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Understanding Customer Needs: The ‘Jobs-to-be-Done’ (JTBD) Framework

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

The truth of the hour is: Come what may, companies or products succeed because they offer a service that a customer truly wants!

The late Harvard Business School Professor, Dr. Clayton M. Christensen once said that when we buy a product we are actually hiring something to get a job done. He explained further:

“If it does the job well, when we are confronted with the same job, we hire that same product again. And if the product does a crummy job, we ‘fire’ it and look around for something else we might hire to solve the problem.” Clayton M. Christensen, Harvard Business School Professor on Innovation and Growth (1952–2020)

With Dr. Christensen’s words in mind, how can one use this theory to build magnificent products and onboard users that might otherwise never consider buying your product? By adopting the Jobs-to-be-done framework into your product development work, you and your team can enhance your problem-solving skills and address customer needs with confidence.

What is Jobs-to-be-done (JTBD)?

The Jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework is a requirements definition activity that empowers startups and other businesses to build products customers truly want. As a product developer, the framework challenges you to consider viewpoints in regard to the customer.

For product developers, completing “things to be done” requires a shift in perspective in regard to how they design a service. With JTBD, development teams are now compelled to view their products and services through the eyes of the customer (and/or consumer).

Understanding the jobs to solve problems enables you to prioritize product releases, uncover developing markets, and get a more accurate view of your rivals. These jobs can be user needs, wants, or aspirations.

JTBD is about understanding customer needs

Jobs-to-be-done is a theory of understanding what motivates customers to invest in a product or service. With JTBD, the idea is understand what a customer actually wants to get done with the product they are buying.

For example — if a customer buys a hammer, it usually means they want to hammer nails into wood. If a customer wants a car, it could mean that they want to drive to work from home. With JTBD, it’s not about describing the product itself or it’s features — it’s about describing what the customer actually wants to be capable of getting done.

The JTBD equation

When defined correctly, JTBD statements are designed to aid product development teams on understanding what a customer would need and how they would proceed in order to finish a job or task. With the right combination of JTBD statements — teams can determine the overall job the product or service shall be employed to do.

Here’s a way to construct JTBD statements. The ‘equation’ is as follows:

When I/he/she/they need(s) [situation], + I/he/she/they want(s) to [motivation], + so that [desired outcome]

JTBD equation example

Let’s say Leon needs to get collaborative work done and he wants to easily connect with a teammate in order to successfully hit their deadline. Leon’s Jobs-to-be-done would be:

When Leon needs to get collaborative work done [situation], he wants to easily connect with a teammate [motivation], so that they can successfully hit their deadline [desired outcome].

The benefits of using JTBD

Focus on customer needs

When we focus on JTBD, we focus on customer needs and build solution-orientated products to help solve those needs. It also means we’re able to build customer flows and onboarding journeys that revolve around those customer jobs rather than the product itself.

Build motivation-led products

When we focus on JTBD, we build businesses that are not actually product-led at all; they are motivation-led. People don’t search for the process, they search for solutions, and they discover the tools that help them get to their solution.

Avoid inaccurate customer segmentation

What’s more, focusing on Jobs-to-be-done eradicates SaaS businesses designing products and features tailored to demographic verticals. Just because one user comes from the same demographic as another user, it doesn’t mean they have the same problem and job they need doing.

JTBD in product management

This framework is an excellent tool for organizing your consumer research. As a result, you can concentrate on figuring out what your users’ requirements are and how you can help them better their lives. Knowing this will help you design your product to meet their demands.

Your teams may compare several ideas and decide which would offer the greatest value to the consumers by approaching product development from the standpoint of outcomes.

Nevertheless, JTBD aids in your avoidance of construction pitfalls. It is simpler to maintain alignment between the challenges your clients are seeking to address and solutions. As a consequence, you devote your resources just to creating features that assist users in achieving objectives.

Additionally, JTBD aids with problem prioritization for your team. Even while your consumers may experience many issues, only a small number of them are important enough to have a lasting impact on their daily life. You must focus on these people.

Now let us discuss what JTBD is based on which can help in the product management journey.

People hire your products instead of purchasing them.

The buyer will only be interested in your goods if it is beneficial. However, they will discontinue your product as soon as they no longer require it or a new one that better fulfills their demands enters the market.

Although it may sound harsh, this insight may help you stay alert and competitive. Companies that cease developing and start taking their clients for granted rapidly lose their competitive advantage and are “fired.”

Jobs have a purpose and include social and emotional aspects.

You cannot concentrate on your product’s usability and efficiency when it’s being developed. Interacting with a product on an emotional and social level is crucial.

Your product could fulfill every requirement from a practical standpoint, yet it might still fail to find a market because of the way it appears or the connections it conjures. That’s why you must consider these things as well while creating your product. You boost your chances of meeting their demands by giving them a choice of several degrees of expertise.

Case Study:

Applying the JTBD framework to a SaaS product

Step 1: Identify the tasks that the customers need to be completed

At this point, your objective is to comprehend what your clients are attempting to achieve, the issues they are attempting to resolve, and the troublesome areas for them. Talk to your customers, analyze all the data you have about your customers, and list all of the problems they face.

Step 2: Sort out the tasks at hand

Categorize the listed tasks. To begin, we separate them into the primary and ancillary JTBD categories. The ultimate goals that users are trying to accomplish are the main Jobs-to-be-done. For an instant messaging app, it would be synchronous and asynchronous communication. Users might wish to do additional tasks in addition to the primary ones. For a messaging system, it could be keeping track of contacts or setting up connection groups.

Step 3: Create the job map

Job maps lay steps that the customer must take to accomplish a task. The actions can be simultaneous or in a different sequence than expected; this is why the process is not always sequential, thus the name map.

Step 4: Choose the tasks you wish to solve with your product

Your product cannot solve all problems. Align with your team and concentrate on assisting your customers in accomplishing the crucial tasks that will significantly enhance their quality of life, and keep doing so over time.

People engage with products to fulfill the requirements of their work. That job is a circumstance in life that has to alter. The JTBD method provides a precise plan for finding new opportunities.

JTBD is a great addition to your product management toolbox. The framework keeps you open to future breakthroughs and pushes you to find possibilities in unexpected places, much like the finest business strategies do.

I would like to thank Tremis Skeete, Executive Editor at Product Coalition for the valuable recommendations which contributed to the editing of this article.

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