Jobs to be done

Photo of Sohrab Salimi
Sohrab Salimi

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The Jobs to Be Done method is a tool for product development, marketing and management that focuses on the customer and their needs. At the heart of the method are the questions:

  • Why does a customer buy a product or service?
  • What task(s) does he want to fulfill with it?

Related assumptions

Clayton Christensen - one of the founders of the jobs-to-be-done theory - formulated the assumption:

"Customers don't buy products. They hire them to do a job."

Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) refers to the assumption that your customers buy a product or service to complete a job to be done or solve a problem.

The following other assumptions are associated with the JTBD approach:

  1. Functionality determines demand: Customers judge the quality and value of a product or service by asking, "How much does it / she help me complete my task?"
  2. But: Products / services fulfill more than just a functional benefit: Customer needs (Customer Jobs) can additionally be emotional and / or social in nature. Customers themselves are often not aware of these additional needs.
  3. Customers pursue direct and indirect goals: While the customer's direct goals are mostly related to the functionality of a product, his indirect goals (mostly emotional or social) are not apparent at first glance. However, it is precisely the knowledge of these indirect goals that provides important impulses, e.g. for product development, innovation and marketing and for better solutions.

Purpose and application areas of the Jobs to be Done theory

First and foremost, the insights from the JTBD method are used to track or predict product success and failure. Together with your team, you can apply these learnings to many areas of your business:

  • Customer Centricity: What insights about customers and their needs are critical to the success or failure of a product?
  • Customer Segmentation: According to which application scenarios / jobs to be done can customers be segmented? What aspects beyond the usual socio-demographic ones can be used for customer segmentation?
  • Product marketing: How should the customer be addressed? What belongs in the address beyond the pure advantage communication to the functional benefit? Which points can be mentioned as a competitive advantage?
  • Competitive consideration: What indirect needs does the product fulfill in addition to the direct ones? To what extent does this represent a competitive advantage? What additional market might this open up?
  • Innovation: What changes and optimizations can you and your team make to the product to better address the identified customer needs?
  • Strategic Management: To what extent can the identified customer needs guide and support the strategic direction (especially the Innovation Strategy) and the entrepreneurial identity of the organization?

Origins of JTBD Theory.

Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen published a book in the 1990s entitled "The Innovator's Dilemma." The term "disruptive innovation" coined in the book describes innovations that mostly use new technologies to drive established companies out of the market.
Christensen met in 1999 with innovation consultant Anthony W. Ulwick, who had developed the Outcome Driven Innnovation (ODI) theory. This theory states that products and services are successful if they are particularly good at helping people to complete tasks (jobs).
Together, Clayton Christensen and Anthony Ulwick developed the Jobs-to-Be-Done method.

Apply the Jobs-to-be-Done Framework in 6 Steps

If you and your team want to create a Jobs-to-Be-Done Canvas for your Product Management, for example, follow these steps. Plan 2 hours for the process if possible, have moderation cards or post-its and pens ready, and make sure you have enough space to post them.

  1. Identify "Why ": In this round of answer-finding, you and your team focus solely on the question, "Why would a customer want this product?" for 5 to 10 minutes. The answers will result in Jobs to Be Done, of which you will collect as many as possible (only one answer per card/slip of paper).
    2nd Discuss and rank answers: In this round, the answers are discussed and ordered. Here you can use a self-made JTBD Canvas, i.e. a matrix in which you sort the jobs according to functional, emotional and social needs and mark them as direct or indirect.
    3 Formulate as User Story: Now you and your team write the resulting [User Stories](/en/agile-dictionary/user-story/"User Story"): "As a customer, I am buying the product to / with ...".
  2. Identify "why not ": The reasons for not buying (non consumption) also give your team a lot of insight. In this step, existing alternatives of other competitors as well as workarounds of customers are recorded and analyzed.
    5 Determine improvement potential: Possibilities for better solutions can now be derived from the previous steps. You can formulate these with your team as hypotheses on how the customer jobs can be fulfilled better and how success can be measured for the clientele.
    6 Survey customers and non-customers: At this point, the hypotheses can be proven in direct conversation and, if necessary, further reasons for "why" and "why not" can be determined. If you have already developed a prototype with your team, you should observe customers using it and draw conclusions for optimization.

Summary: The advantages of the Jobs-to-Be-Done method

The method can be applied without training at any time in the company. You will achieve the best results if you use it with an interdisciplinary team.
Working with this customer-centric approach not only ensures a better understanding of the customer in your company and thus consequently more success. It also prepares the ground for innovation and growing competitiveness. The method can be applied to improve existing products as well as upstream of product development.

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