The Product Canvas


To help product owners and teams create new products, Roman Pichler has developed a new tool called the product canvas. The canvas has grown out of his work with product owners and product managers over the past ten years, and it's designed to be compatible with the business model canvas.

The product backlog is a handy tool that lists the outstanding work necessary to develop a product. However, it can be insufficient when you need to create a brand new product or an update aimed at a new market. The product backlog’s linear structure makes it difficult to capture all product aspects, including the user interface design and the user interaction. There is no place to state assumptions about the target group, the users and customers, and their needs.

To help product owners and teams create new products, I have developed a new tool called the product canvas. The canvas has grown out of my work with product owners and product managers over the last ten years, and it's designed to be compatible with the business model canvas.

A Sample Canvas
The product canvas displays the key pieces of information necessary to create a new product. As its name suggests, it paints a holistic picture of the product.

Figure 1
Figure 1. A Sample Product Canvas 

The above canvas contains the following: a brief vision statement; the product name; the personas characterising the target users and customers with their needs; epics that describe the product’s functionality; design sketches that capture the product or user interface design; user journey diagrams that illustrate how users are likely to interact with the product; and constraints that express generic operational qualities such as performance.

The canvas is designed so that the information flows from left to right starting with the personas. This puts the user at the center of the development effort, and it ensures that you develop a product that is beneficial and desirable.

Figure 2
Figure 2. Stocking the Product Canvas 

The journeys, epics, sketches, and constraints sketch the future product, and the ready stories ensure that there are implementable items.

Learning and Emergence
The biggest challenge when developing a new product or a major update is dealing with uncertainty and lack of knowledge. We may not know, for instance, if there is enough demand for the new product or how to meet the user needs successfully The product canvas  is therefore designed as a learning tool: to sketch our initial ideas, to get enough stories ready to build software, and to adapt and refine the canvas based on the insights gained. Figure 3 illustrates this cycle.

Figure 3
Figure 3. The Product Canvas as a Learning Tool
Consequently, you should expect your canvas to change as you learn more about the users and customer, and how to best address their needs. It’s common to deal with bigger changes involving clearing out and refilling one or more canvas sections including the section on personas. These changes indicate that the initial product strategy was inappropriate and has to be adapted. Such a change is also called pivot.

The Canvas Sections Explained
As you have probably noticed, the product canvas  combines form and function, a structure together with specific techniques. Figure 4 provides an overview of how the eight canvas sections should be used and I describe the sections in more detail below.

Figure 4
Figure 4. The Canvas Sections Explained

Vision states the intention or motivation behind the product. Keep the vision statement short and sweet. Limit it to one or two sentences.

Product name states the name of the product.

Personas describe the target group using fictional users and customers, including the goals to be met and the problem to be solved. This section explains who we believe is likely to use and purchase the product and why.

Journeys allow you to capture complex interactions of the user with the product. Scenarios, workflow diagrams, story boards are great to illustrate

User Comments

1 comment
Keith Collyer's picture

Very good article. Unfortunately, Figure 5 is missing

July 17, 2014 - 1:13pm

About the author

Roman Pichler's picture Roman Pichler

A leading Scrum and agile product management expert, Roman Pichler has a long track record of teaching and coaching product owners. For nearly a decade, he has helped companies transition to agile. Roman is the author of Agile Product
Management with Scrum
and a frequent speaker at international conferences. Find out more at Pichler Consulting and Training.

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