Competitive Analysis

In traditional competitive analysis, product teams often compare their own product’s features to a competitor’s features. If Product A has all of the features of Product B plus a few more, then Product A has the advantage. More features=competitive advantage.

With Jobs-to-be-Done competitive analysis, we don’t count features, we analyze the speed and accuracy with which competitive solutions satisfy the needs in the job.

Feature to feature comparison lead to two lethal traps:

  1. When a product team strives for feature parity with a competitor, they are in the follower’s position. If you’ve ever been on a team that is playing feature catch-up, you know it’s like bailing water out of a leaky boat: every time you release a feature and think your work is done, your competition releases something new, racing ahead of you yet again. Microsoft thought they caught up to the iPod by including all of its features in the Zune. Apple launched the iPhone. Microsoft tried to catch up again with the Windows Phone. Playing catch-up leads to failure.
  2. Feature to feature competitive analysis often fails to identify new competitive threats that can emerge from a different category of products or services. Encyclopedia Britannica thought they were competing with other collections of books and failed to realize how CD-ROMs could upend their business and lead to their bankruptcy.

Jobs-to-be-Done helps teams avoid the traps of feature to feature comparisons with one key insight:

Customers don’t want features; they want to get the job done.

Google crushed their feature-laden, search engine competition with only two features: enter search term, click Google Search or click “I’m Feeling Lucky.”

While Microsoft’s Zune was failing, Pandora was adding 90,000 music listeners per day with one feature: enter song, push play.

These products won in their market not because they had more features than their competition but because they satisfied needs in the jobs-to-be-done (find information and create a mood with music) faster and more accurately than their competition.

In Jobs-to-be-Done competitive analysis, instead of counting features, we determine the speed and accuracy with which customers can satisfy the needs in the job with competitive solutions. If the existing solutions satisfy the needs slowly and inaccurately, they have a weakness that can be exploited. This leads teams to developing new ideas that can satisfy needs in new ways that beat the competition, rather than replicating feature sets.

Here are the steps to execute Jobs-to-be-Done competitive analysis:

  1. Identify the competitors for each job step in the job. The competition is not only companies that sell products in the same category. It’s *any* solution that helps someone get the job step done, including manual solutions. For example, in the job of relax after a tough day Netflix competes not only with other streaming solutions, but also with a bottle of wine, taking a nap, meditation apps, etc.
  2. Catalogue the features of the competitor products and identify the needs in the job they attempt to satisfy. For example, Google Maps’ “add a stop” feature attempts to satisfy the needs determine the optimal sequence to make planned stops and determine the amount of time that is added to the drive in order to make the planned stops.
  3. Determine how long it takes to satisfy the need with the competitive solution. Be sure to account for steps that need to be taken outside of the product, if they are necessary. For example, to satisfy the need of find a song that fits the mood in the job of create a mood with music with a CD player, the user often needed to go to a store, browse, and buy a CD. Often the time it takes to satisfy a need with a solution is represented as a range. Sometimes it only takes a few mins to find song for the mood with a CD player. If you have to go to the store, it could take hours.
  4. Determine how accurately the competitive solution satisfies the need. Represent this as a percentage. If you tried to satisfy the need with the competitive solution 100 times, how often would it turn out correctly, no matter how long it took? In the job of reach a destination on time radio traffic reports would often fail at determining if an alternate should be taken to avoid traffic. Waze is far more accurate.

The speed and accuracy with which the competitive solutions satisfy the needs are the benchmark for how good your new solution needs to be. If it does not satisfy the needs much faster and significantly more accurately, you have not given the job executors sufficient incentive to switch to your product.

Jobs-to-be-Done gives teams a target for creating switches and growth. It answers the question, “Is the solution idea strong enough to take market share?” and frees teams from playing “feature catch-up” with products that are similar to their competitors’. Lastly, it ensures teams are aware of competitive threats from all sides and provides the means of beating them.