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© 2019 Sundaram Applied Technologies Inc. Silicon Beach, California

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How to Use the Technology Product Canvas:

The Technology Product canvas is meant to be, primarily, a vehicle for creating focus, communication and team alignment. It should be used after you have done your product strategy, story mapping and have generated a draft product release roadmap.  At this stage you will be able to define better the product features that are critical for each major release.  This now allows you to have a conversation with your technology team to figure out what technology architecture will be needed to support the product development. You will notice I have highlighted in green/blue/pink to show the alignment areas. To make this more understandable, I'm going to use a hypothetical example of a new software app which will be a new 'location' based app to connect people to other people around them - a community app to connect you with your neighbors for instance.  

 

Step 1: You should start from the top-right and define the 'Success Metrics'  - how are going to measure if our plan is working?  What are the business goals? They might be revenue in each release phase, or just numbers of downloads for instance in our app example.

 

Step 2: Work your way through the Product Vision and Product Release sections 2-5. This enables the team to get clarity and be refreshed upon what our vision is and how we have currently defined out our product development priorities.  Here we will re-state the Product Vision statement, and who the main target group is.  Then we will identify the 3-5 key Product Features/Goals that we are looking to achieve in each release.  In our app example our Product Vision might be 'To enable real time communication between people who live in my neighborhood in order to develop more community'.  Then, in the Product Releases, we might say that Version 1 is 'To identify your current location, show who is nearby and communicate with their email address'.  V2 might be 'to show who is nearby and allow real-time chat'.  V3 might be 'to enable privacy and monetization'.

 

Step 3: Now it's time to get the ideas from the technology team and get their vision for how the technology architecture will evolve.  Depending on the product you are developing this might be very software oriented.  Start with the Technology Vision, a statement that outlines the big picture of development and which can survive changes in 'tools vendor'. For example, in our app, the Technology Vision might state:  'To use the geo-location capabilities of devices today that provide location information and to use server-less microservices to enable cloud collaboration capabilities'.  We are not selecting a particular tool at this point.  Think of the Technology Vision as more of the big idea for how technology will help here and what innovations we are looking to adopt that will enable a competitive advantage as well as a technology runway/capability that can take us to our vision.

Step 4: Now we are finally ready to get down and dirty!  This is where the rubber hits the road and is the key-value for this canvas.  For each Product Release 1-3 we identified key features / functions.   Now in sections 7-9 we need to define the Technology Plan for each of these releases.  We will identify what technology architecture and tools will be needed to support each of these functions. Here it is OK to identify the tools and get technical.  we can pivot in future releases if needed. For example, in our app example, we might say that for Technology Plan 1 - 'Develop Progressive Web App using Ionic to enable cross-platform app.  Use Geo-Location capabilities. Sync with Firebase backend. Provide in-app email capability'.  Technology Plan 2 would be 'Implement user authentication using Facebook/Google authorization, implement real-time chat with Firebase database and Chat interface'.  Tech v3 would be 'Implement Privacy/GPS hiding and in-app purchase methods for app upgrades'.  

 

Step 5:  Finally once we've had a chance to think through how we are going to build the product from a technology architecture perspective, It's a good idea (especially for management) to discuss sections 10 and 11 - Risks and Resources.  In our example we might say for Risks: 'There is a chance the Progressive Web App will not be fast enough'.  If so, we could pivot to React or Native App development.  For Resources, it could be we are going to need people with skill sets in 'Ionic, PWA, Geolocation and Firebase' - for example.

Some More Thoughts:

Like all other canvas discussions, this is not meant to be perfectly completed - especially for the first go around. You might disagree as a team as to what is a product feature compared to a technology plan/architecture/capability and where to put what on the canvas. It doesn't matter! The purpose of the canvas is to initiate and frame a discussion so that at the end of the session you and the whole team have a much better conceptual agreement about how the development needs to proceed, ensuring that the product priorities and technology development team aspirations get met together and are in-sync.  This document is now the core of your development plan, it is the high level development roadmap and the technology team can now take this and frame its more detailed development tasks knowing the goals of the business.

 

A very important benefit of the canvas is that it allows the teams to identify the 'minimum' technology that needs to be applied or developed at each stage, which helps the product team get more understanding of the technology effort required, as well as the challenges.  The technology plans show the increasing complexity and provide the vision for everyone.  It ensures we plan the development in ways to ensure the technology capabilities are in-sync with - and planning just ahead of - the product needs; so that product development is not slowed down by lack of technology capability.  It is my recommendation that teams conduct a Technology Product Canvas review each Quarter, and definitely as each release is accomplished.  In the app example, a good example might be getting our team trained or finding a SignalR technology expert as we get close to releasing version 1 so that we are ready for release version 2 where that skill is needed.

 

If you think that you need to modify the canvas to better suit your needs, please do. I'd be really interested to hear your feedback about how we can improve this 'release' of the Technology Product Canvas!

 

Here is a completed example of the Technology Product canvas based on our hypothetical app example above: