Inspired by the classic lean canvas, an experience canvas helps clarify what problem your project is trying to solve, the customer(s) you're solving it for, and what success looks like.
AND I NEED THIS... WHY?
Solving gnarly problems is... well, gnarly. Pleasing your project's stakeholders is hard enough. But it's your customers – who may be internal or external – that are the biggest challenge. And the ambiguity is amplified by the fact that, often times, you have to take multiple customers or personas into account.
Without a structured way to see the problem through their eyes, you risk missing the mark with your solution. And to make matters worse, you probably won't realize it until you've delivered something.
That's where the experience canvas comes in. It's a framework for thinking through customers' needs and experience, whilst making sure the solutions you consider are viable (and valuable) from the business's perspective. The experience canvas isn't a quick n' easy activity. But the problem you're tackling isn't exactly quick n' easy, either. For gnarly projects, it's time well spent.
WHO SHOULD BE INVOLVED?
This activity benefits from having diverse skill sets and areas of expertise in the room, so keep that in mind as you're inviting stakeholders and project team members. We suggest:
- The project's full-time owner
- The project's sponsor, if applicable
- A selection of stakeholders representing different areas of interest
- A cross-section of people who will execute the on the project
3 - 6
Running the play
To keep your experience canvas lean, make sure you have hypothesis in mind to explore. And do your homework first: arrive with a bit of research in hand so you can make the most of the session.
Compile your research (15 min)
Gather up whatever research or exploration that's led you to form a rough hypothesis around the problem. Make print-outs of materials or inspiring examples as necessary.
Before everyone arrives, draw the canvas up on the whiteboard, leaving plenty of room for it to be filled in. Create a page in Confluence using the Experience Canvas Blueprint and move it to your project space so you can record the output of your session.
Not a Confluence user? No worries. Download the Experience Canvas template as a PDF instead.
Set the stage (5 min)
Welcome everyone to the workshop and establish the rules of engagement for the session: there are no spectators – only participants; stay focused on the problem and high-level solutions (don't worry about implementation details just yet); stay focused on the customer.
Build out your canvas (90 min)
Don't let the fact that this is expressed as a single step fool you – it's a meaty one!
Write your hypothesis at the top, then work through the areas of the canvas sequentially (more or less). It helps to designate a facilitator whose job is to keep an eye on the clock and keep the activity moving.
As you go along, pause periodically and ask the group if there are areas you've already filled out that should be adjusted based on new ideas or insights you've uncovered. Think of the activity like bumper bowling: the areas of the canvas act as guardrails to keep you focused, and you'll bounce between them until eventually you knock a few pins down. Editing and winnowing as you go will keep the canvas lean.
Here's an experience canvas our AUG team worked through.
Identify next steps (5 min)
Document and assign owners for the steps your team needs to deliver the MVE (minimum viable experience) and test your hypothesis. Be sure to include due dates for each step so the project doesn't stall out – don't let your beautiful new experience canvas becomes "shelfware"!
Don't stress if you don't finalize the entire canvas in one session – this is a lean process, after all. Some teams spend a week or more iterating on it.
Be sure to run a full Health Monitor session or checkpoint with your team to see if you're improving.Find your Health Monitor
As always, make sure you're thinking at the leadership level, as opposed to the team level. What strategic hypothesis are you testing? What are your big bets? Consider other teams in your organization also. It's all too easy to optimize in ways that make your life easier, but inadvertently push complexity onto other people or teams, which makes the system as a whole suffer. Think about the other teams that are a part of your system and make sure you consider them. Your goal is to work in harmony with them.
Run the Experience Canvas play when a certain problem keeps popping up with your service. Maybe your team's service mandate is for one type of customer support issue, but you keep having to handle another type. Instead of solving the problem anew every time, step back from reactive mode and solve it once and for all. You'll probably come out with a tweak to the way your service operates (though there's a possibility that you'll emerge with a project to launch a net-new service).
Get in touch with everyone on your stakeholders list right away after the session so they have as much notice as possible about the project – especially people you'll need to consult with as the project moves along. 'Cuz it really sucks when you need someone's time, but can't get it because they're already over-committed.
Once you've completed the experience canvas, run the Journey Mapping play to better understand how a customer will engage with your solution at each touchpoint.
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