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Jared Ranere

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3 Tips for Adopting the Product Management Frameworks

product roadmap framework building analogy

Product Management frameworks are exciting to learn and frustrating to implement. As a product manager myself and a framework teacher, I totally understand the appeal. Being a product manager is a messy job. You’re constantly trying to explain to your peers what you do. You didn’t go to school for it. And every day you have to motivate really smart people who don’t report to you to align with your vision and decisions. In the least, frameworks provide a comforting structure. At best, they align and focus your team, leading to operational rhythm and achieving your goals much faster than you anticipated.

As a Jobs-to-be-Done trainer and consultant, I’m obviously a huge fan of frameworks. In the past few years of helping dozens of large and small companies with Jobs-to-be-Done, I’ve repeatedly seen the enthusiasm of learning something new followed by the struggle to implement the lessons. Those who overcome the struggle reap the rewards.


The phenomenon is not unique to Jobs-to-be-Done. Here’s a pattern you have likely experienced with any framework:

  • Hype: Your team reads some articles or even a book about a framework and gets amped about using it to fix broken processes, operations, decision-making, etc. and hit the targets you’ve been missing.
  • Thrill of Education: You bring in expert trainers to teach the framework to your team. The session is one or more days, and your team happily attends. They believe this new framework has great promise, the training will be a nice change of pace, and you ordered great food. At the end of the workshop, momentum is at its peak. The trainers were inspiring, and the team is excited yet a little intimidated about putting the framework into practice.
  • Cannon Shot: The day after training you and your colleagues are shot out of a cannon. You spend the morning unburying yourself from the emails you didn’t answer while you were in all-day sessions. You look on everyone’s calendars to find time for the “Framework Implementation Meeting.” The next available slot is in two weeks. (While you were in the session the rest of the company slammed you with meeting requests). While you wait for the follow-up meeting, your team falls back into its operational patterns. That’s ok, you think, they need to finish their current projects, and there’s a bunch of research to do before we can really use this framework. The follow-up meeting can wait.
  • Land of the Forgotten: This is where your dreams of fixing your broken processes fade. Your follow-up meeting got rescheduled. Finance told you to wait for next quarter to get budget for the research. Half of your resources are working on tech debt. Growth has slowed so much there are whispers of re-org--definitely not a good time to start something new. Your team, your work, your company, and your career remain on the descending path they were on before you learned about the framework.

Don’t let this happen to you. I’ve learned from experience so you don’t have to. Here are three tips to implementing frameworks. Break the pattern and use frameworks to improve your team and achieve your goals.

1. Don’t Add, Change

Frameworks can be extremely powerful, but they cannot add hours to a day. Not only is it unrealistic to ask a maxed-out employee to add something to their plate without taking something off, it’s demoralizing. We’ve all been on the wrong end of that equation, and as a product manager, you’ve already learned this lesson from your engineering team.

Engineers can only handle a finite number of story points in a sprint. If you want to prioritize a new item, you have to de-prioritize something else.


The same is true for Product Managers. You are not superhuman.


To help your team adopt a new framework and the work that goes with it, change their responsibilities.


Change their metrics of success. Change the way they write specs and user stories. Change the meeting schedule. Change the deployment schedule. Change your criteria for decision-making. Change the process for decision-making. Change one of these things, all of these things, or a new thing not listed here, but change something.


Presumably, the reason you got excited about the framework in the first place is that something wasn’t going right on your team and you thought the framework could fix it. Articulate that something. Isolate it. Before you introduce the new framework, offer it to your team as the candidate for change and tell the team, “I expect the framework to replace this thing we do today.” If you do it right, adding the framework decreases the work.


2. Use The Framework Right Now; Waiting Is a Slow Death

The training session ends, everyone is excited, and they think, “I’m really looking forward to spinning up a new project that will be right for this, but I have to finish my current project first.”

Two weeks later...fire alarm! Your team interrupts their current project to put out the fire. It takes another two weeks to clear the smoke. Now, they’re back on the project. At lunch one day, someone remembers, “Weren’t we going to adopt that framework?” “What would be a good project for that?” “We should talk about that when I’m back from vacation.” You get back from vacation to 500 emails. The framework is forgotten.

Waiting to implement a new framework will kill it.

Meanwhile, you continue with your old processes, decision-making, and operations that you thought were so broken that you needed a new framework. And every day you do that, you are spending money on development that isn’t achieving your company goals because they were chosen under the old, broken decision-making rubric. Your budget dwindles and you tighten your belts, “We can’t implement something new now; we’re in crisis!”


Here are two ways to avoid this death spiral:

  • Come up with a project (or multiple projects) that will use the framework before you train your team in it.
  • Don’t wait for a special project. Insert the framework into whatever your team is doing today even if you can only make incremental improvements, which brings us to tip number three.

3. Perfect is The Enemy of The Better

Often when you learn a framework, you learn it from an expert who has spent years using, advancing, and teaching it. The framework is full of new terms with very precise definitions. There are specific research, analysis, and decision-making techniques. There are wrong ways of doing things with seemingly disastrous consequences. Leading practitioners have long-standing arguments about the right way to do things. The experience can be intimidating, like you’re walking on a minefield. One wrong step and BOOM.


It can make you feel like using the framework requires perfection and a tremendous amount of work. You can’t use human-centered design without observing your customer in their natural setting. You can’t be Lean without lighting your road maps on fire, allocating all of your engineering resources to instrumenting every pixel of your application to measure user behavior, and hiring a coach for every team. You can’t use Jobs-to-be-Done without doing dozens of user interviews, running lengthy surveys, and executing a detailed analysis of every competitive feature against every customer need.


All of the above activities are valuable and help you mitigate the risk of investing in the wrong product ideas but none of them are necessary to get started with a framework.
You can use a framework before executing all of the research, training everyone in your organization, and building out the infrastructure to support it. Remember, the framework was appealing in the first place because something about your current work habits was broken and you were not realizing your aspirations. Even if you start with a small piece of the framework, even just the way of thinking, it will be better than what you were doing before. Start with that while you invest in full implementation.


For example, if you’re implementing Jobs-to-be-Done, before you do all the research, create a hypothesis about the job your customer is hiring your product to do. Make sure it doesn’t include a solution. Then pick a feature your team is *currently* working on (don’t wait for a new one, see above). Ask, “How would this help our customers get the job done? Which struggle with the job does it help our customers overcome? Does it satisfy that need faster and more accurately than their current solution?” Then refine the feature based on these answers to try and satisfy the need better than the competitive solutions.


Because you didn’t do your customer interviews yet, maybe your job will not be at the perfect level of abstraction or you’ll articulate it in a way that’s not exactly in the customer’s language. Maybe the need you identified is not the *most* unmet need because you haven’t done your survey yet. Perhaps you’ll miss an element of the existing solution that makes your speed assessment a bit off. But at least you’ll have a justification for developing the feature that is clearly connected to a customer problem, builds your team’s customer empathy, aligns your team with the customer’s goal and a clear goal for your feature, and potentially leads you to refine your feature and increase your likelihood of success with it. Those are a lot of benefits even though you are still far from implementing the framework perfectly.

In parallel, you can do all the work related to getting the full value of your framework, but don’t wait for that. In the meantime, your team can perform much better than they do today.

Posted by Jared Ranere in ROADMAP PLANNING , 1 comment

How Google Sheets Took Share From Excel Using Competitive Positioning

competitive-positioning-featured

By definition, most product, marketing and sales people don’t work at market leading companies. In order to build a business, we need to get people to switch from using some other product or get them to add our product to their solution set. We know this goal is achievable because we’ve heard great product success stories: Salesforce beats Siebel Systems, Spotify overtakes Pandora, and, one of my favorites, Google Sheets vs Microsoft Excel. 

In this post, we’ll use Jobs-to-be-Done to understand how Sheets’ competitive position made it clear to customers when they should switch and why, and in the process took share from Excel. Through this story, you’ll learn how JTBD can help you define a differentiated competitive position that leads to growth.

But first, what does competitive positioning mean?

Identify Competitive Positioning

Competitive positioning is how you differentiate yourself from competitors so that your customers will know when and why to choose your product over your competitors.

In his 1985 book, Competitive Strategy, Harvard Business School professor, Michael Porter, identifies 4 different competitive positions that can be used to achieve a competitive advantage. The basic idea is that you can use your advantage on costs to target the broad market or a niche market, or you can use your product differentiation to target the broad market or a niche market.

 

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Credit: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newSTR_82.htm

 

  1. Cost Leadership Position - Target the broad market with lower costs than your competitors. Either maintain a high price and generate higher margins or lower your prices and take more market share. 

  2. Cost Focus Position - Focus on a narrow or niche market with a low cost product.

  3. Differentiation Leadership Position - Satisfy needs with your product differently than your competitors in the broad market.

  4. Differentiation Focus Position - Satisfy needs with your product differently than your competitors in a narrow or niche market.

What was Google Sheets' Competitive Position Within This Rubric? 

The Google Blog post announcing Google Sheets in 2006 is titled, “It’s Nice to Share.” It talks about how Google wants to help people “quickly and easily share information in real time,” and closes with:

So don’t be surprised if you are soon invited by someone to share a spreadsheet. (We're rolling this out as a limited test.) Your kid's sports coach, your aunt in Omaha trying to organize a major family reunion, your friend who promised to compile a list of all your favorite hiking trails (and now wants you to help), or your project team which now has a way to keep tasks and status in one place for all to see.

In the official product announcement, Google highlights the drawbacks of traditional spreadsheet software, “Ever found yourself trading email attachments with several colleagues, trying to collaborate on a document, only to have someone chime in at the last moment with corrections to an outdated version?” They then explain that on Google Sheets & Docs, users can “easily collaborate with others, online and in real time.”

When it launched, Google Sheets was free. Excel, of course, could only be used by people who purchased a Microsoft Office license.

From this messaging, we can see that Google targeted a broad market (the variety of customers mentioned in the blog post) with lower costs (free). But, they also differentiated their product. They used a combination of Porter’s Cost Leadership and Differentiation Leadership positioning strategies to win. 

If you were Google’s product team, how would you maintain confidence in this positioning strategy when publications like MIT Technology Review are writing, “Leading technology bloggers’ reactions to Google Spreadsheets… have ranged from lukewarm to hostile.”

How do you determine the positioning strategy and marketing strategy that will win, on what dimensions to differentiate your product, and what features to focus on during the next product offer to avoid getting caught in the dreaded feature catch-up trap with your leading competitor?

And let’s assume you don’t have unlimited funds like Google so your answer can’t be, “Hire the smartest people in the world, pay them enormous salaries, hope for the best, and if they don’t succeed no big deal because we still have AdWords.”

This is where Jobs-to-be-Done can be a huge help in mitigating the risk of choosing the wrong competitive position and helping your team stay confident that they are on the right path.

In JTBD, your competitor position is defined by answering the following questions:

  1. What customer will you target?

  2. What Job will you target?

  3. What Job Steps will you target?

  4. What product platform will you choose to satisfy unmet needs in the job steps differently from your competitors?

These questions put the focus on the “Differentiation” half of Michael Porter’s quadrant. Once you answer those questions, you can then set your price based on the customer’s willingness to pay to get the job done, the cost of developing your solution, and your target profit margin. 

You can conduct market research to answer these questions. The research gives you insights that help you stay confident in your position decision and your product roadmap even when you will never catch up to the feature set of the incumbent.

Here's how it works: 

  • Define your customer

    In JTBD, your key customer is the Job Beneficiary--the person who benefits from the job getting done. Google made an explicit choice to target consumers and general information workers as opposed to the financial analyst professionals that were Excel’s power users. This is the first way in which they differentiated their position from Excel--a different customer choice.

  • Choose jobs to target

    A job is the goal your customer is trying to achieve independent of any solution. The fact that people want to achieve these goals is the reason why markets exist. In Jobs Theory we define a market as a group of people trying to get a job done as opposed to a group of people who purchase a particular product. Since products change over time but jobs do not, this market definition gives product teams a stable target. As technology changes they are still trying to help customers achieve the same goal and can think through how the new technology will get the job done better as opposed to feeling like the market for their product has disappeared.

    The key is to choose jobs that people struggle with and which have a market size large enough to achieve your revenue goals. The market size is calculated from the willingness to pay to get the job done and the number of people who want to get it done. Here, Google made another distinct choice, targeting jobs like, “organize an event” and “get projects done with a team.” The biggest insight into their strategy is the fact that there are no jobs along the lines of “make a complex financial decision,” which is a major focus of Excel and the complex feature set that power users such as financial analysts use. To feel confident in this choice, you can conduct research to find out how many people need to get the jobs done, how much they are willing to pay for it, and how difficult it is for them to get the job done. Google chose jobs that very many people are willing to pay a little bit to do (still a large market).

    When you look at the job steps you can see the struggle for the customers Google chose is of a very different nature from the struggle of financial analysts.

  • Choose job steps to target

    Job Steps tell the story of what a customer needs to do to get a job done. You can interview customers to determine the job steps.

    Here’s a hypothesis of the steps in “get projects done with a team”:

    1. Define the goal of the project

    2. Identify the tasks

    3. Figure out assignments and timing

    4. Execute the tasks

    5. Assess progress

    6. Adjust assignments and timing

    7. Deliver the project

If we were to conduct interviews, we’d likely find that this job is considerably more complex with more steps. But for the sake of this post, we want to see how different this job is from “make a complex financial decision.” Here are some of the steps in the financial decision job:

    1. Define the outcome of the decision

    2. Collect financial data relevant to the decision

    3. Analyze the data

    4. Build models for forecasting

    5. Assess the outcomes of each decision

    6. Choose the decision that leads to the optimal outcome

    7. Provide evidence for the decision

    8. Gain agreement with stakeholders

Once you break down the steps, you can see how focusing on different jobs leads to prioritizing extremely different feature sets. To help people complete projects, Google’s feature set related to sharing and collaborating helped with the steps: “identify the tasks,” “figure out assignments and timing,” and “assess progress.” Excel’s feature set helps with “analyze the data,” “build models for forecasting,” “assess the outcomes,” “choose the decision,” and “provide evidence.”  

To feel confident in this decision you can run surveys to determine how difficult each job step is for customers trying to get that job done. If a step is difficult for a customer segment whose market size is large enough, you know your position will work even if it means de-prioritizing features that are traditionally viewed as important to your product.

The target job steps lead to the platform choice.

  • Choose a platform to satisfy needs differently.

    When you have job steps in focus, it’s clearer why Google chose to prioritize sharing and collaboration features, which led to the decision to build their spreadsheets on the web rather than as a desktop application running locally. Excel needed to do complex computations quickly to help with the target job steps in the financial decision job. Desktop applications were better at running those computations than the web. And of course, Excel is a legacy product architected before the web. By choosing a different platform Google could satisfy the unmet needs better for their target customers and their jobs (e.g. get projects done with a team).

By answering all of these questions differently than Microsoft, Google created a highly differentiated position for a product in a similar category, which is why they could confidently take their roadmap in a very different direction and take share from Excel with far fewer features.

When you think about how to differentiate your competitive position, figure out how you answer the key questions differently from your competition, collect qualitative and quantitative data about market size and customer struggle to build confidence in your position, and then keep your product and marketing teams focused on making strong decisions that align with the strategy.

Posted by Jared Ranere in jobs to be done, competitive positioning , 0 comments

How to Save WeWork

 

hieu-vu-minh-_VoH3f9kx1w-unsplash
Photo by Hieu Vu Minh on Unsplash

 

As recently as three months ago, WeWork was a high-flying startup headed for an IPO with a $47 billion market cap. Since then, they have suspended IPO plans indefinitely, sold their private jet, fired their CEO, laid off thousands of employees, and suffered a valuation drop of 80%.

According to SoftBank, the majority shareholder, WeWork is now worth $4.9 billion. By some estimates, the paper worth of their property and equipment ($6.7B) is greater than the valuation. With Adam Neumann’s corporate malfeasance dominating the headlines, it’s easy to overlook the fundamental reason for their downfall: WeWork and its investors miscalculated the size of their market. All the cost cutting in the world won’t earn WeWork’s shareholders a return on their investment. The only way to save WeWork (and SoftBank’s shirt) is to find a new market big enough to warrant such an enormous valuation.

WeWork Miscalculated Its Market Size

Even before WeWork published its S1, Wall St analysts were asking how WeWork was different from any other commercial real estate landlord. IWG/Regus, for example, had more space, more revenue, and, wait for it, profit. Yet, IWG currently has a market cap of $3.56 billion. So what made WeWork different?

WeWork's S-1 devotes a lot of space to explaining the company's high valuation. To summarize there were 3 key points: 1. Technology; 2. Employers are willing to spend a lot on office space and there are a lot of employees; 3. WeWork wasn’t just about commercial real estate it was about building a community. This means they can enter new markets such as their nascent forays into housing and education.

Here are the problems with those justifications for WeWork trading at exorbitantly higher multiples that IWG. Let’s start with the technology statement.

Technology is not a market. Nobody wakes up in the morning thinking “gee, I need more technology.” As Theodore Levitt famously said, “Nobody wants a quarter inch drill; they want a quarter inch hole.” The same is true for technology. Nobody wants the tech itself, they want to get something done and tech helps them do it faster. As a result, technology cannot increase how much the world is willing to pay for a place to work. Technology can help provide a better customer experience and decrease the cost of delivering that great experience for people who need a place to work. But all that does is enable WeWork to potentially capture a larger share of the same market. It doesn’t increase the market itself. This is how Wall St viewed WeWork’s coworking spaces. They asked ‘in what way is the market bigger than what we’ve seen from IWG?’

This brings us to point number two, how WeWork calculates its market size using product price * number of buyers. In the S-1, WeWork estimates there are 255 million people with desk jobs in their 280 target cities. They then cite a data point from CBRE and Cushman Wakefield that employers spend a weighted average of $11,700 per employee for occupancy costs. 255 million * 11,700=approximately $3 trillion. There is a huge problem with this formula. The willingness to pay for office space exists on a curve, with a small number of companies willing to pay a lot and a large number of companies willing to pay a lot less. Taking an average number rather than the area under the curve, inflates the market value tremendously. To use their data to calculate a much more accurate market size, we'd have to see the distribution of spend/employee.

In any case, Wall St evidently didn't go along with this and continually compares WeWork's underlying metrics and Market Size to IWG.

If you can’t justify the valuation in co-working or office space, then you have to expand the mission. In this way, it makes sense that WeWork tried to characterize itself as a "community" company and enter other markets: residential housing and education. Unfortunately, they failed to demonstrate ways of delivering in those markets that were significantly better than what customers get today. If the solution is not better than the competition, people will not switch and growth will not happen.

A Historical Aside

From early 2011 to late 2013, I worked at Patch, AOL’s hyperlocal news network, now owned by Hale Global, a private equity fund. I was the Director of Consumer Product during a proxy battle that saw activist investor Starboard Value try to gain sufficient AOL board seats to shut Patch down. AOL won the battle but lost the war, selling Patch to Hale Global. Coincidentally, Artie Minson, current Co-CEO of WeWork, was the CFO of AOL at the time.

Much ink has been spilled on AOL’s large investment in Patch. Here’s my take: the size of AOL’s investment in Patch led shareholders to demand growth that was incongruent with the size of the only market in which Patch was successful: local news. On the inside, we didn’t discuss the problem in these terms, but we reacted to it as such. Our internal traffic and revenue growth goals were ambitious and had to be in order to justify the investment to the board and The Street.

When our local news traffic and ad revenue fell short of the goals, we looked for other areas of expansion: photo sharing, blogs, social networking groups, classifieds, crowd funding...a Patch Credit Card was even in development. We didn't get enough traction in any of these areas and Wall Street didn’t buy the story. Patch was sold to Hale Global.

Since Hale acquired Patch they have re-focused on news and ads, and have reported profits. With a lower investment and a lower valuation, Patch’s expectations outside the eye of Wall St are right-sized for the market in which it performs well. I don’t know the financials of Patch’s sale to Hale Global. It has been widely reported that AOL invested $120 million/year in Patch at its peak, and the terms of the sale were not disclosed. Your guess is as good as mine.

When the investment and the valuation of a business are in conflict with the size of its market, people lose money.

WeWork Has to Enter a Large Market With a Solution That Satisfies Unmet Needs

To think about how WeWork can find a large enough market, it’s worth taking a moment to consider: what is a market?

The most common way to hear analysts define markets is by the product people are buying. This leads to terms like “the office space market,” “the cloud services market,” “the phone market,” “the mp3 player market,” “the encyclopedia market,” or “the film market.”

“Wait a minute,” you may be thinking to yourself, “nobody buys MP3 players, encyclopedias, or film anymore. Why did you use those examples? Those markets don’t exist!”

And that is precisely the problem with thinking about markets in terms of products. Some day a new technology will lead to a new product that causes no one to buy the old products. Products and technologies change every day, which causes product markets to disappear.

History is littered with examples of once great companies that focused on improving positions in markets defined by products and then failed. Kodak failed in the film market. Britannica failed in the encyclopedia market. With the Zune, Microsoft failed in the MP3 player market. While those companies were investing in improving their products, other companies created entirely new products based on new technologies that caused nobody to need film, encyclopedias, or MP3 players.

It’s hard to blame Kodak, Britannica, and Microsoft for these mistakes. If you plug products that don’t exist and don’t have buyers yet into a traditional market sizing formula, product price * number of buyers, you get a zero dollar market. So then you try to guess how many people will buy the product and the whole enterprise starts to feel very risky. It seems much safer to invest in the existing products whose market size you know for sure, right?

Wrong. All product-based markets will eventually go to zero as the old products are replaced by the new. As Jobs Theory states, “Nobody is buying your product, they are hiring it to get a job done. When a new product can get the job done better, they will fire the old product.”

We can use this insight to create a more stable definition of a market and a more accurate market sizing formula. Instead of defining the market as a product, we can define it as a job-to-be-done. If we stipulate that the job is a goal customers want to achieve independent of any solution, we now have markets that stand the test of time. Furthermore, if you want to position yourself better in a job-based market, you need to be the one who will find the new product to get the job done better rather than clinging to your old product.

Using the Jobs definition of a market, instead of the “mp3 player market,” we have the “create a mood with music market.” Instead of the “film market,” we have the “share memories” market. Instead of the encyclopedia market, we have the “find information market.”

To size the market, we can use customers’ willingness to pay to get the job done rather than the price of the product. This enables us to size markets regardless of the new product and helps us see opportunities to create value. Imagine how scary it would be to invest in a new product (the iPhone) that would kill your cash cow (the iPod) using the traditional market sizing formula. But, if you looked at how much people were willing to pay to “create a mood with music on the go,” “talk to their friends and family on the go,” and “use the internet on the go” much better than they could do before, investing in the iPhone wouldn’t have been scary at all. Those markets together represented an enormous opportunity. And considering the willingness to pay to get the job one helps you understand why Apple was able to charge $500 for the iPhone when Steve Ballmer preferred Microsoft’s $99 mobile phone strategy in comparison.

So if a market is a job-to-be-done and the size of the market is the customer’s willingness to pay to get the job done, what job should WeWork look at?

Here is the criteria:

  1. The willingness to pay (the market size) has to support a valuation greater than $47 billion for SoftBank to make a return on its investment
  2. WeWork has to have a believable path to satisfying needs in the job better than the competition.

Let’s take a quick look at the two “markets” WeWork already tried to expand into: housing and education. The core jobs here would be “secure a place to live” and “learn something new.” The willingness to pay likely varies significantly across segment, but it’s pretty safe to say these are very large markets. However, the projects underwent heavy criticism. Most likely few people believed WeWork’s solutions for these jobs satisfied unmet needs and would enable WeWork to grow in these markets.

While thinking about this problem, I came across a lengthy NYTimes aritcle from Feb 2018 called The Rise of the WeWorking Class. In part, it tells the story of Mabel Luna, a WeWork customer:

“She hung up her shingle as a private C.P.A. Though she never advertised, she quickly outgrew herself; she told me that 90 percent of her customers have come through WeWork, either via hallway run-ins or through the social-networking features of its mobile app. She had several clients in the building — including a brewer of natural alcoholic kombucha, a sole-proprietor attorney and the German sunglasses manufacturer by the printer.”

Mabel used WeWork to acquire customers and grow her business. The acquire customers market is enormous. It’s the advertising industry and the CRM industry. Google and Facebook have grown to multi-hundred billion dollar market caps in this market.

Here’s how WeWork can figure out if it can realistically take share in this market and generate sufficient equity value:

  1. Identify the key customer to target: Is it a solopreneur like Mabel, small businesses, large businesses, all of the above?
  2. Identify the market: What is the job they will target? Is it acquire customers? Grow sales? The trick here is to avoid splitting hairs and articulate the goal in the language of the customer.
  3. Identify the market size: What is the willingness to pay to get this job done?
  4. Identify the unmet needs: In what ways are customers struggling to acquire customers? In other words, what are the key problems WeWork can solve?
  5. Identify the customer value: How will WeWork productize what it has done for Mabel to help customers satisfy their acquire customers needs better than any other solution they could use?

Answering these questions will lead WeWork to define a de-risked product strategy. Jobs-to-be-Done customer research can answer all of these questions *before* building the product. It is much cheaper to execute the customer research to de-risk the opportunity than it is to build a failure.

Posted by Jared Ranere in market size, wework, markets, valuation, patch, starboard , 0 comments

Getting to the Truth - Stop Ignoring What Customers Want

 

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“Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later that debt is paid.”

-- Valery Legasov, chief of the commission investigating the Chernobyl disaster, in HBO’s Chernobyl

Here’s a description of a company that may sound familiar:

Behind the efforts of an intuitive, dynamic leadership team who is excellent at selling, the company enjoys early growth, enough to invite substantial investment or acquisition.

The new shareholders are excited, they expect growth to accelerate when their cash infusion is put to work. They believe the likelihood of a substantial return on their investment is strong.

But expectations are not met.

The sales team is reporting a slowdown in their pipeline. Not only are they closing fewer deals, but marketing is sending them fewer prospects.

Marketing and sales look at the product team and say, “Tell me you have something exciting on your road map for us to sell!” The reply is a litany of optimizations to their existing product. Marketing has little confidence that these iterations will generate interest from new customers. Product agrees and laments that the executive team asked them to prioritize the low-hanging fruit.

Together, the teams march to the c-suite with a compelling argument for a research budget.

Sales says, “We don’t have anyone that’s excited to make a purchase.”

Marketing says, “Our lead gen rate is declining.”

Product says, “We’ve optimized our product but it doesn’t seem to make a difference.”

They say they need to find out what customers are really looking for. They want to know if they have product/market fit and the slowdown is a blip on the radar or if they need to innovate their messaging or product or both. The research will give them evidence.

“You don’t need that!” says the CEO who spearheaded the early growth, “I sold our product to our existing customers. They are your proof! It’s impossible that there aren’t more people who need our product. You just need to turn their light bulbs on!”

Three months later, the trends have not reversed and the conversation repeats itself. This time the executive team is open to research because now the board is on their case to accelerate growth and is questioning the current plan. They have their own pressures to generate a return on their investment.

The CEO approves the research but says, “Make sure you include our existing customers and warm leads in the research.”

When the results come back, the product team points to research subjects that say, “We are not focused on the problem you solve; we have no budget to address it; it’s really not an issue for us.” The product team’s interpretation is, “we better go find another problem to solve that is pressing.”

The CEO points to the small sample of existing customers and warm leads and says, “But what about these people? They are validating that our current plan is the right one. Stay the course.”

Six months later, there is a new CEO.

________

The quote at the beginning of this post refers to the USSR’s alleged culture of prioritizing their global reputation above the truth. That culture trickled-down to the staff of the Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Nuclear Power Plant at Chernobyl.

The show opens in the aftermath of an explosion in the plant’s reactor core. The management on duty refuses to believe that the reactor has exploded in spite of all evidence to the contrary. As the staff reports evidence of the explosion to management, the denials continue.

Here’s how Craig Mazin (Chernobyl’s screenwriter and showrunner) writes one particularly stark moment of denial. In this scene (p. 46 of the screenplay), Sitnikov works for Dyatlov, the manager on-call during the explosion.

SITNIKOV: I walked around the exterior of building 4. I think there's graphite. In the rubble.

DYATLOV: You didn't see graphite.

SITNIKOV: I did.

DYATLOV: You didn't. YOU DIDN'T. Because it's NOT THERE

The only way for graphite to get to the exterior of the building is for the reactor core to explode. However, built correctly, it would have been “impossible” for the reactor core to explode. An explosion would indicate that someone had made a mistake and done their job poorly. In the Soviet culture, it was more important to appear flawless than to own-up to the mistake and fix the problem.

In fact, we learn later in the series (SPOILER ALERT!), that the plant was built incorrectly. Because of a design flaw and a poor choice of materials, the failsafe mechanism that would have enabled the Chernobyl staff to shut the plant down and avoid the explosion, did not work. Even worse, Soviet physicists and officials were aware of the flaw, but hid it.

Hiding the truth caused tens of thousands of deaths according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, with a study later conducted by Greenpeace that estimated an additional 10,000 - 200,000 deaths in the years following.

Eventually, the truth bore out.

________

Organizations that operate from a place of fear, whose leaders reinforce their own beliefs and whatever will make them look good, rather than leading the search for truth, sit on a ticking time bomb.

It can be scary to admit mistakes and take the sometimes drastic actions to correct them. What will your boss think? What will your team think when they find out that they’ve been working against an exhausted plan?

Most likely, they will be happy you’ve realized it’s time to change directions. Often the last person to realize a plan has lived out its useful life is the very person who devised it. Everyone else already knows.

It’s important to go out and figure out what your true market is, how big it is, and whether or not your current product can seize the opportunities in it. The market and the truth will always win. And no matter how much you love your product for helping you get that early growth, your customers don’t want it. They want to get their job done.

You know what’s more expensive than doing the research to identify your customer’s unmet needs in their job-to-be-done? Continuing to market the wrong message and sell the wrong product.

You know what’s worse than owning up to incorrect assumptions? Dealing with the fallout.

 

 

Posted by Jared Ranere , 0 comments

How to Use JTBD to Improve The Build-Measure-Learn Feedback Loop

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 to determine the alternate route before you had to make a turn. Furthermore, it was more accurate because it calculates 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.

 

Posted by Jared Ranere , 0 comments

How to Answer The Question "What's the job-to-be-done?"

 

customer's job-to-be-done

Over a year after the publication of Clayton 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 (smartphones, 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 capitalize 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 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 these 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 roadmaps; 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 , 5 comments

Improve Your NPS with Jobs-to-be-Done

NPS

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.

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:

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:"

Get to a destination on time steps.

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 , 0 comments

Marketing to Customer Needs and What Cicret Can Learn from Salesforce

identifying customer needs

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

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 , 0 comments

How to Identify Your Real Market: A Google Maps Example

Image showing limited parking.

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.

Calculate 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:

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:

Steps that companies are getting 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:

Steps that companies are getting done.

 

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.

Destination image.

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

Google Search App job steps

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

Waymo job 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:

Needs for parking your vehicle.

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.

https://www.thrv.com/how-to-do-jtbd/market-sizing-with-jtbd

 

Posted by Jared Ranere , 0 comments

Does Your Product Development Process Suck? Probably.

product development process

Processes 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.

However, 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 8 signs that your company is on the verge of a downward spiral and how you can combine effective product development with a strong framework like Jobs-to-be-Done to rescue you.

Sign 1: Missing Revenue and Profit Growth Goals

When your company is failing to hit its growth goals, either revenue or profits, it puts a strain on every team. Revenue problems put stress on the sales team and their capabilities first. If only they could sell better, the company would 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 development 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: Roadmaps 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?competitive advantage

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 like, "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 roadmap, 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.

In larger companies, on the other hand, 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. 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.

Look at the Amazon Fire Phone failure as an example. Launched in 2014, it was supposed to compete with the iPhone and Android. Instead, it ended up losing $170 million in a single quarter. How? Why? Aside from being too expensive and lacking any truly innovative features, the real reason has to do with CEO Jeff Bezos taking over the design process. Bezos was responsible for managing every critical decision, a fact that ultimately frustrated his design team. The bottom line: they were building the phone for Bezos, not the customer. The HiPPO took over.

Sign 5: Shiny-New-Object Syndrome Leads to the Disposable Road Map

With technology progressing 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 roadmap is a virtue, but it has limits. If you find your roadmap 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 roadmap 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 roadmap changes.

Sign 6: Launches Met with Crickets

You know when you put something out there, loud and proud, and all you get in response 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 counter to this 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 Development and Marketing Teams

As a product person, have you ever looked at a marketing campaign and thought, "Why are they promoting that?" 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 development 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 roadmap, 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 name popularized by 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 a purchase. development strategy

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, and the focal point of segmenting your market. 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 roadmap.

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.

Jobs-to-be-Done and Your Team

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. Contact us to learn more about product development and finding a framework that works for you.

Posted by Jared Ranere , 0 comments

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