Product Management

Another Day, Another Product Canvas

Business Model Canvas

We product people seem to really like the canvas!

In my world, there are three canvases which have gained some traction….Wait, make that four.

In the modern software development movement, the business model canvas was the forerunner, from the work of Alexander Osterwalder on business model innovation in 2008.  His work suggested that by collecting the nine critical elements of a business model on one page, it would be easy to consider, challenge, modify and iterate on those business models in order to find new ways of delivering value.

Delivering value and innovating is what product managers do, so in our community there have now been a few spin-offs of the original canvas.  Let’s see if we can decipher each flavor from the other:

  1. Business Model Canvas – The original, from Osterwalder’s work.  Intended for use at any type of enterprise.
  2. Lean Product Canvas – Adapted for Lean Startup.  The unique elements on this one are Unfair Advantage, Problem and Solution.
  3. Product Vision Board – Roman Pichler’s vision board for scrum product owners captures the vision statement, target group, needs, key product features, and value.  Pichler offers an extended version of this canvas to capture more of the product management scope of responsibility, which contains competition, channels and price.
    1. Pichler also offers a more detailed, in-the-weeds Product Canvaswhich emphasizes individual epics / user stories and Agile UX artifacts such as user flows and wireframes, in order to give a more complete, low-level vision of the product. Although its name resembles several of the others listed here, its focus is at a different level.
      1. In late 2014, I realized that back in 2010 I proposed that a sellable product could be defined by most of the items that Pichler included on his Canvas, but with the addition of the value proposition.  I just hadn’t been exposed to the concept of the “canvas” at the time.
  4. Product Canvas – Shardul Mehta, the Street Smart Product Manager, offers this canvas adapted from the business model canvas which considers things like Existing Alternatives, Key Stakeholders, Early Adopter, and adds back in the Key Partners and Resources that Lean Product Canvas took out.

Each offers a modified set of factors to depict, but provides a way to review them in a single-page overview for easy adaptation and consumption.  Since the business model canvas is licensed under Creative Commons, we can expect to see more of these over time as people put more thought into what works for their organization, and some percentage of those people make their adaptations available.

Not to be outdone, Applied Frameworks has just released the Applied Frameworks Product Scorecard.  This is a version of the traditional product scorecard–which usually shows a number of metrics with red/yellow/green indicators for overall performance over a period of time–recast to visually resemble the business model canvas!  This one might be useful for annual planning, offering a little more room than is typically available on product scorecard templates.

Which one is the best fit for you?  Let us know in the comments!


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1 Comment

  1. Hey John,

    The Lean Canvas was my first introduction to the business model canvas. It was described in detail in the excellent book Running Lean. If you want a tactical description of how to implement Lean Startup principles definitely grab a copy of the book.

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