I was CIO at Department for Education when I first met Simon Wardley of the Leading Edge Forum and was blown away by his concept of value chain mapping (VCM) to enable IT and business colleagues to starting speaking the same language.

After a half hour with Wardley I did think my head may explode and I had a niggling thought if I had his skills I’d be selling myself to the highest bidder in Silicon Valley!!!

Fast forward 18 months and I’ve run two major business changes programs across Central Government organisations and officially part of the Tech Leaders network using mapping methods.  

More recently as CTO for The National Archives (TNA), I was keen that we explored value chain mapping early doors as part of our 'Tech Reboot' activities to try and break down the language barrier between IT and the business.  This meant we could share something as an organisation that we knew would be imperfect but a hell of a lot better than banging on about Enterprise Architecture showcasing lengthy spreadsheets.

The TNA team did the hard work and had great success in mapping its estate; they are now home grown talent trained by Wardley rather than using external consultancies.  As the team actually knew the environment and were keen to share the maps across the business, IT were open to feedback. Both parties knew that it wasn’t going to be right first time but had developed a tool for dialogue and therefore development. As a result TNA understood for the first time how many IT systems it operates, how they hung together and started to map out how things could look in the future.  This gave TNA a great opportunity to explore commodity services.  

I was heartened to see that other departments were using VCM successfully for bigger prizes than those we were chasing at TNA.

James Findlay HS2, CIO credits his transformation success in using mapping to set out his stall and drive a controversial change of direction from a large outsourced IT deal.  Findlay presented his story to TNA, which was of a well-executed plan, with impressive cost saving’s, a clear map for the future and leads HS2 firmly into the IT & digital transformation game.

Other government IT colleagues, such as at the Home Office have been using VCM to map their IT programmes; when you consider most IT programmes at the Home Office are staffed with a team the size of a large IT department it makes perfect sense.  Home Office CTO Sarah Wilkinson has mandated the use of VCM for all IT programmes.  Of particular interest to me was Ben Slasberg’s (Strategic Architect) plan to evolve the Home Office’s Target Operating Model from benefits gained with VCM.  This is an area I will watch with interest as in my opinion this is where transforming Government really gets exciting.

Mapping is transforming beyond the UK, Logius, a digital government service within the Dutch Government are wedded to VCM as a model to execute their Strategy. Peter Leijnse Senior Architect at Logius? summed their approach to VCM mapping up for me in one statement.  ‘It lives within your organisation'.

My key takeaways from working with VCM are:

•    The simplicity of VCM as a tool and how incredibly powerful it is
•    Everyone interpreted VCM slightly differently which gave us a great opportunity to see other uses and create further benefits
•    Its meant to be an imperfect exercise but a VCM allows for a bridge between IT and the business, for the first time they can speak the same language
•    Its a consultant free zone, it’s not about charging for consultancy but creating skills within your teams to map your estates
•    I'd rather have a Map than a SWOT assessment any day of the week

HM Government has a great opportunity with VCM and the IT contracts database that GDS holds to map out some impressive financial saving’s, enhance further collaboration and encourage strategic supplier management, this concept is beginning to sound dangerously like Government as a Platform.