Project Management

Project Planning Using Canvas

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by Ramiro Rodrigues

Project managers: Are you sometimes looking to make plans faster but without being superficial and therefore riskier to the project?

Developed in the 1980s, design thinking is a structured mental model that seeks the identification of innovative solutions to complex problems. Although the concept has existed for decades, it’s only made its presence known in the corporate environment over the last 10 years.

Swiss business theorist and author Alexander Osterwalder similarly sought to accelerate collaborative reasoning when he introduced the Business Model Canvas. Canvas helps organizations map, discuss, rework and innovate their business model in one image.

But a series of proposals for the use of the Business Model Canvas for various purposes outside of business models has also appeared — including innovation, corporate education, product development, marketing and more.

For project professionals looking at alternatives to developing quicker and more collaborative planning, Canvas may sound like a great option. Of all the proposals that come up for the use of Canvas in a project environment, integrating stakeholders may be the best. Canvas brings stakeholders into the process and will help to minimize resistance and increase collaboration, resulting in a better proposal for planning problems and making the project more aligned to the interests of organizations.

But while the arguments put forward for Canvas all seem positive, there is still a dilemma: Can Canvas fully replace the overall project plan and the planning process? Is it possible to do without a schedule of activities, a detailed cash flow, a matrix of analyzed risks — just to limit ourselves to a few examples?

That is probably too extreme.

The general sense is that the integration of Canvas with specific planning — such as the cost plan and the risk plan — is the most productive and generates the best results.

It may be worth asking your project management office for their thoughts.

Have you ever used a Canvas for your project planning efforts? If so, what tips can you share?

Posted by Ramiro Rodrigues on: October 20, 2017 02:34 PM | Permalink

Comments (17)

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Thank you for bringing Canvas to my attention. I will have to investigate it and see its value.

Never heard of Canvas, but willing to investigate its value.

I heard about Canvas and know it is very useful model for entreprenuers to create new business models. And I agree considering it a useful tool for project management initiatives.

Never used Canvas, but I am willing to try it.
Tnx for your post

Interesting, thanks for sharing!

Not a tool I had previously come across so thank you for highlighting.
From a very quick Google search this looks a good tool to aid getting to a charter or plan but I agree it does not look as though it would replace more detailed PM tools.
Do you have any experience of using this in projects that you could share? Or any useful templates?

Congratulations on the post, Ramiro Rodrigues!
I had used this tool in my last company, and I think the benefits of using Canvas in projects are extraordinary. Especially when your project involves people who are not familiar with project methodologies.
Also, I do not believe Canvas would replace all the other project tools and controls. However, it is excellent to put (and keep during the project) everybody on the same page and create the same image of deliveries and the agreed final product.
Thanks for sharing this post with us.

I actively use the canvas to generate consensus amongst stakeholders. In some regards, it acts as a simulated feasibility study that explores many different options available to a Business Analyst and Project Managers to collaborate around with stakeholders. I created a large print-out of the canvas and facilitated groups around it, after a bit of training everyone is able to contribute ideas and buy-in to the output and outcome. If anyone needs any ideas of how to maximize its use, reach out to me.

We have used something similar from time to time, but not in a structured manner. I think that it's quite a natural solution, meaning that it's maybe closer to employees daily routine than other, more formal, tools

From my experience – Canvas should not replace, project schedule, risk analysis and evaluation, WBS, …
It is a tool that can be used during the process of initiation. From my point of view it is a “high level” document, one of the first, unfortunately most project do not use it. Many failures could be avoiding through the applicaton of this tool.
Once you have the Canvas for the proposal “approved” one can start with the Business Case, Benefit Realization, Feasibility Study and finally the Project Charter.

I have used personal business model canvas for my career development .It helps to visualize and structure your thoughts graphically on canvas .

Seems to be quite a bit of traction with Canvas.

That's a great idea! ... I will look to try it.

This is very interesting. I have not heard of Canvas before now.

Every canvas models related to projects that I know can't replace the project plan. Those canvas normally are strong tools to help in the project conception, supporting a collaborative work to define the project in its initiation. I developed two canvas models, one to Strategic Planning (SPCanvas) and another to align projects to the goals of the strategic planning (PSACanvas). Both are available to download at, where you can find a library with several models to different applications. This website is in english and portuguese, like the canvas I developed.

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