• Prem Sundaram

A lot my work is in the form of helping people develop their software ideas. I often find my clients have already sketched out a design for an app and are keen to get going to build it. I usually have to tell them to hold-on and take a step back!

Once someone has an idea for an app, they might think they are following best practices by engaging a User Interface/User Experience (UI/UX) graphic designer to sketch out a 'clickable prototype' of an app - thinking that this is the same as their 'MVP" (Minimal Viable Product). Unfortunately, in my experience, this is not and skips a vital stage of the app design process that actually helps to formulate the MVP. In this post I'll explain what's missing and what you can do to make a better app prototype.

The Problem: An App Mock-Up is Not the Same as an MVP Prototype

First of all, if you have, or are building, a mockup/clickable prototype good for you! You are already ahead of most people and companies when developing software. But you might find that after engaging the designer and getting your app you realize that it is not complete, or not fully communicating your vision. Why is this happening? It's because you have not fully understood and communicated to the UI/UX designer what are the goals for your app and what you believe is most critical for the app.

If you have a good UI/UX designer then they will take you through what I am about to share with you. But unfortunately that's not always the case. I was recently at a presentation in Silicon Beach where a graphics design company was pitching their 'app prototype service'. It seemed very cool but I could see that they were focused on rapidly creating/improving the fidelity of a wire frame mock-up that the client may have already created. The client was being charged between $5-10k for these designs in the pitch that it will help to secure investment when they can better demonstrate the app. All this is true, but after the presentation I felt that the money could have been better utilized if the client had done some more thinking about the app before engaging the firm to develop the mock-up.

A Solution: Use the Software Product Canvas before Engaging the Designer

To address this issue, that I see again and again, I decided to use the 'canvas' concept and design a canvas focused on this stage of app idea concept definition. I think its important if you have a new business or idea to also develop your lean canvas/business/opportunity or product vision canvases, and so I've included some of the elements of those canvases into the Software Product Canvas. My goal is to make this a software oriented canvas that helps you to communicate in one-page the critical elements of your app vision and help you to define your MVP.

As a reminder, the idea of an MVP goes beyond just a software, it is the whole business model. Ash Maurya talks extensively on this topic. My Software Product canvas will help you to start formulating your MVP, and put you in a better position before engaging the UI/UX prototype design firm. It's a bit like an Ad agency. We all know that before you engage an Ad agency, you should have your brand/marketing message defined first - otherwise the Ad agency won't be able to design something that speaks to the message you are trying to convey.

Example of a Software Product Canvas

Next Step: Create your Software Product Canvas and Engage the Designer!

Click here to learn more about how to use and create your first Software Product canvas for your app idea. This process will help you to identify the key goals and use-case for your app. I like to call it 'story mapping lite' - it's a first go around of defining your software product including the high level customer story for using the app.

By completing this canvas you will advance your thinking and then be in a much better position to engage a designer and developer team, saving you truly time and money.

If you have any questions or suggestions do contact me.

Thanks for reading,


  • Prem Sundaram

How 'in-sync' are your technology and product teams? Does it feel that the tech team is not responsive to the product team goals?

This is a common issue I see in high-growth technology companies, since everyone is so busy these days. However successful companies are actively managing the interface between these two groups and have clear product and technology roadmaps. How do they do this?

If you are lucky to be working in a well run high performing company, you will be having regular meetings between the teams in your company, with the tech group in full awareness of the product goals and expectations. However, the reality can sometimes fall short of this! That's why I created the Technology Product Canvas.

The canvas will act as quick way to facilitate a team discussion and get everyone on the same page. By going through the process, which can take as little as an hour, you will be managing that interface between the product and technology teams.

The Technology Product Canvas forces the team to explicitly state and visualize the product roadmap, the technology roadmap, and discuss each product-technology stage of the roadmap. This is the vital discussion at the interface which ensures the teams are in-sync and can leave the room knowing their clear direction and expectations.

This is the core of the work I do with clients - it's always about getting the two sides of the business on the same page! Try the canvas with your group and let me know how it works for you. Have fun!

To learn more about how to use the Technology Product Canvas click here

  • Prem Sundaram

Updated: Feb 11, 2019

As I was reviewing the various tools and canvas templates for product discovery and development, I realized that there was a 'canvas' missing: a canvas to bring the product and tech teams together. This is the core of what I do as a consultant and it is always an issue - whether you are a startup or a growing company. So I took a few hours and distilled down the core of what I do into what I am calling the 'Technology Product Canvas'.

Thank you Alex, Roman and Jeff

The canvas concept has been around for about 10 years and the key visionaries and innovators in this space include Alexander Osterwalder who created the Business Model Canvas, Roman Pichler who created the Product Vision Canvas, and Jeff Patton Patton known for the Story Mapping method and his Opportunity Mapping canvas. I used Jeff's template to create what I term the 'Technology Product Canvas'.

When do You use the Technology Product Canvas?

The Technology Product Canvas is best used by the Product Owner when you have fully defined your product vision, have conducted your story mapping process, and developed your initial product release / roadmap.

At this point, you are ready to have a detailed technology discussion about how we are going to 'build it'. This is when you need to explain the Product - the high-level features of each release - to the tech group.

The Technology Product Canvas will allow the Product and Tech teams to 'get-in-sync' about what needs to be developed, and how it will be developed. The discussion will bring clarity, sometimes conflict, but ultimately agreement about what technology architecture will need to be put in place to develop the product, and how the technology platforms will evolve to meet the needs of the product.

In my work with tech companies, its always about matching the goals of the business/product to the delivery capabilities of the tech group that are powering the creation process, and where the risks are the greatest. Hence, I decided that a 'canvas' would be an ideal tool that many of you might also find useful.

Check out the site to learn more about how to use the Technology Product Canvas and download the editable PowerPoint template so you can use it in your next meeting!

I hope you enjoy using the canvas and I look forward to your feedback on how we can improve it.


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© 2019 Sundaram Applied Technologies Inc. Silicon Beach, California

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