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Business Architecture and the Business Model Canvas

One of the challenges when modelling a Business/StartUp/Project (proposition) is to make sure that you capture all the inputs & outputs that can effect your decisions & architectural design. There are often so many unknown factors that effect a proposition that it is all to easy to focus on the visible and happy path aspects rather than digging into the deeper elements that could reveal unhappy truths. Stakeholders can unconsciously hold back important and relevant information that can be critical to your decision making process. Effectively teasing out requirements from stakeholders is a skill set in its own right as people tend create solutions in their minds rather than focusing on the problem. It is our job to get to the problem and that can often be rather hard when the stakeholder has already got a predetermined solution in mind.

Over the last 6 months I have been effectively using the Business Model Canvas as a communications tools to document, validate and brainstorm my clients ideas.

Business_Model_Canvas

Its a fantastic tool because its structured in a way that poses questions across the whole business model that may not have been thought of, and because its a visual tool it becomes clear very quickly where there are gaps in the vision.

You start by getting your clients to document all their assumptions onto post-it notes and stick them into the relevant cells on the canvas. I have seen many people print off large versions of the canvas that they hang on the wall, however I tend to draw mine onto a white board and then stick post-it notes onto that.

businessmodelcanvas-whiteboard

The original Business Model Canvas was developed by Alex Osterwalder and is documented in his excellent book Business Model Generation. The Book is a great introduction to business models and provides a number of default models based on well know established businesses. My only complaint about it would be that it is targeted at the Enterprise, as a result the models are rather too “big picture” for me. I like my models to be rather granular as this enables me to define clear actionable next steps. As a result I tend to blend the Business Model Canvas with elements from the Lean Canvas developed by Ash Maurya author of Running Lean. The Lean Canvas is more product centric which I find to be more helpful as my clients tend to think in products and services rather than businesses.

Once you have gone through the process of documenting the idea onto the canvas I tend to draw it up on a PowerPoint slide deck so that I can capture the Business Model as it develops. The PowerPoint slide deck also makes for a convenient method for distributing the Model to your clients or stakeholders.

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