My Product Management Toolkit (10): Jobs-To-Be-Done

How does one combat what I call ‘featuritis’? This innate need among most of us to come up with new features or projects all the time without taking a step back to figure out the customer problem worth solving. I recently came across a company where they’d created so many features and products that they’d lost track of what constituted a “product” in the first place.

In both cases the “jobs-to-be-done” framework can help massively in systematically capturing user needs and translating these into opportunities and solutions. The whole point behind the jobs-to-be-done framework is putting customer needs at the fore, throughout the product lifecycle (see a great visualisation of this principle below).

Image Credit: Strategyn

Why and when is it important to use the “jobs-to-be-done” framework?

Before you delve into creating features or solving problems, I strongly recommend looking into the “customer jobs” you’re looking to solve in the first place:

  • What job is the customer looking to get done and why?
  • How is the customer currently getting this job done?
  • What jobs are customers not doing and why?

Strategic thinker Tony Ulwick identifies three validating questions to help map the steps customers take to accomplish a specific outcome:

  • Defining the execution step: what are the most central tasks that must be accomplished in getting the job done?
  • Defining pre-execution steps: what must happen before the core execution step to ensure the job is successfully carried out?
  • Defining post-execution steps: what must happen after the core execution step to ensure the job is successfully carried out?

Answering these validating questions will give you the necessary context to apply the actual jobs-to-be-done-framework.

The jobs-to-be-done framework outlines the eight steps that all jobs have in common:

  • Step 1 – Define: Customers determine their goals and plan their resources.
  • Step 2 – Locate: Customers gather items and information needed to do the job.
  • Step 3 – Prepare: Set up the environment for the customer to do their job.
  • Step 4 – Confirm: Verify that customers are ready to perform the job.
  • Step 5 – Execute: Customers carry out the job without any problems or delays.
  • Step 6 – Monitor: Assess whether the job is being successfully executed.
  • Step 7 – Modify: Make alterations to improve execution.
  • Step 8 – Conclude: Finish the job or prepare to repeat it.

One of the things I really like about the jobs-to-be-done framework is the focus on user outcomes, the “so what” element of the typical ‘job statement’:

Image Credit: Intercom

What are the benefits of the jobs-to-be-done framework? – Where do I start!? The main thing for me is that it helps me to unlock the value for the customer. Bob Moesta, who has done a lot of work around the jobs-to-be-done framework, talks about the “mechanisms of value” in this respect. What are the things that caused someone to buy a product or a service? What are people doing or not doing (and why)? I’ve listed some additional benefits in Figure 2 below.

Main learning point: There are two key reason why I like using the jobs-to-be-done framework. Firstly, because of its focus on value for the user. Secondly, because of its emphasis on outcomes. In my experience, thinking about jobs and outcomes really helps to focus the mind!

Fig. 1 – Fictitious examples of 8 steps of the jobs-to-be-done framework

Example of “Define” (Step 1) – I need to find a quick way to understand my monthly mobile phone bill and how to spend less on mobile phone bills. Perhaps looking at the top line items on my bill can help in figuring this out.

How can a company help customers in this example? – Create a real-time version online of a customer’s mobile phone where they can quickly and easily scan their mobile phone bill breakdown.

Example of “Locate” (Step 2) – I need a quick view of how much I’ve spent this month on text messages and international calls.

How can a company help customers in this example? – Colour code those cost ‘components’ of the mobile phone bill where the customer is (at the risk) of exceeding what’s covered in her contractual package with the mobile provider.

Example of “Prepare” (Step 3) – When I am looking at my billing information I need to know about the specific phone numbers I’ve rung or texted.

How can a company help customers in this example? – By stripping out all ‘non monetary info’ from the bill (i.e. removing all data related to phone numbers).

Example of “Confirm” (Step 4) – I would like to get a reminder to look at my mobile phone usage before an invoice is sent out by the mobile phone provider.

How can a company help customers in this example? – Send customers a push notification 7 days before the monthly invoice is sent out to remind the customer to check usage and make any package changes, including a link to the real-time data.

Example of “Execute” (Step 5) – The billing information that I am looking at needs to be as up to date as possible, it’s no good to me if the data is more than a day out.

How can a company help customers in this example? – Ensure that there are no lags in the data provided, maintaining optimal performance.

Example of “Monitor” (Step 6) – I expect the mobile phone provider to keep tabs on whether I’m checking my billing information, so that I when I contact them to enquire about charges they can see exactly which information I’ve accessed.

How can a company help customers in this example? – Putting analytics in place – both for desktop and mobile – to monitor data usage on an ongoing basis.

Example of “Modify” (Step 7) – Personalise the way in which billing is presented to users, based on their previous viewing behaviours or enquiries.

How can a company help customers in this example? – By personalising the data presented to the customer, the mobile phone provider will save the customer from having to wade through lots of data or having to customise data themselves.

Example of “Conclude” (Step 8) – I’ve seen my real-time billing info and will now log out.

How can a company help customers in this example? – Provide the customer with appropriate calls to action once they’ve viewed their billing information, for example contacting customer service.

Fig. 2 – Benefits of using the jobs-to-be-done framework:

  1. Helps to understand value for the customer
  2. Identify the progress users are (or aren’t) making towards their desired job outcomes – see visual below
  3. Focuses people on outcomes and needs instead of solutions
  4. Takes into account user context
  5. Helps to to concentrate user research on what users actually do instead of what they say they do
  6. Enables you to distinguish between the ‘main job to be done’ and ‘related jobs to be done’ – see visual below – and to prioritise accordingly
Image Credit: Startupdaily
Image Credit: Zbignev Gecis

Related links for further learning:


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