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  • Writer's pictureAmancio Bouza

Where Does the Value Proposition Interface Canvas Come From?

The Value Proposition Interface Canvas makes it explicit how you are creating value with your API for your customers and how you are providing value. It is a tool that helps you to systematically understand the customer needs and to design API products your customer wants.

The Value Proposition Interface Canvas is based on the Empathy Map to get a deep understanding of the customer and Osterwalder's Value Proposition Canvas, which complements the Business Model Canvas.

In the following, we present both methods. But first, let's clarify who is the customer.

Who is the customer?

We need to differentiate between the customer and the user. The customer is the one who has a specific need and buys a product to satisfy this particular need. A user is the one who is using the API product to get the job done and to satisfy the need.

  • Customer: A customer is a person who needs a job to get done. He buys a product to facilitate getting the job done.

  • User: A user is a person, typically a programmer, who uses the API within an application.

So, who is the developer or rather API consumer? Well, a developer is the user, the customer, or both. Typically, the developer uses the API in an app and therefore being a user. However, independent app developers or empowered developer may decide to use commercial APIs to develop the next big thing. These developers are looking for something to get the job done more easily and decide about making or buying (*make-or-buy decision*).

The user has different needs than the customer, which are more related to your API management platform. For instance, the user is interested in the API documentation to understand what it offers and how to use it, security mechanisms, error handling, sandbox to test and integrate your API, SDKs, test data, etc.

The job of an API product manager is to provide first a value proposition to the customer and then a great user experience to the user or rather developer. This is in accordance with the Hierarchy of API Design Principles, which declares providing value as the fundamental key for a great API product. Then, providing great user experience comes next.

Empathy Map Canvas

The Empathy Map Canvas is a method for gaining a deeper understanding of audiences, including customers, users, and any other players and stakeholders in any business ecosystem, within a given context (e.g., getting a specific job done). The method lets you walk a mile in the person's shoes to gain his perspective. Even if you don't understand the customer well, you can at least identify gaps in your understanding of the person.

The empathy map canvas consists of three main parts: context, observable phenomena, and internal thinking.

  • Context: The context describes the person and the goal for which we want to gain deeper understanding.

  • Observable phenomena: The observable phenomena include what the person sees, says, does, and hears. This gives us a notion of what information he gets and what impact it has on him.

  • Internal Thinking: Based on the context and the observable phenomena, we can deduce what a person thinks and feels. From this, we can conclude his pains and gains.

Empathy Map Canvas (Source: XPLANE)
Empathy Map Canvas (Source: XPLANE)

How to complete an Empathy Map Canvas?

You start from the goal on the top to set the context. To this purpose, define the person or rather customer you want to describe and then the jobs they want to get done.

Then, you describe the observable phenomenas in clockwise order. Firstly, list the things the see, read, and observe from others. Secondly, list the things you heard them saying. Also add the things they intend to say and they say between the lines. Thirdly, list the things the do today. Lastly, list the things the hear from others.

Finally, describe what they think and feel. To this goal, describe their pains, fears, or frustrations as well as their gains, needs, wants, hopes, and dreams.

Benefits, Limitations, and Adaptations

You gain a deeper understanding of the customer with a completed empathy map canvas. The first step towards a great product is to feel empathy with your customers, understand their pains, needs, and wants. Hence, a completed Empathy Map Canvas is a great input to design a viable value proposition, which you can facilitate with the Value Proposition Interface Canvas.

The Empathy Map puts much attention on observable phenomenas. However, that is irrelevant to define a value proposition. For this, we need to know pains we are relieving and what needs and wants we are satisfying.

Hence, for the Value Proposition Interface Canvas, we take over both parts context and internal thinking, i.e., the customer's jobs he needs to get done as well as what he thinks and feels. More specifically, who is the customer and what is the job he needs to get done as well as what are his pains and gains.

Value Proposition Canvas

The Value Proposition Canvas (by Alexander Osterwalder) is a method to express a value proposition and complements the Business Model Canvas.

The value proposition canvas consists of two main parts: customer profile and value map

  • Customer Profile: The customer profile describes the jobs a customer needs to get done as well as the pains in getting them done and potential gains.

  • Value Map: The value map presents the products & services that form the product. Further it presents the product features, which relieve some customer pains or create some customer gains.

Value Proposition Interface
Value Proposition Interface

How to complete a Value Proposition Canvas?

You start with the customer. Firstly, list the jobs that the customer wants to get done. Secondly, list the pains to get the job done. Lastly, list the gains customer would love to have.

Afterwards, you define your value map. Firstly, define the products & services you want to offer to the customer. Secondly, collect all corresponding features and classify them as pain relievers or gain creators.

Finally, connect the pain relievers from the value map with the corresponding pains from the customer profile. Analogously, connect the gain creators from the value map with the corresponding gains from the customer profile. As a result, you see how you create value for the customer.

Benefits, Limitations, and Adaptations

The Value Proposition Canvas helps to make it explicit how products & services are creating value to the customer. To this goal, it presents clearly which product features relieve which customer pains and what product features create gains for the customer. In fact, the Value Proposition Canvas is the base of the Value Proposition Interface Canvas.

However, the original Value Proposition Canvas lacks the notion of API as a product. An API relies on existing sources, (i.e.e, data, apps, products & services, business processes). Think of your API as an interface to a value proposition that allows you to select and alter features of these sources. Then, you'll start shaping innovative digital products that create value to customers and reuse existing capabilities of your company. Hence, for the Value Proposition Interface Canvas, we extend this canvas by the notion of an interface to the value proposition. This interface is our API or rather the Value Proposition Interface (VPI). The customer doesn't care what products & services, data sources, apps, business process, we use in the backend.

Value Proposition Interface Canvas

The goal of the Value Proposition Interface Canvas is to make an API's value proposition explicit to validate it and eventually find a good problem-solution fit. The canvas consolidates the Empathy Map Canvas and the Value Proposition Canvas, which complements the business model canvas. The Value Proposition Interface Canvas consists of two parts: the Customer Profile and the Value Proposition Interface Map.

  • Customer Profile: The customer profile maps the jobs that the customer wants to get done as well as the derived gains and pains that facilitate or hinder getting the job done.

  • Value Proposition Interface Map: The Value Proposition Interface Canvas maps your company's relevant apps, products & services, data, and business process. Based on that, it maps the derived pain relievers and gain creators, which are related to the customer's pains and gains, respectively. Pain relievers solve a customer's pain and gain creators facilitate a customer's gain. Generally, the pain relievers and gain creators form the value proposition. The interface represents the Value Proposition Interface (VPI), which is an API. Th VPI describes the interface to the value proposition and how the customer can access them.

Value Proposition Interface Canvas
Value Proposition Interface Canvas

The Value Proposition Interface Canvas is rather about the flow that connects the Customer Profile with the Value Proposition Interface Map. Consider how each box talks to each other rather than thinking of each one as a separate lists.


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