Business Process

Business Model Canvas: Helping business leaders create meaningful digital products

January 17, 2024
Business Model Canvas: Helping business leaders create meaningful digital products

When it comes to custom software, we at Michigan Software Labs often see business leaders stuck between needing to deliver value quickly, while also ensuring meaningful, long-lasting results.

If you’re facing this challenge, you’re certainly not alone.

Can you clearly articulate your business strategy?

So you’re energized by an idea for a digital product. But you might be trying to determine when to pursue a custom software solution. And what is the right digital product for your business needs?

These are the questions we find ourselves discussing with clients when they approach us for digital product consulting—long before we even begin writing code.

The truth is, there are likely a handful of digital products you could create.

To make the smartest investment decision, start by asking yourself, “Can I clearly and simply articulate my business strategy?” And can you do it in two or fewer sentences?

The truth is, many of us can’t. Or maybe we can, but the people and teams around us aren’t as well aligned as we need them to be.

It’s no secret: The leaders who can summarize their company’s strategy effectively are often the most successful in their industries. But with dozens of models and tools available, it can be challenging to know where to start.

Our recommendation is to take a step back from your custom software idea for a moment to ensure you have a strong grasp on your business strategy.

Through this article, I’ll explain why a clear business strategy produces meaningful and long-lasting digital products. This upfront investment into your strategic approach will result in much higher ROI from your software solution.

What is the Business Model Canvas (BMC)?

At Michigan Software Labs, we’re big fans of the Business Model Canvas (BMC). This strategic planning tool is an intuitive, single-page template that can guide you in documenting the goals and objectives of your business.

The BMC was invented by Alex Osterwalder—a Swiss business theorist and entrepreneur—and is now used worldwide by executives and entrepreneurs alike.

We particularly like this model because it’s simple and easy to understand. It can take just an hour or two to work through the following nine components of the template:

  1. Value proposition

  2. Customer segments

  3. Revenue streams

  4. Channels

  5. Customer relationships

  6. Key business activities

  7. Key resources

  8. Key partners

  9. Cost structure

We believe everyone can benefit from reviewing their business through the lens of the BMC, but it’s especially helpful for teams who:

  • Have significant unknowns

  • Want the competitive edge of a clear strategy

  • And are considering investing significantly into custom software

You can find the BMC at Strategyzer or download our free, licensed version to get started today.

How to use the Business Model Canvas to build the right digital product

As you work through the BMC, clearly defining your value proposition is important, of course.

But we get the most excited by watching leaders drill into their customer segments and key activities, starting to explore how digital products could enhance those goals.

This is often where we step in as consultants. We love facilitating BMC workshops for our partners. We have no intention of being the experts that you are—or in telling you how to run your business.

However, our team has had the opportunity to review dozens of business strategies across many industries—including supply chain and logistics, health care, automotive, and aerospace. So we’ll listen with humility, ask questions from an outside perspective, and help you explore important issues.

Collaborating on a Business Model Canvas allows us to be better digital product partners for you in a number of ways:

  • We share a common language around customer segments and problems

  • We can provide context into our daily decisions about what features to prioritize

  • We will deliver value more quickly, while remaining highly strategic

Recently, a client came to us in a state of organizational transition. They had specific revenue growth goals. Our executive stakeholder knew that the company’s digital roadmap would be key to their ability to scale, but was unsure where to best allocate their focus.

During our product strategy phase of work, we hosted a BMC workshop. Together with key members of the company’s team, we asked questions and completed the canvas.

As we dug into their customer segments, we found overlap between some of the key activities they provided to those customers and their overall scaling strategy. This gave us the clarity to identify areas of prioritization on their software roadmap—including activities that would be stressed with scale and others that could increase value to customers as the company increases market share.

We all left the workshop with a more cohesive vision.

Partnering with humility brings greater success

At Michigan Software Labs, we’re built around a core value of partnering with humility in our work. That means that every engagement—whether we’re working through the Business Model Canvas or not—begins with us listening and learning. Then, we’ll bring your vision to life!

The bottom line? An upfront investment into defining your business strategy will deliver more meaningful, long-lasting digital products.

If this sounds exciting to you, we’d love to chat. Our managing partners and principal consultants love working through product strategy. Reach out to us today to start a conversation.

Joshua Hulst
Joshua Hulst
Co-founder & Managing Partner

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