Wardley Mapping on Kumu.io

I’ve noticed that quite a few people have been writing purpose-built software for Wardley Mapping, and lately I’ve been feeling inspired to join them! I had some extra time last Saturday, so I sat down at my laptop in the hopes of hacking together a fancy D3.js prototype. But after very lightly mapping my own understanding of mapping tools, I ditched the idea (TL;DR “software” == “hard” && “me” == “calorically conservative” i.e. “lazy” evaluates to TRUE) and instead diverted my attention to something easier — a relationship visualization platform called Kumu.

Mechanically speaking, a mapping tool just needs nodes, edges, and text (at least to start). RealtimeBoard and Kumu both satisfy these aspects, but Kumu may be a better fit for power users because of its depth of capability and visualization. My first draft showcases how quickly a map can come together using Kumu’s specialized Sketch Mode:

Given the positive response to this idea on Twitter, I decided to put in the work to create a template with styling and support for the most common elements found in Wardley Maps. You can try it for yourself, right now!

Getting Started

  1. Register for an account on Kumu.io
  2. Visit the Wardley Map Example project page
  3. Click “settings” in the bottom right (on desktop)
  4. Select “fork project” in the resulting dialogue

Now you have your own copy of the template to play with. I recorded a quick demo that hints at some basic usage of the tag-based system for adding different kinds of elements and connections to a Wardley Map.

To add a tag, use the left-hand panel after selecting an element or connection. In the present version, useful tags include:

  • future: Changes an element or connection to red, to indicate a future state.
  • change: Changes a connection to red, with an arrow and a dashed line, to express a point of change.
  • inertia: Changes an element to an inertia block.
  • annotation: Changes an element to a text annotation.

Also, here’s a 5 Minute Quickstart guide for the usage of Kumu in general.

Into the Details

To add an element or connection, hit the white-on-green plus sign and follow the dialogue. You can also use the keyboard shortcuts indicated (or Sketch Mode) to speed things up.

I’ve configured a tag-based styling system for common Wardley Map elements. (There may be better ways — suggestions welcome!). All you have to do is select an element or connection and add a tag to it in the info panel to style it. More on the various tags below.


To style an element or relationship to indicate it as a future state (color it red), simply select the element or relationship and add a tag named “future”.


To indicate that a relationship is a point of change (red arrow with dashed line), select it and add the “change” tag.

Screen Shot 2018-12-11 at 8.25.47 AM


To add an inertia bar, create a new element and tag it as “inertia”.


A key aspect of mapping is including text annotations to better communicate the intent. Just add an element and give it the “annotation” tag. Its label will be the annotation displayed.

[convertkit form=894710]

Parting Thoughts

There aren’t too many gotchas with this Wardley Mapping template, but Kumu itself has significant depth. It’s a powerful platform with a commensurate learning curve, so the documentation may prove useful.

A few things you should know:

  • No two elements (i.e., components) can have the same label.
  • Sketch mode (as seen in the first video) makes mapping work very fast.
  • Open the right-hand panel to edit styling. The basic view lets you point and click, and the advanced view works similarly to writing CSS. These advanced tools are where this Kumu template really shines for mapping. You may find the selector and property documentation particularly helpful when playing around.
  • Kumu is free for unlimited public projects. Private projects are gonna cost ya… like $9.

There’s a lot more to be done. The capabilities of the Kumu platform are rich, and working within them is just a matter of exploring the docs and trying interesting things out. One improvement that immediately comes to mind is to make use of the “views” feature to apply different lenses (e.g., capital flows, scenarios and so on) to the same map. Tag me on Twitter or file a PR on GitHub if you discover something interesting!

I want to extend a special thanks to Chris McDermott, Aaron Deadman, Taylor Hodge, and Julius Gamanyi for reviewing this post and making coherence out of my ramblings!

P.S. Did you know I’m building an online course? This is one of the best ways to support my work, and I’d love your help shaping the future of mapping education!


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