Jobs-to-be-done can help you change — from looking AT your user…

JTBD.1 – From watching ‘users’ to assuming the users’ perspective: Jobs-to-be-done.

Since Theodor Levitt stressed the perspective of people hiring products in 2004, it has gained some traction. However, when we set out to test if we could implement JTBD at XING, we found there is not a lot of concrete guidance for digital product development. In this mini-series, here’s what we learnt about using Jobs-to-be-done as a framework for planning what your product should deliver.

For starters, let’s ask the question how most businesses view their customers – and perhaps you will agree that it’s often from the inside-out: we are the makers, we deliver a great product and then they will come. I have met many people who honestly believed that this was true, and that they could still follow a customer-centered approach. They did some user-testing, right? This is tragically and fundamentally wrong.

Asking the right question from the start.

Jobs-to-be-done is turning your perspective around so that it finally sits the right way. It is mostly a linguistic trick, but a clever one at that: Imagine yourself as one of many. You are out there trying to persuade potential customers to come to you. It is their choice. They have a job to offer – they have a need to be filled. And you desperately want to fill that need, you want to get that job. Quite a difference, isn’t it?

…to looking FROM the user’s point of view.

Imagine you make your living writing a food blog. The money comes from advertisers, so you want people to look at as many pages as possible - more page views mean more money. You are customer-centered and quite agile, so you set out and write a user story: “As a reader, I want to frequently click the ‘read on’ button, so that a new page opens.”

Stop right there. And now think about the job you deliver to your customers. People hire you – “to escape the fast food trap”, “to experience authentic Indian vegan cuisine” or “to cook family dinners in less than 40 minutes”. Looking from that perspective, it is rather hard to imaging people hire you to make them click through a stream of pages in order for you to make money, right? That does not mean you should not try to maximize on income – but in order to be successful, you should never lose track of what made your customers interested in your service.

What do we really, really, really want to build?

You have bought the idea? Great. But now the hard work starts. It is going to be difficult to find out what job you are currently doing with your product – it might not (just) be the one you always had in mind. And if you are trying to do something new, it’ll be harder still. But here’s where JTBD shines: you can start with what you know, and then learn until you are closer to where you want to be.

The JTBD canvas we use to describe what job a product does for a specific user segment. Read through the series to understand what happens here…

OK, so what now?

We’ll walk you through some steps in describing your job – you can start with what you are already doing for your users, and you can find users out there to tell you what job they might have for you.

Go to part 2 of this JTBD series to learn how we try to get the needs right when describing the job you are trying to get. Part 3 leads you to add detail to your job description that describes what makes it click with users.

These links will start working as the articles are finished…
And in part 4, you’ll start to understand the user journey from a bird’s eye perspective. Part 5 will bring you closer to the user journey to key moments that make or break your experience.

Finally, part 6 wraps up with some pointers that help you from here.

What else is it good for?

We have only considered ‘simple’, focused product development here. For larger organizations, it is important to define user segments in order to serve these segments with products that are designed with their specific needs in mind. Classic segmentations focus on age, income level or profession, but Jobs-to-be-done can be a viable alternative to this approach: everyone out there who has the same job can be considered as one segment.

We plan to share our experience with segmentation here, but for now I can point you to Clayton Christensen et al. in a Sloan Management Review article: “Most companies segment their markets by customer demographics or product characteristics and differentiate their offerings by adding features and functions. But the consumer has a different view of the marketplace. He simply has a job to be done and is seeking to ‘hire’ the best product or service to do it.” JTBD can thus also be used to segment your customers – build one product specifically for each job to do a good job...