Value Proposition Canvas — An indispensable tool for Product Owners
Linking the customer profile with the features and services to come up with a prioritized and targeted product backlog
- By Adyot Kumar Srivastava, CoffeeBeans Consulting
A Product Owner is a team role defined in the Scrum Guide as the team member accountable for maximising the value of the product resulting from the work of the Team. The work of the Product Owner starts with defining the Product goal and the Product Backlog Items (PBIs) based on inputs from key stakeholders across the organisation, market data, competitor analysis and many other factors.
The Product Owner is responsible for defining and prioritising the Product Backlog and also ensuring that it is transparent, visible and understood. For a product to be successful, the market, the team and the product features, all play an important role. From a product owner’s perspective, it is important to ensure that the product developed actually fits the customer values and needs. There may be a good target market and a well designed product but if the product does not fit the market then all the analysis and effort can go to waste.
The Value Proposition Canvas is a tool that can help ensure that a product or service is positioned around what the customer values and their needs. The Value Proposition Canvas, a framework to ensure product-market fit was initially developed by Dr. Alexander Osterwalder.
For a product owner, the Value Proposition Canvas can not only help ensure product-market fit but also be a source for well-structured and prioritised user stories. Let us delve deeper into how the value proposition canvas works and how a product owner can use it efficiently.
As shown above, the Value Proposition Canvas has 2 main components:
- The SQUARE
- The CIRCLE
The CIRCLE deals with the customer profile and the SQUARE deals with the value proposition. In simpler words, the CIRCLE talks about the customer, and the SQUARE talks about the product and its features.
For a product owner, the CIRCLE denotes the outcomes or consequences, and the SQUARE denotes what makes the outcomes happen.
On the right, the canvas profiles the customer by asking: what jobs are they trying to accomplish, what’s hard or unpleasant (pains) about their current way of doing it, and what’s desirable or delightful (gains) in an ideal solution.
On the left, we map out the value proposition by asking: what is the product or service, and how does it create the gains the customer wants and soothe the pains they don’t.
Now that we know what the two things denote, let us look at how to use them. The PO starts by defining the customer jobs (the functional, social, and emotional tasks customers are trying to perform, problems they are trying to solve, and needs they want to satisfy). These customer jobs help us identify the pains and gains that the customer desires. While it may easily be mistaken, the gains are not the opposite of the pains. The pains are the negative experiences of a customer, while the gains are the benefits that the customer expects and needs.
Let us look at the SQUARE. The Value map (SQUARE) also has 3 components: pain relievers, gain creators, and products and services. The products and services show the features that can help relieve the pain or create gains for the customer, in turn providing value to the customer. The pain relievers detail how the products and services can relieve the pain of the customer, and the gain creators detail how the products and services can offer added value to the customer.
We will now see how all of this ties together. The Gain Creators may provide one or more gains and may also contribute to the relief of one or more of the pains. Similarly, pain relievers can solve one or more pains and may lead to one or more gains for the customer.
For a product owner, if the Gain Creators and Pain Relievers can solve the major pain points and provide gains to the users, and the products and services are taking care of the customer jobs, in other words, if the SQUARE and the CIRCLE are seen as fitting properly with each other, then the product or service is said to be positioned around what the customer values and needs. We can then have a good product-market fit.
Below is the sample Value Proposition Canvas for Uber from back when it was getting off the ground:
Apart from providing insights into the product-market fit, the Value Proposition Map also provides some other interesting insights for the product owner.
Filling the Gap/Enhance your offering
We talked about how the Value Proposition Canvas tells us how our product features are solving pains and resulting in gains. But if we look at it in reverse order, we observe that the canvas also gives us pains and gains that are not resolved using the current feature set. So, that gives us the GAP in our offering.
We can use this to identify the features that we now want to add that will enhance our offering and make our product more attractive to customers.
We discover that some Gain Creators will be associated with more than one gain or pain after mapping the relationships between the Gains, Pains, Gain Creators, and Pain Relievers. The same goes for pain relievers. Apart from this, there is an individual priority for the gains and pains as well. These priorities combines with the link between the Value Map (SQUARE) and Customer Profile (CIRCLE), feed into the prioritisation of the Product Backlog by telling us which of the features will provide us a better return on investment.
Writing user Stories
A user story is an articulation of the product backlog items. A user story is the smallest unit of work in an agile framework. It’s an end goal, not a feature, expressed from the software user’s perspective.
As per a recent survey at Thoughtworks, the most preferred format of a user story contains 3 elements: As a____, I want to____, So that____
In this format, we first define the user from whose perspective we want to write the story (as a). We also define the task that the said user wants to accomplish (I want to). Finally, we look at the value that the user wants (so that). This is where the canvas comes in. It provides the gains and pains we want to refer to. A Product Owner would want to ensure that the story leads to pain being relieved or gain being created.
I hope this article helps the readers understand the utility of the Value Proposition Canvas when defining product goals and product backlog. It is a valuable tool in the arsenal of a Product Owner.
Thanks for Reading
- CSPO workshop by Lizzy Morris