Everybody talks about business models and business modeling, but not many have been exposed to different types of scenarios and organizations when applying it. I learned today after having talked to a person that had used Business Model Canvas in the past and felt that the use was a bit messy. I am not surprised about this experience at all. Using Business Model Canvas takes time to master and reading a $22 book does not make you a master. You have to go out there and test it out, make mistakes, learn to pros and cons and most importantly, learn that it is not about the tool/framework, it is about the people applying it and whenever there are people, there is a chance for confusion and disagreement.
I still remember vividly the day when I used Business Model Canvas the first time. I decided to try out Business Model Canvas on a company that wanted me to help with their product/solution business modeling. I must admit that I was a bit nervous as I did not know whether the Business Model Canvas would help me out to run the workshop. I was also nervous to get too many questions of use cases in the Canvas use… I did not really have any… I did not even know if it would work…
I learned really quickly that the Business Model Canvas is just a tool and the entire business modeling excersise is based on human interaction and how to be able to extract and guide people to think about their business, how to get them to agree on things and how create an effective action plan. Business modeling is just the start of a journey that an organization has to commit to and also understand that there might be a need to pivot the business model every now and then when the market or other circumstances change. We are living in the era of agility and business models need to be agile as well.
Today, when I run workshops using Business Model Canvas, I put emphasis to the group chemistry to ensure that everybody in the group/teams are contributing the goals of the workshop. Specifically in smaller companies it is very common to have one or two very strong individuals that “take over” the discussion and this is why I usually want to divide the group into two or more teams to get more discussions among the participants. It takes time to learn how a business modeling session process and to learn to read the group/teams when they get stuck or become frustrated. If there are more than 6 people in the group, I typically want to divide the group into two teams of 3 people. The teams should be assembled in a way that people that interact less during regular work are put in the same group.
In some cases I have people in the group/teams that want to argue how to use the Business Model Canvas framework and the discussion becomes more academic. My recommendation is not to put too much time in learning in-an-outs of the framework, as each person has his/her subjective way to view it. It is enough if the entire group/teams agree a common set of rules. A good example is the discussion if a key partner should be listed as channel or the other way around. It is enough as long as everybody agrees how it is defined. A key partner to me is an organization that you work with either long term or an organization that you need to deliver your solution to a given market segment.
In summary, a Business Model Canvas is just a framework that enables you to view your business, but the key is the process how you end up with your business model. It is also important that your facilitator knows how to deal with different types of situations when you have business owners and/or senior level executives defining the future of the company. It is very easy to get lost in the process and the day could lead to a situation where you loose face with your group/teams and the Business Model framework becomes something that nobody wants to hear about anymore.