Unleash the power of “Jobs to be done”
Dear product managers, entrepreneurs, business strategists. Most of you have heard about “jobs to be done” a.k.a JTBD. This has eventually proven to be very useful to me, but honestly, I’ve been struggling a long time before being able to exploit its full potential.
JTBD is not easy — most reasonable and honest practitioners will admit it. Setting a common language for delivering customer value inside an organisation is what people usually love with JTBD theory. Beyond that, I also came the conclusion that one of the great asset of JTBD lies in the possibility to combine it with other product management methods*.
I wanted to share with you some tips that I’ve been using in order to get the most of JTBD for my business. Hope you will enjoy!
*Jobs to be done actually really fits with blue ocean strategy, value proposition canvas etc. On the development side, the road to a Kanban board or epic planning, is not that hard: it’s about to managing job stories instead of user stories (specific article on this to come)
From the start
You’ve been running your customer interviews, and you got more tangible information about your customers’ jobs (functional, emotional, social) and needs. You begin to have a consolidated view on the tangible value that users are expecting. Now what?
Bring perspective using customers aspirations
As you’ve seen in your customer discovery process, asking a WHY enables to understand the customer’s aspirations, or higher level jobs. But there is an opportunity that we usually miss. Asking a why also enables to identify alternatives solutions also called “competing solutions” to get a same job done. Going beyond traditional market boundaries to address new customers a.k.a strategic spaces is a key principle of the Blue Ocean’s strategy. As an example from the Blue Ocean’s book itself: a restaurant and a cinema may not be competing from a functional jobs standpoint, but they are competing from bigger job or aspirational standpoint: Spend a good time at evening downtown.
Deciding which competing alternative solution to include in the study is a strategic choice — it may take time and experiments to find the right fit.
Now, for each customers’ need, get a feedback from your customers wether they are satisfied on alternative solution 1 or 2. Try to best assess by yourself if you don’t have access to customers yet. These additional insights will bring perspective and be vey useful at a later stage.
Going further with the satisfaction matrix
Traditionally, product managers focus on what we call “underserved needs”, meaning highly important customer jobs with current market offering not being satisfactory:
Actually, the satisfaction matrix opens doors towards a Blue Ocean’s approach: looking at needs of low importance and very well covered by competitors in place. Using satisfaction matrix brings the opportunity to attenuate or exclude criteria of our offering. And this is exactly what to look here:
The idea here is to spot and challenge commonly and historically admitted needs from an industry/market. I recommend during a customer interview to simply ask the question for a same historical need: why is it important to you? Assess the actual number of job performers who really perform this job and need it. Let’s illustrate with an example. Within the sports tech industry, I had to manage a product which usually is able to work at a speed of 4 transactions per second — that’s an impressive technological achievement, which made traditional manufacturers very proud— actually, this product feature answers the needs of less than 5% of users, and costs a lot to maintain (R&D, support etc.). You get my point: use the satisfaction matrix in order to spot these historical commonly admitted needs, challenge it, and get rid of it if conditions allow it.
Innovation requires courage in the quest to pursuing differentiation. In the other hand, important jobs and needs that are relevant for a significant number of job performers deserve the best attention.
This is an important step that allows to reduce efforts or exclude what has lower customer value, and dedicate actual company efforts on being the best on serving high customer value needs.
Pick your battles, spot hidden gems
You JTBD framework will allow you to easily map your product strategy and development efforts, and have a common language internally across your teams. Combining with Blue Ocean strategy is very powerful. Here below, I spotted the opportunities to exclude or attenuate, and the needs that we need to strive on delivering if we want to differentiate in the eyes of the customers. Your customers’ needs mapping becomes this:
If you add the alternative competitive offering indicator — choose the colour system that is more convenient for you — you can easily spot market opportunity gems. Cover underserved needs, addressing users from historically different market. In the following example, it shows that an underserved need is not well addressed by several alternatives/competitive solutions. The opportunity here is to address an important need for a therical larger market size (market of alternative solution 1+ market of alternative solution 2 etc.)
Segment users per affinity of needs
Your JTBD framework is a great opportunity to switch your product management mindset, to get rid of the traditional “per industry” or “per product” bias. When you have sufficient amount of data, ask your data engineers or scientists to draw cohorts of users on a per need basis, also called needs based personas. I like this approach as it goes beyond the usual demographics, behavioural, psychographics personas. It’s likely you won’t see relevant patterns at first, but the more tangible and accurate data you have, the more this data visualisation exercise gets interesting. It also matters internally in the organisation that aims to be product/customer centric (See my article here on the matter). You can now, for each segment see the jobs that are more relevant to address customer needs of segment 1 and segment 2.
Using the needs based personas is interesting to fuel a go to market strategy.
A very convenient aspect of a JTDB segmented persona, is the enablement of other product management tools like value proposition canvas from “Strategyzer” that natively includes the notion of customer jobs.
I usually advise to build one value proposition for each needs based persona.
Wrapping-up and important considerations
The above information are relevant to me and reflect my experience, and it maybe won’t be relevant for you. Beware of cognitive bias or a Barnum effect:
- In some situations, you won’t be able to find “exclude opportunities”, and that’s ok! Don’t try to invent one, it will show up in due time during your market and customer discovery journey.
- In some markets, attenuating needs is a bad idea (e.g hardware specialised markets, examples given in my article here).
- You won’t always be able to extract cohort of users based on needs affinity. This actually requires a consistent amount of data and customer interviews. That’s ok if you can’t extract this from your data during first interviews. Again, it will show up in due time. Be patient and disciplined.
Here is what you need to remind from this reading:
- use customer’s aspirations to go beyond traditional market boundaries to identify alternative solutions for a same customer job
- use the satisfaction matrix to spot underserved needs, AND exclusion AND attenuation opportunities
- Spot market hidden gems in your product strategy, needs that are underserved by multiple alternative solutions is an interesting indicator
- (Advanced data only) create cohorts of customers using needs based personas. Fuel your go to market strategy with it and build a value proposition for each segment.
Thanks very much for reading, please share your thoughts in the comment section below!