When Osterwalder and Pigneur (2010) presented their business model canvas, it quickly popularised the idea of holistically visualising interconnected parts of complex topics on a single page. The one-page overview has proven to be useful for both workshops in design and planning phases as also for communication during execution.
The approach was soon emulated in project management. One of the more recent, and well explained, project canvases is from Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez (2019) and the author has been kind enough to post the chapter on his canvas here.
Below I propose my own project canvas which you can also download here. Why a new version? Mainly to have something that reflects my own thinking for my own use. But I also see a strength in this version: It takes an end-to-end view of the project management lifecycle all the way up to benefits realisation. A failure factor I have observed many times, is to celebrate success when the project deliverables have been produced and to neglect the implementation of those deliverables in operations. A recent case was the successful go-live of a new CRM system after 18 months of project work. Six months after go-live, management checked the dashboard and only 5% of users were using the new system. A follow-up project was launched to improve adoption. This work could, and should, have been planned from the outset. Deliverables do not automatically produce benefits. This aspect is also addressed in the 10 Minute Project Health Check.
So what does the canvas look like? Here it is:
This canvas takes an input – transformation – output view of the project (i.e. resources are the input which are transformed by tasks into deliverables as output). The next elements of the canvas address the use of those deliverables in operations to produce an outcome. That outcome should reap a benefit for the project to be successful.
Initially the project team is more involved in the project, but as the deliverables are handed over to users, their time becomes more relevant.
We can also summarise the canvas at a level higher as the ‘How’, ‘What’, ‘Why’ and ‘Who’ of a project:
The flow of the arrows at the top reflect a basic chronology of the project (though this will be iterative, especially if the project is run following an agile approach). But if you use the canvas in the design phase of a project, it will not make sense to follow the canvas from left to right. There is no single right sequence to go through each section of the canvas, but the following is a good option to get started:
Of course, this will be an iterative process, for example, you may revise the current state (step 1) after talking to stakeholders (step 3) and you can only know the costs (step 4) after specifying the resources (step 9).
And of course, a canvas cannot contain all information on the project and you still need to apply the usual project management methods as you do otherwise. So whilst in the background you will have a complete risk register, the canvas may show an aggregated score per risk category and highlight the main risks that are currently being managed.
The following gives a few ideas of what could be included in each part of the canvas. This is listed in the sequence of the steps noted above:
|Outcome||What is the current state regarding process, organisation and systems as related to the intended scope of the project? What are major issues and to which degree are you reaching goals and objectives?|
What is the target state related to the above points that you wish to achieve?
|Users||Who are the users within the scope of the outcome and what are their key needs and interests? What is their input to the current and target states?|
|Stakeholders||A stakeholder analysis. What is their input to the current and target states?|
|Benefits||What are the benefits and costs of changing from the current to the target state? If possible this should be translated into financial figures. If this is an ‘enabling’ project that provides prerequisites for other projects to build on, then there should be a program that contains these projects and the business case must be valid for the program.|
|Deliverables||Which products, services, learning and information does the project need to provide to the users so that they can reach the target state? In an agile project this will be the backlog. In a classical project it could be a separate definition of deliverables or you could use the work-breakdown structure.|
The deliverables describe the scope of the project. You can also add an out-of-scope section if this helps clarify the scope more clearly (but there is a risk here, that if you forget to exclude something, the customer can argue it must be in scope).
|Use of deliverables||How will the project deliverables be used in operations to achieve the intended outcome, i.e. the target state? |
How will the adoption be secured?
|Tasks||What work needs to be done to produce the project deliverables and ensure their effective usage in operations?|
|Team||Which people will be freed up from other work to complete the project tasks?|
|Resources||Which other tangible (software, equipment, infrastructure etc.) and intangible (expertise, culture etc.) will you need to do complete the project tasks?|
|Risks||A risk analysis. You can use all of the other elements of the canvas to categories your risks (e.g. stakeholder risks, resource risks etc.)|
|Management||Who is the project manager and what are her or his qualifications? Who is the sponsor and the steering committee? What kind of corporate governance is in place? Which project methodology will you apply? Will the project be run waterfall, agile, other or hybrid?|
Behind each element of the canvas, there will be a separate artefact such as a risk register, a stakeholder analysis or a work-breakdown-structure. But the canvas can help you, your team and other stakeholders maintain a big-picture whilst you work through the details, to make sure everything fits together as a cohesive whole.
So those are a few thoughts and hopefully, something there is something of use for your own project management practice!
Rodriguez, Antonio Nieto: The Project Revolution: How to Succeed in a Project Driven World, LID Publishing, 2019
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Canvas (retrieved on 23.04.23)
Osterwalder, Alexander and Pigneur, Yves: Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, Wiley & Sons, Hoboken 2010