Stating product value with the Strategy Canvas

Note: This post is developing the train of thought of the On Software Product Strategy post.

 There are only few products that are ground-breaking and do not have competitors. Actually, the chance is high that the product alternatives exist. Therefore, it should be ensured that the product stands out from the crowd and the customers choose the product over competing alternatives. This requires to know the competitors, what features they are providing and how the product provide values to the selected customers.

Strategy Canvas (see Figure 1.) is a great tool to help in this process [1]. This tool is a great diagnostic tool and action framework that graphically capture the current strategic landscape and the possible future direction for product development.

Figure 1. Strategy Canvas (Based on [1].)

The horizontal axis captures the key competing factors (such as product or services) of the focused industry. While the vertical axis describes the degree to which each competitor offers in the factors. A strategic profile is the relative performance across its industry’s factors of competition and what the customers receive. The area where the product does not face any competition is called a blue ocean: where are no competitions and where growth opportunities exist.

Eliminate Features

During product development, it can tempting to provide all the features that all the competitors provide. Unfortunately, it usually leads to over-complicated product that requires lots of money to develop and maintain and often provides a poor user experience as well. It is also difficult to differentiate it from competitors. A great tool that helps to avoid this attitude is the Eliminate-Reduce-Raise-Create (ERRC) grid [1] (see Figure 2.). 

This matrix drives to focus simultaneously on eliminating and reducing, as well as raising and creating while unlocking a new blue ocean. It encourage to identify those features that superior or inferior compared with alternatives, therefore, pursue differentiation to break the value-cost trade-off.

Figure 1. ERCC Grid (based on [1])

Product Variants, Boundle and Unbundle Features

Creating product variants (specialization of the product), bundling (combining separate products into a new product) and unbundling product (promoting a feature set into a new product) are three techniques that help launching specialized version of the product. Product variants establishes a product line or a product family. Product bundle is helpful when the individual products are too small or not attractive enough to succeed on their own. Unbundling features and composing new product variant can enable to serve a new business segment, generate more business benefits, and increase the product’s competitiveness.

When splitting the product into product variants, common product family building blocks that the product family members share should be carefully considered. This ensure to keep lower the development efforts in the common components. This set of shared assets (these could be graphical user interface (GUI) or back-end components) could be grouped into a platform.

Kano model

Another tool that helps you differentiate your product is the Kano model (see Fig. 3) [2]. It's a simple and versatile technique for deciding which features a of product or service should provide. It models the product development and customer satisfaction. In this approach, the model states that a product or service is much more than just a set of functionality: it is serving customer emotions. The Kano model encourages to thinking about how the products satisfies customers' needs and shifting the point of view from the "more is always better" approach to the "less is more" approach.

Figure 3. Kano Modell

The Kano model considers dimensions: 

  1. horizontal axis: the degree to which a feature is provided, 
  1. vertical axis: the resulting customer satisfaction

This two dimensional depiction allows to distinguish three different feature categories as follows:

  1. Satisfiers: are the basic features that customers expect a product or service to have. They are cosidered as must-haves: without them the product cannot be sold. 
  1. Performers: are not absolutely necessary elements, but they increase a customer's satisfaction relating to the product or service. These elements lead to a linear increase in satisfaction. They typically follow “the more, the better” principle.  
  1. Delighters: are the fascinating elements that can really boost product's or service's competitive advantage. These elements are usually delighting or captivating the customers. The customers don't even know they want them, but when they find these features they are delighted.

Performance features are important elements, but they are not sufficient to differentiate the product in the marketplace. That is why a product or service need delighters.

When a customer search for a product or service, the Performer attributes are searched for. If you have many performance attributes, then these elements position the product or service in the top right quadrant. Whereas, the Delighter attributes give a competitive advantage. These latter features usually represent a good return on investment (ROI), because only some of them could generate high level of customer satisfaction.

Thus, the Kano model is a helpful approach for product teams to prioritize the appropriate mix of features to work on next.


[1] W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. Blue Ocean Strategy, Expanded Edition: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant. Harvard Business Review Press, 2014. ISBN: B00O4CRR7Y.

[2] Lance B. Coleman Sr., The Customer-Driven Organization: Employing the Kano Model, Productivity Press, 2014, ISBN-10: 1138438227