Jobs Theory Blog

What is UX Design?

The wonderfully thoughtful Peter Merholz, started a valuable discussion on Twitter: What is UX Design? Specifically, he noted that “No one, NO ONE has been able to articulate a meaningful description or definition of “UX Design”.

I thought I would contribute to this discussion, so I replied that “UX Design is the process of determining the steps required for a customer to get a job (#jtbd) done. Fewer steps is better, zero (automatic) is best. Speed and accuracy of getting the job done are the criteria to judge the design.”

I wanted to post a longer explanation here (given twitter’s limitations) in order to clarify what I meant and hopefully provide some useful insights for UX designers and product teams.

UX is obviously incredibly important because good UX contributes to customer satisfaction and customer satisfaction drives equity value. The number one goal of every product, marketing and sales team is to create equity value. Teams that don’t create equity value ultimately get fired and companies that don’t create equity value go out of business.

So what is UX Design?

First, let’s distinguish between two different types of customer experience: non-immersive and immersive. In this post, I will be focusing on non-immersive examples.

Immersive experiences are where a user wants to use the product over a period of time. For example, playing video games, watching television or listening to music. In these cases, the user is looking to use the product in-and-of-itself (video games, tv shows, songs). They want to spend time with it.

In non-immersive experiences, which I will focus on here, the user wants the experience to be over with as quickly as possible. For example, getting to a destination on time, optimizing health with diabetes, acquiring customers, and finding tv shows to watch are all goals that people (customers) have. But people don’t want to spend a significant amount of their valuable time doing any of these things. They want to achieve the goal as quickly as possible and get back to their lives.  

A quick logical test proves that this is true. Let’s say you designed a product (and user experience) to make getting to a destination on time slower or a product that made finding a tv show to watch slower. Would your product succeed against the competition? The answer, of course, is no, not likely.

This is also true for accuracy: your customers want to achieve their goal as accurately as possible. For example, let’s say your product was less accurate at getting people to a destination because it didn’t always get the address of the destination correct (as happened with the first version of Apple Maps). Would your customers be satisfied with the product? Again, the answer, is no, not likely.

Your customer’s goal is an example of what is now known as a “job-to-be-done” or JTBD. But for the sake of this discussion, let’s put JTBD and its terminology to the side for now.

The key concept is that your customers have a goal that is independent of your product or its interface. Regardless of what we call this concept (JTBD or otherwise), it explains why companies fail better than any explanation I have ever seen in the 30 years of my career.

For example, Kodak thought they were in the “film” market, but “film” is a product. Blackberry thought they were in the “keyboard device” market, but a keyboard device is a product. Britannica thought they were in the “encyclopedia” market, but again, a printed encyclopedia is a product, not a goal.

You can test this concept for any historical example and it holds true: customers do not want your product, they want to achieve their goal. This was famously summarized by Theodore Levitt: “customers don’t want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.”

For non-immersive experiences, there are a few key principles:

  1. Your customers have a goal to achieve that is independent of your product.
  2. Your customers want to achieve their goal as fast as possible.
  3. Your customers want to achieve their goal as accurately as possible.

In addition to these principles, it is also true that every customer goal is complex. This is because to achieve any goal, customers have to take actions and identify variables required to achieve the goal.

For example, if you are going to get to a destination on time, you have to know a lot of information (i.e. variables): what are the possible routes, what is the required departure time, what are the traffic conditions on the routes, what is the total travel time, etc. And you have to take actions including making decisions: e.g. determine the departure time, determine the optimal route given the traffic conditions, determine the arrival time for a route, etc.

A product that helps customers take actions and make decisions quicker than competitors and that helps identify variables more accurately than competitors will win in the market by helping customers achieve the goal faster and more accurately.

This is a key concept, and it is why any user experience (in non-immersive markets) should be focused on speeding up the steps it takes a user to achieve the goal. Your users don’t want to use your product, they want to achieve their goal. So a UX with fewer steps is the best experience.

Hopefully this helps clarify why we view UX Design to be the process of determining the steps required for a customer to achieve a goal (i.e. get a job done). Fewer steps is better, zero (automatic) is best. And hopefully it clarifies, why speed and accuracy of achieving the goal are the criteria to judge the design.

I hope this is just the beginning of a conversation about UX Design, and I welcome any feedback and refinements that would help UX and product teams create more equity value for their companies.

Posted by Jay Haynes in Innovation, 2 comments

Add Technology and Stir: Why Companies are Failing at Digital Transformation

Digital transformation has executives salivating at the thought of being innovative, however it’s clear many of them have misunderstood what it requires to execute successfully. Last month, Harvard Business Review published an article titled “Why So Many High-Profile Digital Transformations Fail” that highlighted global organizations such as GE, PG&E, Lego and their failed attempts at implementing a digital transformation.

The authors, Thomas H. Davenport and George Westerman, examined factors that lead digital transformation projects to fail such as a lack of awareness of customer needs and lack of direction. When companies don’t integrate the digital transformation with their product goals and align it with their customers, they lose sight of their end goal and things go off-track… and quickly.

Davenport and Westerman highlight the ongoing failure of large corporations and their shiny object syndrome when it comes to going digital. They couldn’t see how to focus the digital changes to their products and operations on delivering value to their customer. It’s almost like a digital spray and pray. If they make things digital, success will come, no matter the why or wherefore. Eager to get ahead of competitors, these companies have blitzed through product and operational changes that missed the mark on what’s actually valuable to their customers.

So, what is their end goal? What have these companies lost sight of?

The goal, within the Jobs-to-be-Done methodology, should always be to get your customer’s job done better. You need to make sure everyone at your company knows the customer’s job and how to use it to make great decisions. How should they implement digital technology to get the job done better?

Before getting started, you need to understand what you should prioritize, how much you should invest, and what the scope of those projects should be. Here’s how you can use JTBD to create clear goals and alignment across a digital transformation:

 

1. Understand the job you are fulfilling for customers today.
“Your customers do not buy your product; they hire it to get a job done. The struggle with the job causes a purchase,” says Clay Christensen, author of Innovator’s Dilemma and Competing Against Luck. The first step in understanding the job you are fulfilling today is to understand the goal your customer is trying to achieve.

Customers don’t care whether or not your company is digitized; they care about their own lives and their own goals.

Sometimes the goal is obvious. Drivers want to get to a destination on time. Sales people want to acquire customers. Figure out what your customers are trying to do and how you do it for them. Check out our step-by-step guide on how to answer “What is the Job-to-be-Done?”


2. Identify the unmet needs.
When your customer struggles to get the job done, this leads to a purchase. We call this struggle an “unmet customer need.” To determine unmet customer needs, we rate the importance and satisfaction of every customer need in the JTBD. Unmet needs in the job are stable, objective, measurable, and precise articulations of customer problems.


3. Figure out what solutions customers hire to get this job done today.

You can accelerate your growth by getting people to switch from their existing means of getting the job done to your product. To get them to switch, you need to understand how well their existing solution gets the job done. If you measure how quickly and accurately the customer can achieve their goal with their current behavior, you know what you have to beat. Your objective is to create a new solution that gets the job done faster and more accurately. Need help? Read this article on Competitive Analysis.


4. Determine if these unmet needs can be addressed with digital innovation.

Digital transformation is a platform that may or may not help you satisfy your customer’s unmet needs faster and more accurately than their existing solutions. Now, you need to generate ideas on how to use digital tools to satisfy the needs faster and more accurately. If your project will not get the job done better, you need to be more clever on how you use the digital tech. Or maybe you don’t need digital at all…

Companies who enter a digital transformation that is misaligned with a customer’s job will fail. Making things digital won’t make things better. Remember customers aren’t buying your product because it’s digital or not digital – they’re buying it because it’s helping them meet a goal. Or in the case of Jobs-to-be-Done, it’s fulfilling a job they’re hiring you to do.

Posted by Jay Haynes in Innovation, 0 comments

How Kellogg School of Management Used Jobs-to-be-Done to Identify Customer & Competitor Insights

Graduates attend the Kellogg Class of 2012 Commencement Ceremony at Ryan Field on June 15, 2012. Photos by Justin Runquist

What do you do when you’ve spent the lifetime of your business focusing on one type of customer and suddenly you realize the market has shifted beneath your feet? Your customers are not who you thought they were, and the value you’ve long provided them is put into question. Do you have to change what you offer? How do you deliver value to this new customer?

Why is this new buyer willing to pay?

For Elmer Almachar, Senior Director, Strategy and Innovation, Kellogg School of Management, this was the multi-million dollar question. In the past, Kellogg’s enrollment for their executive MBA program was largely supported by company-sponsored tuition. Employees from top global companies would rely on their employer to sponsor them to attend the program, and in the end, the value to the company was that they had a more experienced, well-rounded employee.

Elmer Almachar, Kellogg School of Management

However, over time the market had changed. Company sponsorships had decreased by 43%, while the number of students paying their own tuition increased by 42%, according to the EMBA Council.

Tuitions have gone up, outpacing inflation. Self-sponsorships have increased with them. Full sponsorships have declined. So more students are paying a higher proportion of a larger tuition load—but why?

In this interview, Almachar explains how JTBD customer interviews led them to understand their customer and how to serve them better.

What was the moment you realized there was a shift in the market?

When we saw the industry-wide sponsorship numbers, we knew something was going on. Although we knew that meant a change in how students were enrolling and paying, we didn’t know why it was happening and what that meant for our overall purpose. We had some educated guesses, but we didn’t have the right method in place. All we had were traditional methods which meant all we would get is a traditional answer. We didn’t have anything available to us that could get to the underlying purpose and the underlying motivation—that is until we explored Jobs to be Done with thrv.

 

Before investigating further, how did you view what you were offering students? What was the value before?

I would say in some ways we were a bit puzzled. Many EMBA programs emerge out of the traditional MBA curriculum. And so a large part of our program did the same, and you can see how it tilted us toward thinking about the degree in a traditional sense, largely focusing on what students get in class. Obviously, the curriculum is important and we believe that in order to get an MBA there are certain things we have to teach you.

However, we wanted to align the overall program more with why they are coming to us in the first place.

We’d always thought there was something about their professional trajectory that influenced them to get an executive MBA. But we had the instinct that there was a deeper motivation there, we just didn’t have the method to get at that motivation.

 

What were you hoping to accomplish through your jobs to be done research?

We entered into the research hoping to better understand why applicants were coming to us. We could understand why when companies were paying their way; it was likely a part of their professional development plan, succession plan, or trajectory within that company. But when [students are] paying their own way, it’s a bit murkier.

The time and opportunity they have to invest just by being a part of any EMBA program is pretty substantial. We wanted to understand what was driving students to choose our program.

Framing this in a Jobs to be Done way, our objective was to understand the job that our students are hiring the EMBA program to do for them. That was the heart of the project.

 

What hypothesis did you develop before going into the interviews?

We had a lot of hypotheses, which were all focused on career, but we couldn’t nail down what about their career made them apply. Mapping out the potential goals helped us expand how we entered into these conversations with students, and eventually, we realized it wasn’t just about their career. That was too limiting.

When you think about a career, you think about changing roles – or getting the next role. And getting into the EMBA program at Kellogg meant much more than changing roles to these students. The students we interviewed were in all kinds of roles, and they were articulating a lot of the same things regardless of what they ended up doing in those roles.

The big response we heard at first was, “I feel like I topped out, and yet I still feel like there are more places for me to go.”

Expressions like that got us thinking that it’s not just about career, it’s about their professional life more broadly understood. And oddly enough, that broader mindset was what allowed us to get to the “job” much faster.

Understanding the JTBD was “realizing my full potential” was a critical first step, but thrv also showed us how to break down this goal/JTBD to identify unmet needs in achieving this goal. This is what we found really powerful about working with thrv: we can identify needs as metrics which we can measure and act on to help our customers/students.

 

How did thrv help you get to the job faster?

Although we had hypotheses, the jobs framework challenged us to think less about our own thoughts and more about what our students really needed. When we asked ourselves “what is the job students are hiring us to do?” our perspective shifted. This was the first time, in my experience, we were asking more open-ended questions like “what was going on in your life when you first thought about an MBA?” We wanted to get to the heart of why they were there and the only way to do that was to remove our own assumptions.

A large part of JTBD, and the value it brings is that it disciplines you to ask more open-ended questions and then to see the patterns that emerge.

What role did interviews play in your ability to get to – and validate – the finalized job?

We did 40-50 interviews, whether it was group interviews or individual interviews. We started out with talking to students as well as alumni. We would always have some questions prepared, but we tried to stay open-minded. Our first goal was just to listen and then to see the patterns of what we were getting and the responses.

I loved the question, “When did you first think about getting an MBA? What was happening in your life?” That’s a great entry point, because a lot of times, by the time they apply they have already established a narrative for themselves in preparation for telling us what their story is. They’re preparing to be a successful candidate.

But when you go back and say, “what was going on in your life, what was the trigger point, the moment” – you get a little deeper into what was actually going on. Whether it was a pivot in their life, or they were responding to self-recognition. When speaking in retrospect, people are more likely to be honest because they’re not trying to sell themselves.

Here were some of the responses we received:

  • My mentor told me to do this.
  • I’ve always wanted an MBA, I’ve just never had the time or the courage.
  • I wanted to be a part of the business side of my company.
  • I felt like there was something more.
  • I didn’t know what I wanted, I just knew I didn’t want what I was doing.

That led us to this idea that we were fufilling the job of helping our students realize their full potential.

It was really the interviews that allowed us to recognize the patterns and helped us identify the particular job. As we probed, it was amazing and striking how many times a student came to their own “aha” moments about their own motivations. It was almost like therapy for a service industry like ours.

And when they express their own “aha” moment – that’s when you know you’ve hit something deep. That’s when you know you’ve connected with that “job”.

After recognizing and validating the job of “realizing my full potential,” the next step, is figuring out the best way to help them get there.

We feel we’ve finally found the real purpose of our program – not just to be the best teachers, but to help guide our students through that journey.

 

Posted by Breena Fain in Market Sizing, 0 comments

Learn and Measure Before You Build: Using JTBD to Improve The Build-Measure-Learn Feedback Loop

You can use Jobs-to-be-Done to learn from your customers and measure a new product idea before building anything.

The Build-Measure-Learn Feedback Loop is a core tenet of the lean startup methodology, popularized by Eric Ries. The main argument is spending too much time behind closed doors, chasing down a perfect product, increases the cost of failure. To decrease the cost of failure and preserve resources to iterate towards growth, Ries and other lean startup practitioners suggest the following process:

  • Develop a hypothesis
  • Get a low-cost minimum viable product out to the market
  • Measure the results
  • Learn from the results
  • Iterate i.e. return to the build phase.

The assumption is the best learning occurs when people use your product. So, you build, measure, learn, and then repeat. The primary benefit is getting customer feedback and learning if an idea will work before it “gets too far,” i.e. before significant resources have been sunk into a product that customers never wanted in the first place.

We all know that building an MVP no matter how minimum it is, will never be free. And anyone who has tried to build an MVP, especially at a big company, has likely suffered from MVP-scope creep. Suddenly, people start calling the MVP “v1” and are asking engineers to participate in its development. And while they’re at it, they get marketing to whip up some creative to drive users to the MVP. The costs balloon.

The next frontier in decreasing the cost of product development and mitigating the risk of failure in your business and your role is to measure and learn from customer feedback before building anything at all, even an MVP.

Jobs-to-be-Done enables you to measure the likely results of an idea before the first line of code is written or the first pixel of a design is placed.

Here’s how you measure the value of a product idea before building it:

  1. Determine what job customers would hire the product to do.
  2. Determine which needs in the job your product idea satisfies and if those needs are unmet.
  3. Compare how quickly and accurately your new idea satisfies the unmet needs to how quickly and accurately the existing solutions satisfy them.

What job would customers hire the new product to do?

“Your customers do not buy your product; they hire it to get a job done. The struggle with the job causes a purchase,” says Clay Christensen, author of Innovator’s Dilemma and Competing Against Luck. The first step in measuring your product idea is to identify your customer’s job, in other words, the goal your customer is trying to achieve.

Sometimes the goal is obvious. Salespeople want to acquire new customers or close new business. When it’s not so obvious, customer interviews can reveal the job-to-be-done.

For guidance on articulating a job-to-be-done, you can read our post, How to Answer The Question, “What’s the job-to-be-done?”

In the meantime, here are a couple of quick tips:

  • A job is has a clear goal, an action verb, and direct object e.g. “get to a destination on time,” “acquire new customers,” or “create a mood with music.” Your customer is the subject of the sentence, not your company.
  • No solutions. Products, solutions, and technologies change over time. To maintain a stable target for your team, keep them out of your job definition.
  • The “wake up in the morning” test. It should make intuitive sense for someone to wake up in the morning with the job-to-be-done on their mind, thinking, “I have to do this today!” For example, unless you live in a city with alternate side parking, you don’t wake up thinking, “I need to park my car today!” But, you might wake up thinking “I need to be on time today!” The job is “get to a destination on time,” not “park the car.”

Identifying the job-to-be-done is the first step in learning from your customers before building.

Does your idea target an unmet customer need?

Once you’ve identified your customer’s job-to-be-done, you need to identify their struggle i.e. their unmet needs in the job.

What is a customer need?

Does your company agree on what your customer’s needs are?

In Jobs-to-be-Done, we define customer needs as an action a customer must take using a variable required to get the job done.

One way to think about customer needs is the actions that must happen quickly and accurately for the job to be executed successfully.

For example, in the job of “get to a destination on time,” three of the many variables are travel conditions, open times, and the distance between the parking spot and the destination. Here are examples of actions that need to be taken:

  • Determine if an alternate route should be taken due to unexpected travel conditions
  • Determine the open times of any planned stops
  • Find a parking spot close to the destination

If your decision to take an alternate route does not happen fast enough to take the route or you choose the wrong route (the decision is inaccurate), you will not get to the destination on time.

You can measure the speed and accuracy of customer needs in Jobs-to-be-Done, and the measurable needs are the foundation of measuring before building.

The measurement begins by determining which needs are unmet.

After interviewing customers to validate your list of customer needs in the job, you can run a survey asking customers which needs are important and not satisfied and their willingness to pay to get the job done.  The interviews are learning from your customers. The survey is measuring.

Needs that have high importance and low satisfaction are unmet. The survey gives you quantitative evidence of what percentage of customers find the need to be unmet and whether or not they are willing to pay to have their needs in the job satisfied.

The Jobs-to-be-Done survey measures whether or not a problem is worth solving.

For example, before Waze launched we conducted a survey for the job “get to a destination on time.” The highest scoring unmet need in the results was “determine if alternate route should be taken due to unexpected travel conditions.” Waze satisfied this need and enjoyed accelerating growth.

Once you identify the unmet needs in the job-to-be-done, you need to determine if your product idea is targeting one of them. This is a major learning moment–you learn if your idea is solving a worthwhile problem or if it is a solution in search of a problem. And you have learned this before building.

Compare your idea to the speed and accuracy of the existing solutions

Assuming you learned in step two that your idea is attempting to satisfy an unmet need, it’s time to measure if it does so better than the existing solutions. Customers switch to a new solution only when it gets the job done better.

What does “better” mean?

Above, we noted that customers want to get the job done quickly and accurately. To pressure test this, consider the following: Are there any goals you have that you like to achieve slowly? Can you achieve them at all if every step you take in the process is inaccurate? Can you think of any successful products that helped customers achieve goals slowly and less accurately than the previous solutions?

“Better” is satisfying the unmet need faster and more accurately than the existing solutions.

To determine if our solution is good enough to invest in, we first identify competitive solutions, measure how quickly and accurately they satisfy the targeted unmet need, and then compare those metrics to the speed and accuracy of our new idea.

The competing solutions aren’t bound to similar products. It’s any product, service or manual solution that customers use to get the job done.

Before Waze launched, customers used Google Maps, traffic reports on the radio, and calling a friend to determine if an alternate route should be taken to unexpected traffic conditions.

If we were to measure the speed and accuracy of Google Maps in this scenario, we would use the product and write out the steps. Remember this is before the app had a feature that would automatically suggest a new route. To determine an alternate route, users had to:

  1. Drag the route line on the map to a different road
  2. View the new calculated time to destination
  3. Compare it to the original route
  4. Repeat for all variations until the fastest route is found

This took a few seconds to many minutes depending on how many variations the user was willing to try. The real killer here was the accuracy. It was so hard to identify alternate routes that people would stop this well before testing them all. Therefore, the decision to take an alternate route or not was often inaccurate.

Now, we have speed and accuracy benchmarks: seconds to minutes and inaccurate.

Waze’s auto-suggest feature was automatic and instantaneous, enabling you determine the alternate route before you had to make a turn. Furthermore, it was more accurate because it calculate the variations for the user.

The trick is that we can measure this idea before building it by determining how fast and accurate it would be if executed perfectly. If we determine it would be less fast and accurate than the leading existing solution, we have learned that the idea is not good enough and not worth investing in, even at an MVP level.

Learning and Measuring Before Building the MVP

At this point in our process, we have:

  • Learned the customer needs from our customers
  • Measured the unmet needs–problems worth solving
  • Learned if our product idea is targeting an unmet need
  • Measured the willingness to pay of the customers: is there a market worth targeting?
  • Measured the performance of the competitive solutions
  • Learned if our solution is better than the existing solutions and can cause people to switch to it if executed well in the build phase.

In short, we have measured and learned before building.

Either you will learn that your idea requires more refinement before its worth building anything, even a prototype, or you will have validated the idea and know which features are critical to include in the MVP.

In both cases, you have not only decreased the cost of a failed idea but you have also decreased the the cost of success.

Now that it’s time to build your MVP, check out this post on how you can integrate jobs-to-be-done and agile workflows.

Reach out to us to get more detail about how to do any of the above at your company.

Posted by Jared Ranere in Competitive Analysis, Customer Needs, Idea Generation, Innovation, Jobs Theory Blog, Roadmap Planning, 0 comments

How to Answer The Question “What’s the job-to-be-done?”

 

Over a year after the publication of Clay Christensen’s book about Jobs Theory, Competing Against Luck, Jobs-to-be-Done is a much more common topic at companies of all sizes and sectors. As the question, “What’s the job-to-be-done?” becomes ever more frequent, confusion around how to answer the question rises. Product managers and executives we work with often wonder if their colleagues know the difference between a good and bad answer.

This post provides pointers to help you detect and articulate a useful jobs-to-be-done statement:

  1. The right question is, “What’s your customer’s job-to-be-done?”
  2. The JTBD should be a simple sentence consisting of an action verb and a direct object.
  3. Confirm the statement does not include a solution
  4. See if it passes the wake up in the morning test.

A well-articulated job-to-be-done sets a point of focus that will lead to developing high-growth products. Let’s dig into the criteria in more detail.

Whose job is it?

One of the biggest mistakes is defining “the job-to-be-done” as your company’s job. Of course, companies should have goals, but to hit them, you need to understand your customer. The “job” in Jobs-to-be-Done is your customer’s job. The foundation of the method is understanding your customer will lead to building solutions they value, leading to growth for your company.

Your product team’s goal is to get your customer’s job done for them.

Instead of asking “What’s the job-to-be-done?” make it standard practice to ask, “What’s our customer’s job-to-be-done?” By asking the right question, your team will get off to a much better start in defining the job-to-be-done.

What is a job and why does this matter?
A job-to-be-done is a goal your customers are trying to achieve independent of any product or solution. According to Jobs Theory, your customers are not buying your products; they are hiring them to get a job done. Their struggle with achieving the goal causes them to purchase new solutions.

In other words, the goal of building new products is to satisfy customer needs better than competitors in your market.

What is a market?

The traditional definition of a market, often used for market sizing, is “product price X number of buyers = the market.”

For example, a team at Microsoft likely used traditional methods to calculate the size of the “iPod” market at its peak. Apple had sold 200 million iPods at $150. Using traditional methods, this logically appears to be a $30 billion market.

Microsoft launched the Zune into the “iPod” market, and it failed dramatically.

The problem was that consumers didn’t want iPods any more than they wanted records, cassettes, or CDs. They wanted to get a job done. In this case, they want to create a mood with music–a goal that is independent of any solutions and nearly timeless.

The “iPod” or “MP3 player” market (like the “cassette” market and the “CD” market) is now rapidly approaching $0. New products have emerged (smart phones, streaming apps) that get the job done better for the customer.

The Zune was doomed from the start because Microsoft defined the market incorrectly. They launched a product and used a platform that mirrored the iPod while others focused on the features and platform that would get the job done faster and more accurately.

History is riddled with examples of companies that not only failed but missed enormous opportunities trying to satisfy customer needs better for their products rather than satisfy customer needs better in the job.

Encyclopedia Britannica lost $1 billion in market cap protecting their position in the encyclopedia business. Kodak went bankrupt thinking they were in the film market. Blackberry lost $80 billion in market cap while satisfying needs in the mobile device with keyboard market.

Meanwhile, all three companies missed out on the biggest market opportunities in history.

Google, Facebook, and Apple created three of the largest companies in the world in the same markets that Britannica, Kodak, and Blackberry were competing in. The three markets were find information, share memories, and get jobs done while mobile. These are all jobs-to-be-done that define stable markets.

If Britannica, Kodak, and Blackberry had defined their markets as jobs-to-be-done, they would have been on the right track to capitalizing on these market opportunities.

This is why defining the job correctly is so important. When a team is focused on a stable job, they are released from the constraints and pressure to improve the existing product line. They can now innovate with new technologies and a stable target–satisfying needs in their customer’s job-to-be-done.

What makes a good job statement?

In short, a job is a goal a person wants to achieve in their personal or professional life written with an action verb, a direct object, and including no solutions.

Let’s break this down.

1. Action verb + direct object

Keep it simple, memorable and objective. A customer’s job should be action driven with an attainable goal tied to it – that’s it. Over-complicating a job puts you at risk of multiple interpretations and assumptions.

Examples of JTBDs with an action verb and a direct object:

  • Get to a destination on time.
  • Restore artery blood flow.
  • Sell a used car.

The sentence needs to be easily repeatable. Everyone at the company should be able to state it whenever asked. This creates a common language that is critical to product success. If the language isn’t clear and direct, you may end up with different parts of the company having different perspectives on what the job is. This can cause a systemic breakdown of communication and eventually, of your product development.

Here is an example of a job-to-be-done articulated in a much more complex fashion from Clay Christensen’s Milkshake Marketing:

They faced a long, boring commute and needed something to keep that extra hand busy and to make the commute more interesting. They weren’t yet hungry, but knew that they’d be hungry by 10 a.m.; they wanted to consume something now that would stave off hunger until noon. And they faced constraints: They were in a hurry, they were wearing work clothes, and they had (at most) one free hand.

Will everyone at your company remember this entire paragraph?

To align your teams, you can dissect this paragraph as follows.

The job is “eat breakfast.” The customer (the job beneficiary) is commuters.

The job of commuters eating breakfast has customer needs that we can prioritize:

  • Avoid getting hungry again before lunch
  • Avoid spilling the breakfast on your clothes
  • Eat the breakfast within the physical constraints of the commute e.g. with one hand while driving, while standing up on the bus, etc.

Clay also raises the notion of an emotional job at play: “feel entertained while commuting.” This complicates your product team’s situation even further.

Are you working on the eat breakfast job for commuters or the commute to work job?

If you create a solution where the commuter can eat breakfast before beginning the commute, will you have solved the problem?

To stay entertained on the commute, is a podcast a better solution than a milkshake? Does it even matter if the commuter is eating?

This is why we break the job down into a short job-to-be-done statement and a hierarchical job map of customer needs. In practice, when you are trying to align teams in a large organization, these short, unambiguous, measurable, and prioritized statements are much easier to remember and create an objective criteria for your new solutions.

2. Establish a goal, not a solution
It’s important the job includes a goal with no implied solutions on how someone might achieve that goal. By keeping the solution out of the job, you stay focused on your customer instead of your product or a technology that is bound to change over time.

There will be a new technology that can get the job done faster or more accurately, and you want to be the one to adopt it in your solution.

Here are examples of jobs-to-be-done statements with implied solutions:

  • Play MP3s
  • Get more Twitter followers
  • Print newspapers

Each of these statements can lead a company to believe that their market is a product or technology, which can cause them to miss revolutionary new technologies that win in the market.

In the first statement above, the solution is MP3s. If your company is focused on an audio file, what will you do when streaming takes over?

“Twitter followers” is the solution in the second statement. Why does anyone want Twitter followers? Perhaps they are trying to acquire new customers or learn from people who share common interests among other solution-independent goals. If your company focuses on helping people gain Twitter followers you are dependent on Twitter and you may miss other ways of helping people achieve their real goals faster and more accurately.

Finally, it may be stating the obvious to point out the disruption the internet caused to news organizations who thought they were in the newspaper printing business.

Here are actual jobs-to-be-done without solutions:

  • Create a mood with music
  • Acquire new customers
  • Stay informed about current events

Each of these statements focuses your company on stable targets that won’t change with technology. Further, they will give your team the leeway to choose whatever solution will get the job done best for your customers, even if it involves new products.

3. Passes the wake up in the morning test
Because people purchase new products when they struggle with a job, it’s best if the goal in the job is important to them. The best markets are made up of people actively looking for new solutions to get the job done because if they don’t get it done, the consequences are painful.

One way to check if your job statement sparks the necessary urgency is to run it through the “wake up in the morning” test. This is a basic gut test: do you or anyone you know regularly wake up in the morning thinking, “I really need to get this job done today”?

If the answer is “no,” then the job you’ve defined is likely not an attractive market.

Consider another example of a job-to-be-done definition from Clay Christensen’s Competing Against Luck: pass the time while waiting in line.

Does anyone wake up in the morning thinking about passing the time while waiting in line? Do you know anyone who would be willing to pay to get this done?

Here’s another example: park a vehicle. Companies like Luxe and SpotHero are totally focused on parking.

Would you invest in them?

Let’s try the wake up in the morning test.

As we mentioned in our post about what to do when Google enters your market, unless you’re a valet or you live in a city with street cleaners and alternate side parking rules, you don’t wake up in the morning thinking, “Gee, I have to park my car today!”

Why does anyone need to park a vehicle?

The reason you park a vehicle is so you can go to your destination.

We consider “park a vehicle” to be a job step in this larger job: get to a destination on time.

Structuring the job this way can help you identify competitive threats. Who else is focused on get to a destination on time?

Uber, Lyft, Waymo, Google Maps, Apple Maps.

What happens if Uber and Lyft dominate the get to a destination on time market?

Far fewer people will need to park their cars and Luxe and SpotHero’s market opportunities diminish precipitously.

The wake up in the morning test can help you define the right level of abstraction with your customer’s job-to-be-done so that you can recognize competitive threats and opportunities.

Put The Criteria To Work
Next time someone asks, “what’s the job-to-be-done?” use this criteria to determine if the answer will put your team on the right track to a clear focus and high-growth products:

  1. The right question is, “What’s your customer’s job-to-be-done?”
  2. The JTBD should be a simple sentence consisting of an action verb and a direct object.
  3. Confirm the statement does not include a solution
  4. See if it passes the wake up in the morning test.

Of course, this is just the beginning. This post does not cover our techniques for identifying the job-to-be-done; sizing the market of the JTBD; selecting markets to target for your short, medium and long-term road maps; nor what to do with the JTBD once you have it well-defined. If you’re interested in these topics, feel free to get in touch.

Posted by Jared Ranere in Growth, Jobs Theory Blog, Market Sizing, 0 comments

Improve Your NPS with Jobs-to-be-Done

If you’re looking for ways to improve your Net Promoter Score, Jobs-to-be-Done can help you determine what to do to transform your detractors to promoters.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is an extraordinarily popular and quite effective technique for measuring customer satisfaction for a product or service. A business surveys its customers asking, “On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being ‘extremely unlikely’ and 10 being ‘extremely likely,’ how likely are you to recommend us to a friend?”

The customers who answer 9 or 10 are your “promoters.” Those who answer 0 to 6 are “detractors.” Your Net Promoter Score is the difference between the percentage of respondents who are promoters and the percentage of respondents who are detractors.

The business now has a single number indicating customer satisfaction. Improving the number is likely to improve customer retention and growth–a higher NPS should lead to more referrals.

But, how do you know why your detractors won’t recommend your product?

What is causing their dissatisfaction?

And what can you do to your product to improve customer satisfaction?

You can use Jobs-to-be-Done to answer these questions and figure out precisely how to change your product to transform detractors into promoters.

Why are your customers using your product?
To know why your customers are dissatisfied with your product, you need to know why they are using it in the first place.

According to Clay Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor who popularized Jobs-to-be-Done Theory, “Your customers are not buying your product, they are hiring it to get a job done.” Their struggle to get the job done with their existing solutions leads them to hire a new product that they believe will get the job done better. If the new product does not get the job done better, the customer will fire it.

In this context, a “job” is not necessarily an occupation. It’s any goal that a person wants to achieve in their personal or professional life.

To determine if a job represents a good market opportunity and is something you can align your team around, you can use the following criteria:

  • A succinct statement with a clear action verb and direct object e.g. “acquire customers,” “buy a used car,” or “restore artery blood flow.”
  • No solutions in the job statement. If you include a solution in the job statement such as, “Play MP3s,” then you focus your company on a technology instead of the customer and you risk missing big innovations that are possible from new technologies such as streaming music.
  • A job statement should stand the test of time. Take “create a mood with music” as an example. People have been trying to do that since the first noise was made by the first human and will continue trying to do it forever. “Buy a used car” will go away whenever people stop owning cars, but cars have already been around for over a hundred years and will likely last at least a couple of decades more. The projected time horizon of the job’s existence helps you determine the level of risk in your market.
  • A large number of people (or at least a small number of people who are willing to pay a lot of money to get it done), should wake up in the morning on a regular basis thinking, “I need to get this job done!” If your job statement doesn’t pass this “wake up in the morning” test, it’s likely that the job is not important enough for anyone to use a product to get it done better.

Sometimes the job (the goal your customers are trying to achieve with your product) is obvious.

For instance, if salespeople are using your CRM, it’s pretty clear they are trying to “acquire customers” and “retain customers,” two clear jobs.

Sometimes it is less clear. What job does Slack serve?

In such cases, interviewing your customers is a good way to determine the job.

You may find your product is being used by your customers to serve multiple jobs. This makes your situation a little more complex and the way to deal with it is another topic for another post.

What is causing customer detractors to be dissatisfied?
Now that you’ve figured out what job your customer is hiring your product for, you need to determine your detractors’ problem. Why are they dissatisfied?

More often than not, their problem is that your product is not getting the job done well enough. Your detractors are not achieving their goal as quickly and as frequently as they would like, and they are blaming your product for not helping them.

Let’s imagine we’re on the product team for Google Maps. Users are hiring our product to “reach a destination on time,” among other jobs. Knowing our users blame us for being late to their appointments is not enough information to understand what to build to turn the detractors into promoters.

We need to be more specific.

Fortunately, we can break a job down to precisely identify where the struggle is occurring and how severe it is in the market.

First, we list the job steps, which tell the story of how the job gets done, independent of the existing solutions in the market. All jobs have six categories of job steps.

For example, here are 6 steps in the job of “reach a destination on time,” one for each category:

You can hypothesize the job steps in a job by thinking through the last time you tried to execute the job and taking note of what you had to define, prepare, execute, monitor, modify, and conclude. When you find yourself thinking about the products you used to do those things, ask yourself why you used those products until you get to a statement that does not include a solution.

In all there are sixteen steps in “get to a destination on time:”

Next, we identify the customer needs in each job step.

The needs are the actions the job executor must take in order for the job step to be completed successfully. The faster the action is completed and the more accurate the outcome of the action, the more successful the job step will be and the more satisfied the customer will be. In other words, needs that can only be met slowly and inaccurately with the existing solution will cause the customer to be dissatisfied.

We can hypothesize the needs by taking note of the variables in each job step that could cause the process to go off track. For example in the step of “plan the stops,” the variables are:

  • The sequence of the stops
  • Where the stops are
  • The number of stops
  • The routes between the stops
  • Open times of locations where you need to run errands
  • Wait times at the locations
  • How long it takes to park at the locations

If your customer cannot quickly and accurately determine this information, she cannot plan her stops in such a way that she will reliably reach her final destination on time. The job will go off track, causing anxiety.

To validate the job steps and needs, you can interview job executors. To validate your assessment of whether or not the job executors are dissatisfied with their ability to meet the needs, you can survey job executors on their importance and satisfaction of each need.

To figure out why your detractors, specifically, are dissatisfied, you can have them take your needs survey. The needs that have low satisfaction ratings will give you a precise problem to solve that will increase the satisfaction of your customer and turn your detractors into promoters.

How to improve customer satisfaction
Now that we know the problem–the unmet needs in the job-to-be-done–how do we come up with a solution that will be good enough to turn our detractors into promoters?

The first step is to analyze the existing solutions in the market–not just your obvious competitors but any product, service, or manual process someone can use to get the job done. Instead of doing a feature to feature comparison between your products and your competition, you look at how long it takes to satisfy the unmet needs in the job and how accurately customers can do it with the existing solutions.

The speed and accuracy of satisfying the need with the existing solutions is the benchmark you need to beat with your new product or feature idea. If your new idea is not faster and/or more accurate than the benchmark, there is no reason for job executors to switch to your solution. Time to think of another idea.

Once you do have an idea to satisfy the need faster and more accurately, you can check-in with your customers at various intervals in your product development process–idea stage, prototype, post-release, etc. Ask them how satisfied they are with their ability to meet the targeted needs with this new feature. If they answer with more satisfaction than they did before seeing the new product or feature, then you are on your way to transforming the detractors to promoters.

NPS is a useful tool for tracking customer satisfaction. However, to take action against the results, it’s extremely helpful to have a method like Jobs-to-be-Done to specify the cause of the dissatisfaction and create a plan to turn your detractors into promoters.

Posted by Jared Ranere in Jobs Theory Blog, Product Strategy, 0 comments

Marketing to Customer Needs and What Cicret Can Learn from Salesforce

If you haven’t already, take a look at the Cicret Bracelet video. In just over two years, it has over 25 million views on YouTube. It’s a water-resistant bracelet that projects your smartphone’s screen onto your arm. Advertised as a “tablet for your skin,” the not yet released Cicret Bracelet is clearly garnering attention.

But will people buy a Cicret once it’s launched? In other words, will sales grow as fast as their YouTube views?

In order to answer such questions at thrv, we use Jobs-to-be-Done, a product innovation theory popularized by Clay Christensen of Harvard Business School. The key idea is, “Your customers aren’t buying your product, they are hiring it to get a job done.”

The question that leads to understanding Cicret’s potential is, “What job would you hire the Cicret Bracelet to do?”

According to the product video, the answer is interface with your smartphone.

Purchases occur when people struggle with getting a job done. Does anyone struggle enough with interfacing with their smartphone to buy a new product? In other words, are there unmet needs in this job?

Cicret’s product video opens with someone using the Bracelet in the bath tub. This speaks directly to the unmet need on which Cicret should focus its marketing message in order to realize high-growth sales: reduce the likelihood that the conditions of your environment prevent you from using your smartphone.

In order to sustain its growth, Cicret will need to take a lesson from Salesforce and expand beyond satisfying needs in a consumption job to getting their customers’ functional jobs done better.

Wait! What are consumption jobs and functional jobs?
Consumption jobs are the tasks required to use a product.

For instance, to “consume” a smartphone, you have to:

  • Purchase it
  • Set it up
  • Learn to use it
  • Interface with it
  • Maintain it

These are all “consumption jobs.” They are important, and companies have seen rapid growth by making progress against them. However, consuming a product is always in service to some larger goal a.k.a. “a functional job.”

Functional jobs are the key goals that a person needs to accomplish in their personal or professional lives. Examples are:

  • Acquire customers
  • Reach a destination on time
  • Sell a used car
  • Curate music
  • Enable secure data use
  • Restore artery blood flow

Markets exist because people need to execute functional jobs.

Even though Cicret will eventually want to focus on helping its customers achieve functional jobs, the company can get fast initial growth by serving an unmet need in the consumption job. Cicret can then use their momentum and resources to find new ways to satisfy customer needs in the functional job better than the existing solutions.

Salesforce is a great example of a company that went to market with a focus on serving needs in a consumption job. As the first cloud CRM, it didn’t require an on-premise installation. Salesforce got the “install” consumption job done far better than its competitors.

On-premise software installations were slow and expensive. To “install” Salesforce, its customers just had to create an account on a web site. The Salesforce “installation” took minutes, blazingly fast in comparison to the days or weeks it took to install their competitors’ software.

Salesforce made this advantage a central part of their marketing, calling for “the end of software” and making “no software” a key part of their logo.

In the process, Salesforce enjoyed hockey stick growth and invested the proceeds in getting the functional jobs (“acquire customers” and “retain customers”) done better than their competitors by adding key functionality through product development and acquisitions.

Cicret can follow the Salesforce playbook by focusing its launch message on the needs in the “interface” consumption job, rather than its novel product features (“tablet for your skin“). If it works, they can follow-up on their early success by investing in satisfying unmet needs in the functional jobs.

How does knowing the job and needs help Cicret with marketing?
Philip Kotler, a marketing expert at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management says, “Marketing is the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit.”

This advice is really helpful if we understand what a customer need is and have agreement across the organization.

What is a customer need? Do your colleagues at your company agree on your customers’ needs?

Jobs-to-be-Done defines a need as “a metric customers use to judge how quickly and accurately they can execute a job.” We structure each need with a direction, metric, and goal. To identify them, we interview people who are trying to execute the job, asking, “What’s difficult, frustrating and time-consuming about executing the job?” This definition, structure, and method for identifying needs gives teams an unambiguous, measurable problem statement around which everyone can align.

What need does Cicret serve?
We can articulate the key need the Cicret Bracelet solves as:

“Reduce the likelihood that the conditions of your environment prevent you from using your phone.”

This is a need in the consumption job “interface with a smartphone,” and the Cicret Bracelet does it better than any other product so far.

The bath tub shot at the beginning of Cicret’s video positions their product as serving this need. If the marketing continues in this vein, it could achieve high-growth at launch.

How does the Cicret reduce the likelihood that the conditions of your environment prevent you from using the hardware? Consider these situations:

  • You’re playing basketball and the phone is next to your gym bag. You’re waiting on an important email, but instead of running over to your bag to check your phone, you can bring the screen up on your arm during downtime on the court.
  • Your cycling to an unfamiliar destination, which means you need the help of a navigation app. It’s inconvenient and unsafe to pull out your phone, but the Cicret Bracelet allows you to glance down at your arm each time you need to check directions.
  • You’ve just arrived at a concert. You’re looking for a friend, but it’s crowded and you don’t want to drop your phone on the ground when there’s a human stampede around you. Simply text your friend right on your arm with the Cicret bracelet.
  • You’re eating chicken wings, and your hands are covered in sauce. Use the Cicret rather than getting your phone greasy.

All of these images can deliver the message of how Cicret satisfies a customer need.

How does Cicret beat the competition?
In tackling this unmet need Cicret goes head-to-head with smartwatches, which also reduce the likelihood that the conditions of your environment prevent you from using your phone. Smartwatches have been struggling to sustain growth as most have failed to move beyond the novelty phase.

Cicret’s marketing can speak to how its larger display and waterproof design serve needs in the job better than a smartwatch. Meeting a need better than your competition drives growth.

Cicret has an opportunity to outpace smartwatches by demonstrating how interfacing with your smartphone is easier with a Bracelet than it is with a smartwatch.

Meanwhile, Cicret will need to keep their attention on Garmin and Apple as they develop fitness trackers and health apps that depend on smartwatches. This work leads the way to smartwatches getting functional jobs done. If Cicret fails to get functional jobs done better, instead of following Salesforce’s path, they will fall far behind the competition.

Marketing to an unmet need in a consumption job can resonate with customers and help companies get off to a great start. It is then critical to invest in the functional job to have a long-lasting business.

Posted by Jared Ranere in Competitive Analysis, Customer Needs, Jobs Theory Blog, Messaging & Positioning, 0 comments

How to Respond When Google Enters Your Market

In 2011, IBM found that drivers in cities around the world spend an average of 20 minutes finding a parking spot. Such studies highlight the need for more efficient parking.

Entrepreneurs and companies have been taking steps to solve the parking problem for some time now. There are many parking apps out there, yet no clear winner. It’s still extraordinarily difficult to park in major cities. Drivers are frustrated. Any company that can make it fast and easy to find a parking spot is likely to grow very fast.

So, it’s no surprise that the world’s second-largest company by market cap, Alphabet (aka Google), has joined the game. Google has introduced a parking difficulty function to Google Maps, allowing drivers to see if parking availability in a specific area is limited, medium, or easy.

The parking difficulty icon is certainly a cool function on its own, but it’s part of a much larger goal. To understand this larger goal, let’s consider the parking difficulty function through the lens of the Jobs-to-be-Done Theory, which was popularized by Clay Christensen of Harvard Business School. Christensen says, “customers aren’t buying your product, they are hiring it to get a job done.”

What job would someone hire the parking icon to get done? Well, it helps drivers park a vehicle. But, why does anyone need to “park a vehicle?” Unless you’re a valet or you live in a city with street cleaners requiring alternate side parking rules, you don’t wake up in the morning thinking, “Gee, I have to park my car today!” The reason you park a vehicle is so you can go to your destination. So “park a vehicle” is a job step in this larger job: reach a destination on time.

With Google now making moves to address problems with parking, what can car-parking apps like SpotHero and Luxe do to stay successful? After all, if Google gets this job step done along with many of the other steps in the job, it won’t be long before people stop using SpotHero and Luxe for parking because Google is getting the whole job done for them.

Jobs Theory helps us see options for services like SpotHero and Luxe to stay alive.

Know The Competitive Landscape
Using Jobs Theory, we can define the market based on the customer’s job-to-be-done, which is “reach a destination on time.” Reaching a destination on time is a functional job, meaning that it is a key goal or task that people need to accomplish in their personal or professional lives. The market for the job of reaching a destination on time exists because many people need to execute this functional job frequently. The company that gets this job done better for customers will win the market.

We also know that “park the vehicle” is just one of the job steps in the job of getting to a destination on time. At thrv, we’ve identified 16 total steps in for the job of drivers reaching a destination on time:

Companies like SpotHero and Luxe complete the job step of parking the vehicle for the customer, but remember that customers must get the whole job done (reach the destination on time). This means companies fulfilling the job step of parking the vehicle aren’t just in competition with each other, but also with any service that gets any other steps in the job done, which means parking apps have more to worry about than each other.

Obviously, this broadens the competitive landscape. It’s crucial for companies like SpotHero and Luxe to see and address this risk. Because bigger companies that are fulfilling other job steps may come in and start fulfilling their job step as well (i.e. Google), which could put them out of business.

There are many other big companies doing other job steps. For instance, Uber helps get the following steps done:

Even Tesla’s self-driving cars are competition for parking apps. Not only do these driverless cars handle steps like setting the route and planning the stops, they also self-park! If driverless car makers also figure out how to get autonomous vehicles to find open spots, no one will need to use other apps.

How Google Maps Extended Their Lead
The overall leader in the market of reaching a destination on time is Google, with Uber and Tesla making strides. Any one of these tech giants, and others like Apple and Lyft, present a threat to parking apps.

With Maps, one of the world’s most used apps, Google is already tackling other steps in the job of reaching a destination on time, such as:

 

Now that Maps serves needs within the parking job step, like reducing the time it takes to find a parking spot close to the final destination, the tech giant has extended its lead. Also, in addition to Maps, you also have things like Google Now and self-driving cars. All of these are working together to help Google do more job steps for reaching a destination on time.

For example, the Google Search App (formerly Google Now) addresses needs in these job steps:

And Waymo, Google’s self-driving car, eliminates at least these three steps:

Considering everything Google is doing to complete the job of a reaching a destination on time, it’s clear the company has a lead. The launch of its parking difficulty icon puts them even further ahead of competitors. No other solution completes the job better than Google’s overall ecosystem.

Ask The Right Questions
There are a host of parking apps in the market, and some do complete this job step quite well. For instance, BestParking helps drivers park a vehicle quickly by locating the most convenient garages, and Parker helps drivers find paid parking and navigate street parking rules.

But while parking apps may do their job step well, they need to be aware that giants like Google are competitive threats, as they are already completing many of the steps for getting to a destination on time.

This should be concerning for parking app developers. If drivers can set the route, plan stops, assess if the destination can be reached on time, and find a parking spot all within one app (Google Maps), why would they open up another app just for parking?

To safeguard against a company like Google taking away your customers, smaller companies need to be asking themselves the right questions as they build their solutions. These include:

Are you working on a job step that much bigger companies will target soon because they’re already fulfilling other steps in the job?

If so, what does the larger company fail to do well?

Answering the first question involves employing JTBD Theory to see all the jobs steps within a job. Again, parking is one step to completing the job of reaching a destination on time.

Once you know about the potential competitive threat to your job step, you can make plans to protect yourself. This necessitates first improving upon the existing job step you complete, and then attempting to fulfill other jobs steps (especially those competitors don’t do well).

Improve and Expand on the Existing Job Step
The first solution parking apps have is to improve on what they already help customers do: Park the vehicle. If they are able to do this ten times better than Google, then users most likely won’t abandon the app.

The key to doing this lies in recognizing and solving customer needs. If you don’t define and identify these customer needs, then you are guessing about what they want. A customer need is a metric customers use to judge how quickly and accurately they can execute a job-to-be-done. For reaching a destination on time, there are lots of needs that must be satisfied.

For instance, let’s look at job step 15, “park the vehicle.” For this step, we’ve identified 11 needs. Satisfying more needs for this parking job step will help parking apps grow profits with less risk. These needs are:

If a parking app can satisfy most or all those needs efficiently, they will be able to protect themselves from being overrun by a big company that comes in to do the job step. To do this, parking apps should first identify where competitors’ weaknesses in the job step are (i.e. what needs do they fail to satisfy). Then, they should see if solving these unmet needs carries enough opportunity.

For example, Google Parking does reduce the time it takes to find a parking place close to the final destination, but it doesn’t reduce the likelihood of parking in a location where the vehicle gets damaged. Solving this unmet need actually has lots of opportunity, as customers report low satisfaction for this need but rate it as highly important. So, a feature that guides users to parking spots where it is less likely to get the car dinged or dented could help apps stay ahead of Google in the parking job step.

Solving more needs of the parking job step quickly and accurately could allow you to have sustained success. It could also set you up for acquisition by a big company. For example, Waze served the need of “reduce the time it takes to determine if an alternate route should be taken to save time due to unexpected travel conditions” within the job step “reset the route as needed” so well that Google decided to purchase the map app for $1.2 billion in 2013.

Still, even if you do that one job step substantially better than the competition, it might not be enough. After all, customers will still have to hire other solutions to get the job done. That means you have to work on getting more steps in the job done.

Get More Job Steps Done
Limited time and resources may make it hard to compete with Google overall when it comes to reaching a destination on time, but keep in mind your options. After improving upon the parking job step, you have two of them, which are:

  1. Do more job steps. Waze, by crowdsourcing construction and traffic, is able to help drivers determine how much time to allow for atypical travel conditions, in addition to setting the route (note the company accomplished this before Google acquired it).
  2. Use existing assets to tackle other jobs. While working on parking, a company may have developed other technology or operational assets that can get steps in other jobs done. For example, Uber is using its assets to tackle the job “get something to eat” with UberEats. This job is adjacent to their primary focus.

It can be extremely daunting when a large company puts you in their sights. But, once you understand all of the unmet needs in all of the job steps of your job or find adjacent jobs you can tackle, you will have opportunities to stay alive.

Final Advice
Doing just one job step that in a larger job may not be sustainable. Your competition will likely threaten you from many angles–the other job steps in the job. But, remember there are three moves you can make to stay ahead:

  1. Look for ways to satisfy more needs in the job step so that you stay far enough ahead of all competition.
  2. Find ways to expand on the job steps you do so that you can get the whole job done faster and more accurately.
  3. Find adjacent jobs to which you can apply your existing assets.

These three steps can help you stay relevant over time, even if a Goliath is coming for you.

Posted by Jared Ranere in Competitive Analysis, Jobs Theory Blog, 0 comments

8 Signs You Need a Product Development Framework

Process and frameworks can get a bad rap. Many companies are proud of having a light-weight or loose process, considering themselves “agile,” “fluid,” and “intuitive.” They may even say their work is like jazz and they don’t want to restrict their creativity. Most of all, teams fear that process will slow them down.

But, a company can also be dragged down by a lack of clarity: about decision-making, goals, and what’s causing goals to be missed. This condition can cause a downward spiral of guesses, failures, frustration, and a lack of trust that leads to more guessing and so on.

Here are eight signs that your company is on the verge of a downward spiral and tips on how a strong product development framework, such as Jobs-to-be-Done, can rescue you.

Sign 1: Missing Revenue and Profit Growth Goals
When your company is failing to hit its growth goals, be it revenue or profits, it puts strain on every team.

Revenue problems put stress on the sales team first. If only they could sell better, the company will earn more money.

All sales teams should aspire to be well-oiled, high-performance selling machines, but there is little they can do if the product does not satisfy customer needs better than the competition. See Wells Fargo’s recent fraudulent sales scandal as an example of how damaging it can be to put all of the revenue pressure on the sales team.

Sign 2: Disagreement on Customer Needs
To get growth back on track, the product team needs to ensure that their product is satisfying customer needs better than the competition. This raises an important question: What is a customer need?

Your product team may lack an agreed upon definition of a customer need, let alone agree on your customers’ needs.

If this is true, they’ll tend to use proxies to determine what to build:

  • Customer feature requests (“I want a faster horse.”)
  • Sales team feature requests (“I can close this deal if you’ll just build this feature.”)
  • Feature ideas from stakeholders, executives, etc. (“I love this idea. I know if we build it we’ll get growth. I can just feel it.”)
  • New technologies (“Augmented reality is the next big thing. Our customers need it!”)
  • New channels (“Everyone is on Snapchat. Our customers need us there too.”)

The problem with these proxy inputs is that they change frequently and often rapidly, which means the team is attempting to hit a moving target. A framework can provide a stable definition of customer needs.

Sign 3: Road maps Prioritized by Fierce Debate and Negotiation


How many times have you seen someone use their rhetorical prowess and passion to convince the room that a feature should be built?

How often do you hear someone refer to roadmapping as “horse trading?” Are your roadmap meetings exhausting and exasperating, with internal stakeholders jockeying to “win” the meeting by getting “their” features prioritized?

A colleague’s persuasive abilities have no bearing on the extent to which a feature idea will solve your customer’s problems.

Under the stress of such an environment, you may resort to answering easy questions, “Do I like how this feature looks?” or “Will I feel better if I give my colleague her way and get this meeting over with?” rather than the most important question, “Will this roadmap satisfy customer needs better than the competition?”

Sign 4: The HiPPO Rules
The HiPPO is the “Highest Paid Person’s Opinion.” It’s a fast way to decide what should be on the road map, but is it the best path to growth?

If the highest paid person happens to be very close to the problem you’re solving with your product, you might be in luck. When answering the question, “Do I like this?” she may do so from a frame of reference similar to your customer’s.

But, in larger companies, the highest paid person may be far removed from the customer’s problem or perhaps has never experienced it. Her primary activity could be managing people and nowhere in the job description did it say, “Must have experienced our customer’s problem.” If that’s the case, what she likes and doesn’t like could be wildly different from what’s useful to the customer.

Sign 5: Shiny New Object Syndrome Leads to The Disposable Road Map
With technological progress at a rapidly accelerating pace, you can expect exciting new technologies and channels to come on the scene very frequently. What do you do about it?

Do you let the shiny new objects steal your focus and cause you to throw out your road map? Or do you have a clear criteria for whether to adopt new capabilities or discard them as mere distractions?

Maintaining agility with your product road map is a virtue, but it has limits. If you find your road map is ripped up so often that you never finish a feature or you’re constantly releasing half-baked features that never get their planned iteration cycles, you’ve got a problem.

All this zigging and zagging will lead to a product full of elements that “sort of” work, none of which are truly great, and none of which bring value to the customer.

Chasing the shiny new objects and constantly changing the road map are indicators that your team disagrees on what the customer needs are. You’re likely using the proxies mentioned above (sales requests, new tech, etc) to determine what to build and as they change, your road map changes.

Sign 6: Launches Met with Crickets


You know when you put something out there, loud and proud, and all you get in response back is…crickets?

That can happen with a product release as well. Your team puts in a lot of hard work and gets very excited to show it to the world. The launch happens, you celebrate, and then you realize a week later that no one is using the new features in your product..

The obvious answer in this situation is “oh, the users haven’t found the feature yet. Let’s add help text or a flashing message somewhere to point it out to them.” If you do this and three weeks later there is no uptick in usage, you have a bigger problem. Either the new feature isn’t serving a customer need at all or the need it serves is already met.

Sign 7: Feuding Product and Marketing Teams
As a product person, have you ever looked at a marketing campaign and thought, “Why are they promoting that?”

And as a marketing person, have you ever read release notes and thought, “Why would a customer care about this? I guess I’ll just call out the new features.”

Or perhaps you’ve witnessed your product and marketing teams denigrating each other: “I just can’t understand what that team is doing. I don’t think they even know.”

If this sounds like a familiar pattern, you have a communication breakdown between your product and marketing teams that a framework can help solve.

Sign 8: Reinventing The Decision-Making Wheel
Last week you presented a deck with designs your stakeholders loved. Two weeks ago you assessed the impact of a new idea on your team’s KPIs. Three weeks ago the executives were compelled by the user problem and approved your plan.

To prepare for the next defense of your road map, you’ve been meeting individually with various stakeholders, trying to determine what’s on their minds.

If the criteria for decision-making is constantly shifting and needs to be divined from tea leaves, you could really use a framework.


The Solution
A product development framework like Jobs-to-be-Done can prevent the downward spiral of guessing, missing goals, growing frustrations, negotiations, more guessing, etc.

The key idea behind Jobs-to-be-Done, a framework based on the theory of the same namepopularized Clayton Christensen, is that your customers are not actually buying your product, they are hiring it to get a job done. This is important because your customer’s struggle with the job is what causes them to look for a product and make purchase.

In Jobs-to-be-Done, customer needs are a precise articulation of that struggle. Needs are the metrics customers use to judge how well they can execute the job. Since people want to get the job done quickly and accurately, customer needs are written in terms of time and likelihood. For example, drivers who want to reach a destination on time (a job-to-be-done) need to “reduce the time it takes to determine if they should take an alternate route due to traffic conditions” and “reduce the likelihood that recent road modifications are not considered when setting the route.” Those are two customer needs in the job that are stable and the team can target with their road map.

This brings us to a key question: What does it mean to satisfy the need “better” than the competition?

Now that we’ve defined needs as metrics of speed and accuracy, “better” is easy to define and detect. The solution that meets the need faster and more accurately is “better,” i.e. it will deliver more customer satisfaction.

If the product team delivers solutions that meet the needs in the job faster and more accurately than the competition, people will use the product and put growth back on track. Marketing the product becomes easier as the features are designed with the customer benefit in mind at the start, which can be promoted at launch.

With Jobs-to-be-Done, the team gains alignment around satisfying customer needs, which leads to hitting growth goals. This customer-centric approach minimizes internal debate and negotiation because it raises the conversation away from individuals’ goals and their products to how groups work together to resolve a customer’s job faster and more efficiently. It puts the focus on your customer’s goals and assumes that if you deliver against them, everyone in the company will hit their own goals.

Your team will have common goals, common metric-driven means of evaluating proposals, and a common language with which to discuss it, decreasing the conflict and the ferocity of the debate and negotiation in the roadmapping room.

When you adopt Jobs-to-be-Done at your company, decision-making meetings can get pretty boring. The criteria is almost always “does the proposition on the table satisfy the targeted customer need in the job better than the competition?” You may have an interesting conversation about what you can do to have an even better idea, but the criteria remain the same.

If you’ve seen one or more of the above signs at your company, you’re not alone. Many teams have experienced these problems. Fortunately, there is a solution. Find a framework that works for you. And contact us at thrv.

Posted by Jared Ranere in Customer Needs, Growth, Jobs Theory Blog, Product Strategy, Roadmap Planning, 0 comments

YP & Yahoo! Executive Melissa Burghardt Joins thrv

thrv, LLC (thrv.com), the first and only jobs-to-be-done product management software, today announced that Melissa Burghardt has joined the company as a Growth Partner. For thrv’s customers, Melissa brings 20 years of experience driving products & strategy at companies including YP, OpenX, and Yahoo!.

As a Growth Partner, Melissa will partner with businesses in applying Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) theory in thrv’s software. “I am thrilled to join the thrv team to help businesses accelerate their revenue and profitability growth by leveraging jobs-to-be-done,” said Melissa. “Having partnered with thrv as a customer, I was really impressed with the team, as well thrv’s methodology and unique software for applying JTBD. I saw first-hand how a product team can use thrv to bring JTBD to life within their own organizations.”

“We are extremely excited to have an executive as experienced and intelligent as Melissa join the thrv team,” said Jay Haynes, CEO and founder of thrv.

Melissa joins thrv from YP where she was Senior Vice President of Media Products. At YP (previously part of AT&T), Melissa partnered with thrv to drive a Jobs-to-be-Done approach to product strategy with her team. “thrv’s structured and quantitative approach to JTBD helped us more deeply understand how small and medium businesses struggle to acquire new customers. Our thrv Growth Partner was instrumental in helping us listen to customers in a new way and frame the market opportunity accordingly, applying our insights consistently via thrv’s app.”

About Melissa: Prior to thrv, Melissa was responsible for YP’s Advertising products for local businesses, including product strategy, product management, product marketing, analytics and yield management. Prior to YP, Melissa was Vice President of Partner Services at OpenX where she was responsible for the company’s US publisher relationships. Before that, Melissa spent almost 10 years at Yahoo! in a variety of leadership roles in the US and in Europe. Previous to Yahoo!, Melissa worked in Silicon Valley gaining entrepreneurial experience at a data storage systems start-up and at the management consulting firm Mitchell Madison Group. Melissa holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology.

About thrv: thrv, LLC (thrv.com) is the first and only product management software for enterprises based on the jobs-to-be-done method. thrv provides training, services, and software to companies looking to implement the jobs-to-be-done method in order to accelerate their revenue and profitability growth. thrv’s software transforms product management into a customer-centric and metric-driven practice.

About Jobs-To-Be-Done: Jobs-to-be-done (also known as Jobs Theory and JTBD) is a framework popularized by Harvard Business School Professor Clay Christensen based off the concept that customers are not “buying” products, they are “hiring” products to get a job done. As a result, companies and product teams can use JTBD to focus on how customers struggle to get a job done, and design products and services accordingly.

Posted by Jay Haynes in Jobs Theory Blog, Team, 0 comments