The Opportunity Canvas helps to evaluate opportunities for existing digital products and services.
This article explains when to use an Opportunity Canvas, how it is structured and filled in. At the end you will find some notes for facilitators.
Mar 11, 2023 – Updated Nov 11, 2023, 9:24 AM
When to use an opportunity canvas?
When it comes to evaluating future opportunities there are different tools such as impact mapping, the lean business canvas, the business model canvas, etc. Each serves a specific purpose. I plan to write an article about the different tools, when to use them and how to approach those tools with a Design Thinking approach.
For now, the big difference between the lean business and the business model canvas is that those target the analysis of a completely new product or service while the opportunity canvas targets a first analysis of discovered opportunities for an already existing product.
1. Problem (Opportunity)
Most likely you will start by filling in the problem and the user in parallel. In my experience it is often easier to start with the discovered problem and ask at the same time who is affected by this problem.
Describe the problem as specific as possible:
- What is the problem?
- What did the user try to achieve when the problem occurred (job-to-be-done)?
- When did it occur?
- Are there connected problems?
Who are the users affected by this problem?
In a B2B context differentiate between customers (the companies that use your product) and the users from those companies. If you have already user personas map the users to your existing personas (user types, cohorts).
If there are multiple user types affected try to understand what user groups are most affected and why there are differences.
3. Existing solutions or work-arounds
It might be that you hear about the problem for the first time but this doesn't mean that the problem is not already known to your users. They might already have found some work-arounds to deal with this problem. So, if you have a possibility to get first-hand-feedback ask your users how they solve this problem already and what pain points those work-arounds create for them.
This is also time for some desk research to check what your competitors do. For most problems there are already some solutions on the market (or even inside your company if you work in a big organization that operates in various markets).
4. Business challenges
What is the impact of this problem to your business if you don't solve this problem?
- Does it already have a negative impact?
- Are you losing customers? (lower retention)
- Do you receive negative customer feedback?
It might also be that the problem has no impact on your business. Not everything that brings value to your users brings also value to your organization.
What do we need to learn?
5. Solution assumptions
The opportunity canvas is the starting point to discover potential solutions. But you will already have some first assumptions about possible solutions and it is important to share first ideas to foster a common understanding. Sharing ideas is important in this respect but make sure you see them as assumptions only to not bias anyone early on.
6. Usage assumptions
What impact will it have on your users when this problem is solved?
Imagine that the problem is already solved. Think about your first solution assumptions. What value will this create and how will the usage of your product change?
7. Adoption expectations
Again, imagine the problem is solved already: How will users adopt your solution?
- How will they learn to use the new solution?
- Will the new solution break existing user patterns?
- Will users need to re-learn or change behaviors?
8. Expected business benefits
What business metrics will be affected if this problem is solved?
- Customer satisfaction
- Customer retention
9. Expected constraints
What constraints are to be expected?
- What is the budget?
- Are there already known technical limitations?
How do we measure success?
10. Outcome (user) metrics
It is important to understand right from the beginning – when an opportunity is identified – what benchmark can be used to measure success or failure. We need to understand what observable and quantifiable behaviors on the user side create business value.
Outcome metrics include impact and output metrics.
- Understand what customer or user behaviors drive business results.
- Understand how we can increase or decrease those behaviors.
- Measure the outcomes to make necessary course corrections.
In essence you specify what user behavior you can measure to monitor if solving this problem is successful or a failure.
Note to the facilitator
An Opportunity Canvas is a communication tool. You use it in a co-creation session to get a first deeper understanding on a given opportunity before an agile team starts with their detailed elaboration (discovery).
- Do it fast – 30 minutes
- Use the "momentum" (Design Thinking)
- If the participants get stuck move on. It is not important that the canvas is filled in with all details. Use it to build a first common understanding of the problem between business (Focus), the team or the user researchers (Sense).
- Regarding constraints it is advised to include also roles who can understand the technical complexity.
- If the problem is not fully understood, ask what are the gaps. What is still not fully understand and must be further explored by either the team or a user researcher.
- Make sure that the status quo is based on facts and not gut feelings. Ask for evidence. If there is no evidence document what data should be collected.
- Make sure that solutions stay assumptions.
- Be picky about the metrics. Make sure there is a common understanding how success should be measured. What is a positive outcome for all sides?
References and recommended readings
- Kalbach, Jim (2020): The Jobs to be Done Playbook. Align your Markets, Organizations, and Strategy around Customer Needs. New York: Two Waves Books
- Patton, Jeff (2016): Opportunity Canvas URL: https://www.jpattonassociates.com/opportunity-canvas/ (11 Mar 2023)
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