
Mapping is a large and sometimes complex subject and you'll find ample information on this blog. A good place to start is here. However, in the next three posts, I'm not going to cover how to map, nor the basics of value chains and evolution. Instead I want to talk about the conclusions of mapping - ten good, three amazing and one absolute wow.
The good bits about mapping are as follows.
1) Focus on user Needs
Mapping inherently focuses an organisation on user needs because the entire value chain used in mapping is a chain of needs. Such a practice is useful because value comes from meeting the needs of others.
Figure 1 - Maps and User Needs
Maps are designed to cope with one of the basic rules of competition - that everything evolves - hence maps continuously adapt. The evolution axis reflects how complex environments are constantly changing due to supply and demand side competition.
Figure 2 - Maps and Change
3) Assist in managing complex environments
Maps allow you to see how evolved something is and therefore the most appropriate methods of management. All things evolve from an uncharted to an industrialised space and there isn't a one size fits all method such as agile or six sigma or in-source or outsource. Instead there's multiple methods, each of which are appropriate at different states of evolution. An example of this multiple method approach is the management within HS2 (high speed rail).
Figure 3 - HS2 (High Speed Rail) Maps and methods of management.
Maps enable you to visualise contract arrangements. This is particularly difficult to do with large scale specification documents and box and wire diagrams. In the below example, the contract arrangement for a huge Home Office project was mapped in an afternoon. What this showed was a particular contract due to its depth and width ran severe risks of cost over-runs if management methods were misapplied. This has now been fixed.
Figure 4 - Contract Arrangements in Home Office
5) Assist in scenario planning
Maps enable you to ask what if questions, to examine potential scenarios such as what happens when a component evolves from product to more commodity? They enable you to test potential impacts of changes.
Figure 5 - Scenario planning in the security industry
6) Help in identifying opportunities
Maps allow you to compare to others (whether business units or competitors) and hence more easily identify potential areas of differentiation, opportunities for efficiency and common shared services.
Figure 6 - Comparison between different business units for the same value chain
7) Enable strategic gameplay
Maps enable you to identify where you can attack and the tactical games that you can play from building of ecosystems, exploiting the inertia of others, constraints, use of open as a weapon, undermining barriers to entry and targets for disruption. There's a whole array of tactical games and dark arts than can be deployed by an experienced player.
8) Provide easy communication
Maps are inherently simple, you don't even need to know what the points mean in order to have a discussion about an environment. Maps also turn out to be surprisingly useful for explaining a business environment and getting everyone in an organisation to understand any strategy played.
Figure 8 - Map for a TV company
9) Mitigate risks
Maps also turn out to be extremely useful in identify points of risk within an environment whether this is contract risk, risk of mismanagement, risk of change, constraints or inertia.
10) Have the granularity I need
Finally maps, can be altered in granularity depending upon whether you're looking at policy level, a business unit or tactical games within a system.
Now in terms of competition then if I'm more able to effectively deal with user needs, constant change, management of complex environments and contracts whilst having better scenario planning, strategic gameplay, communication, risk management and the ability to identify opportunities from system level to policy ... then you've got a problem. In practice this only happens when a company using maps (or an equivalent mental model) is competing against companies running on specifications and box and wire diagrams (e.g. IT systems diagrams, business process maps etc). Fortunately that's quite a lot of companies.
However, these are just the good bits about mapping. The Amazing aspects and one Wow are much more dangerous and I'll cover the Amazing in the next post.