6 Reasons a Lean Canvas Needs to be Part of Your Product Development Process
by Nicolas Jacobeus, on 14 June 2017
When you're working on an exciting new startup idea, it's easy to become hyper-focused on the sellable product; the polished mobile app or the gorgeous web platform.
This is particularly common for non-technical founders, when building the product is perceived as their initial barrier to startup success. However, your product encompasses much more than just the sellable product: your entire startup business is your product, too.
A Lean Canvas is a startup-oriented adaptation of the Business Model Canvas, designed to help businesses develop an actionable business plan. To help kick-start your startup, we're sharing six reasons why a Lean Canvas should be an essential part of your product development process.
1) It's a Simple Business Plan
At this early stage, you have no need for a conventional business plan: a 40-page, in-depth document will take too long to put together, and be too complex to keep up-to-date as your startup takes shape.
Instead, you need something concise and easy to understand, that is easy to update and can be quickly referred to when needed. A Lean Canvas is designed to be a short, one-page business plan that is perfect for an early-stage, ever-changing startup.
2) It's Startup-Specific
The Lean Canvas is a startup-specific version of the Business Model Canvas. It takes into account the unique challenges and uncertainties of an early-stage startup, providing value even if you haven't developed an MVP or prototype yet.
Unlike the Business Model Canvas, it dedicates space to Key Metrics - to help keep you focused on the metrics that truly matter for your startup so you don't get distracted by vanity metrics or false indicators of success. It also provides a lot of space for both the Problem and your Solution. Awareness of the problem your startup looks to solve is essential for guiding product development and keeping you focused on user needs.
3) It's Easy for Others to Understand
How likely is it that your busy team of developers - or even your co-founders - will find time to read a 40-page, in-depth business plan?
Instead, having a concise, 1-page Lean Canvas means it's more likely your key stakeholders will read your plan. This offers improved communication and information sharing throughout your team, as everyone will able to see what your startup's biggest challenges and priorities are.
4) It's Easy to Update
It's much easier to update a 1-page document rather than a 40-page one.
This is crucial for early-stage startups: your business will be frequently evolving and changing, based on feedback and unanticipated roadblocks. While a traditional business plan would soon be out-of-date, a Lean Canvas is much simpler to quickly update to reflect recent changes in your startup.
5) It Helps Re-Frame Your Thinking
In the earliest stages of startup development, it's easy to conflate your startup's product or service with your startup as a whole. But in reality, your startup is much more than just the product you're building.
The Lean Canvas provides a timely reminder of this fact: product is just one box out of nine, highlighting the wealth of other priorities to balance. At this early stage, your entire startup is your product, so all aspects should be considered as part of your product development process.
6) It Focuses on Goals, not Features
As well as encouraging you to consider your startup as a whole, the Lean Canvas keeps you focused on the problem you're trying to solve, rather than the features or functionality you want to build-in to your product.
This goal-oriented approach keeps you focused on the needs of your customers, rather than chasing the next exciting idea or technology to add in features unrelated to your core value-add.
In summary, a Lean Canvas is essential for helping you and key stakeholders understand the problem you're solving for customers: something which is much more important than the product you're trying to build.