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‘Jobs-to-be-done’ Is Revolutionizing Product Management

‘Jobs-to-be-done’ is our absolute favorite product management framework. Out of all the many ways teams can structure, initiate and facilitate their product development, JTBD is the bee’s knees. If we had to pick just one tool at a PM’s disposal, this would be it. We wouldn’t even trade this framework for a lightsaber (and that’s saying a lot).

To some, jobs-to-be-done is still considered a fairly new framework, but in actual fact, many smart product teams have been working according to its principles and logic for decades. The difference is that today we have a specific name for it, and the framework is more formally recognized. So, revolutionary thought it may seem, JTBD is actually the most logical framework, in our honest opinion. It’s the framework that really gets to the core of what product managers are (or should be) trying to achieve:

What is the true goal of the user?


Before we get into why it’s the absolute best, let’s quickly recap what the traditional product management and product research process look like and how it compares to JTBD product management.

Most teams first dive into customer analysis to identify what people need and where it can be improved.

From this analysis, teams typically construct a detailed strategy for design specs and pricing models to meet the company’s standards and general ethos and also to line up with the customers’ expectations.

After the development and testing phases are carried out, teams usually launch the final product with confidence in its success.

Even after launch monitoring, consumer feedback is a must.

While not wholly different in its process steps, the jobs-to-be-done framework differs from traditional product management because the user research stage focuses entirely on understanding customer motivations rather than a hunger for a specific product.

JTBD user research captures and categorizes the consumer’s wants and needs. An often trotted-out but VERY accurate way to explain why is an famous quote that Ford Motor’s Henry T Ford allegedly once said. He stated, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses’.” While it’s hotly debated whether or not he actually said it, the sentiment is still completely on point.

Many things dictate and restrict the answers of your customers and users. Some include cultural influences, their existing habits, and the comfort of their status quo. Others are contextual. As in the example of Ford, there were no cars; so there was no point of reference for people to give the “correct” answer. The team had to ask questions to find out what the job to be done was, and from that, voila, the car was born.

The jobs-to-be-done framework product management approach removes this restriction so teams can truly conceptualize and break out of the mold. The ultimate goal of the research is to understand what people are trying to do in a particular context – or, put simply: the job they need to be done. This process helps turn customer insights into actionable strategies by understanding the customer’s motivations and pain points.

This customer-centric product development theory focuses on figuring out the “job” that customers are trying to complete and how the customer benefits from a particular task completion. Ultimately, it’s all about creating a product a consumer can “hire” for that job and the wonderful outcome they will get as a result. Companies can better shape their product strategy to meet customer needs rather than simply providing features and functions.

One of the reasons that the JTBD framework is considered so revolutionary is that companies can create solutions that satisfy customers’ unmet wants and needs instead of just trying to catch up with competitors. While all product managers and their teams should consider the customer’s needs first, this framework and approach puts its money where its mouth is. People before profits (although success and profits as a byproduct are rather excellent too).

What is the difference between a "feature" and a "job"?

The simplest way to explain the difference between features and jobs in JTBD is that the “features” describe the specifics of what a product or service does, while “jobs” refer to the underlying motivation of why people purchase a particular product or service. The core reason, if you will.

An excellent example of this would be someone buying a car. The customer wants a car so they can drive to their office. They will need a vehicle with four wheels and a working engine. This is the “job.”

However, they may have other wants, needs, and desires more linked to functionality and emotion than the ultimate job.

Tony Ulwick, the founder of Outcome-Driven Innovation and author of What Customers Want, says, “Jobs are functional with emotional and social components.” Ulwick pretty much invented the entire concept of “jobs,” so he knows what he’s talking about.

There is a reason that people purchase a Tesla over a Honda Civic. The features may be a high-tech user interface, self-driving capabilities, and power windows. These are all added extras that come with the job of getting from A to B. While they are not vital in the car itself doing the original job, they make the ride better and fulfill several other external dimensions that are part of the purchasing decision-making process.

Using JTBD theory as a product management tool, you can focus on improving these features or adding more value so people are more likely to “hire” your product or service to do the job.

Functional vs. Emotional vs. Social

When a customer looks to solve their problem or to “hire” for their job, they will have other factors that need to be considered. Jobs solved is one thing, but if it were that simple, we wouldn’t have innovation, multiple colorways, or feature upgrades. Customers have other secondary needs, wishes, and desires they want to achieve, and the three ways products can make people feel or fulfill particular desires need to be considered. These are split into different “Dimensions.”

Functional Dimensions – Functional Dimensions describe the most prominent aspect of a product’s job and what will be people’s actions to complete a task. This can also define the physical properties of a product that are necessary to complete the job.

Emotional Dimensions – Emotional Dimensions describe how people feel or think about a product, such as ease of use, aesthetics, and trustworthiness. This can also describe intangible psychological benefits associated with using the product. Does using an item make them feel powerful and accomplished? Are they anxious about using it?

Social Dimension – The Social Dimension is how people interact with a product or service and how it affects their relationships with other people. An example of this is the social status associated with owning a car. Does it make them appear “eco-friendly,” or are they projecting that they are “successful” as they drive a luxury sedan?

What Are Some Examples Of Jobs-to-be-done?

Prominent companies like Microsoft and Google and startups such as Uber and Airbnb have used the JTBD framework. One prime example is when Airbnb used the approach to analyze customer motivations for using its platform. Speaking to their target customers, while yes, booking a place to stay was important, it was just part of their more significant “job” requirement.

Airbnb’s team discovered that their customers were looking for more than just a place to stay; they wanted access to local experiences, customization of their experience, and connection with an authentic community. With this insight, Airbnb was able to create features that better satisfy user needs, such as offering custom experiences like tours and activities in addition to traditional hospitality services.

Other companies that have used the JTBD strategy beautifully are those such as DoorDash. DoorDash is an online food delivery service that, through interviews and surveys, found that its customers were not just looking for food delivery but also convenience and time-saving. As a result, DoorDash implemented features such as “DashPass”—which offers delivery fee discounts and faster-estimated delivery times—to provide a better customer experience. They also started to serve in more rural areas and smaller cities, seeing it as an opportunity to harness an untapped – and much wanted – market opportunity. A segment that now accounts for 40% of their total deliveries!

And, of course, we have everybody’s favorite streaming service, Netflix. Netflix was founded to offer consumers convenient, on-demand movies and TV shows. Its original “job” to be done could arguably be to provide education, documentaries, and easy access to helpful content. However, through JTBD research, Netflix found that their customers really wanted entertainment and a way to switch off and relax after a long day of work. A decade ago, “binge-watching” was a mere glint in people’s eyes. It is now a common pastime, and Netflix has become the go-to source for all kinds of entertainment. Effectively Henry T Ford’s alternative to “faster horses” in this modern age.

Benefits of Jobs-to-be-done Framework?

  • Improved customer insight: The JTBD framework allows companies to gain deeper insights into why customers purchase certain products or services and how they use them in different contexts, giving businesses a better understanding of their target audience.
  • Increased product effectiveness: By understanding the underlying motivations that drive people to buy a product or service, companies can improve existing offerings, develop new products more effectively, and create marketing messages tailored to those needs.
  • Faster innovation cycles: Companies that understand what their customers want can quickly create new solutions and release them faster than competing businesses that still need help figuring out customer behavior rather than looking at the underlying “job.”
  • Maximize customer loyalty: By understanding customers’ needs and how they interact with a product or service, companies can design user interfaces and features that maximize users’ satisfaction. This, in turn, can lead to increased customer loyalty, sales, and retention.

Is There A Downside to The Jobs-to-be-done Framework?

Researching, understanding, and implementing the JTBD framework properly requires considerable effort and resources.

Also, it is highly theorized and requires a good level of knowledge of bias and other factors.

Using the JTBD framework correctly requires experienced professionals to analyze and apply the data to create effective strategies and solutions.

How to Nail Those All-Important User Research Questions

Research biases can introduce unintended errors when using the JTBD framework. For example, people’s experiences and expectations can be affected by their age, gender, culture, and socioeconomic background, leading to inaccurate insights if these factors are not considered.

Additionally, user surveys used to gather information for the framework may be subject to response bias, where users provide answers that do not reflect their true feelings or experiences. Careful consideration needs to be taken in selecting and structuring questions. We think this is an absolutely crucial moment to ensure that every person on the PM team has at least a good working understanding of “The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick.

If my mom would like it, then it passes. Right? // @been.ian skipped one of our meetings to finish this #product #tech #momtest

♬ original sound - - Meeting Recorder

Even when you’ve absolutely aced the Mom Test criteria, it’s essential to watch out for “Focus Illusion.” Focus Illusion is the hyper-focused pain points that your respondent gets when you talk about a problem. It can cloud even the best UX researcher’s line of vision and introduce bias into the research. Ultimately something that the respondent spends ages moaning about, you spent time “noodling” away on trying to fix and overcome… well, it wasn’t a huge problem, really. They were just highly vocal about it.

You need to know what you’re doing when asking questions. You can’t just ask them for it directly as they often don’t know what they want.

To achieve a proper line of questioning that really reveals your customers needs, you need to be smart with how you conduct your user research, what questions you ask, and also how many people to interview.

If you’ve not got your research biases sorted or are at least aware of them and how they can manifest, it can be really easy to let them influence the entire process and start you off on the wrong path.

How can tl;dv help you discover Jobs-to-be-done among your target audience?

For a framework that is totally and completely based on customer emotions, desires, and frustrations, you will need all the data you can get. Your data needs to reflect the nuances and complexity of real customer emotion, which means you need a way of capturing and sharing this data without the details getting lost in relay.. tl;dv helps product managers analyze, champion, and prioritize customer needs in the most accurate way possible. By capturing user emotions and frustrations in the user’s own words, product teams have an authentic source of truth they can refer to when planning and strategizing – leaving guesswork and assumptions to a minimum.

Our intuitive, free, and JTBD-friendly online meeting recorder simplifies the process of collecting user insights from user research sessions.

As a UX research tool, tl;dv allows you to easily identify the “jobs-to-be-done” of your interviewees. Every recorded call gives you the cold, hard, verbal, visual, and well-documented proof of customers’ needs and frustrations. It’s a way to capture the voice of the customer and share that voice across your organization, bringing it closer to product development as a result.

Teams can organize UX and product research sessions into folders based on user type, feedback type, or session focus. The tl;dv library also allows new employees or stakeholders to browse all recorded sessions for keywords, thereby quickly identifying feedback centered around particular needs or frustrations. The free transcript makes it easy than ever to highlight and share key statements, while the editing tool means product managers can share select moments of user research calls with colleagues, teams, or investors. Better yet, every user research call can be timestamped so that every key moment becomes a clickable link. Reviewing and analyzing past user calls doesn’t have to eat up anybody’s time anymore.
Ultimately we 💕 jobs-to-be-done framework and we think you will too (with a little help from us 😊)

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