Apr 17, 2014

Jobs-to-be-done framework in product design

As discussed in my last post, customers try to satisfy their needs by going after specific goals. They evaluate a product/service to see if it helps them achieve these goals. The evaluation criteria is based on multiple factors but the bottom line is to conclude whether the product helps to achieve their goal or not.

When I came across the jobs-to-be-done framework by Professor.Clayton Christensen and the famous milkshake example, it felt like an "aha" moment. The key learning is that people choose to "hire" a product or service to do a job.

Couple of his lines that made a lot of sense to me:

"marketer's task is to understand the job the customer wants to get done, and design products and brands that fill that need."

He also emphasizes that every job has a social, functional and emotional dimension to it and that's where a marketer's focus should be.

"the job, not the customer, is the fundamental unit of analysis for a marketer who hopes to develop products that customers will buy."

Though the reference point is from a marketer's perspective, this framework is equally relevant and applicable to product design.

As part of the product conceptualization process, many tech startups have started to imbibe the "jobs-to-be-done" concept as a replacement to user stories.

A user story is typically written in the form -
"As a [type of user], I want [some action], so that [outcome]"
whereas a job story is written in the form -
"When _____ , I want to _____ , so I can _____ ."

The key distinction here is that user story focuses primarily on the end outcome expected out of an action whereas a job story focuses more on the context and causality. I came across this very detailed comparison between user story and job story in Medium a few days back. Worth a read.


 Reflecting on the same fitness example I used in my last post, the goal can be broken down into smaller jobs. For instance,

Goal => I want to lose weight

Jobs
  • Whenever I'm sitting continuously for an hour, I want a reminder to get up and stretch for 5 minutes so I can be more conscious about being active
  • When I'm inside a store to buy groceries, I want a list of healthy ingredients to buy so I can plan a healthy meal for the week
  • When I'm meeting a friend who is also interested in fitness, I need a few good articles to discuss and plan our workout together so I can engage in interesting conversations
  •  Whenever I'm enjoying a high calorie dessert, I want to know the equivalent workout to do to compensate for the calories consumed so I don't feel guilty about the dessert

The context in these 4 jobs could help the product manager / designer to understand the trigger situations as well as motivating factors.

In an interview on user onboarding, Ryan Singer from 37signals talks about how the job identification can help to create a great onboarding experience.

As he talks about product features and user motivation, he says 
"attributes do not cause you to do things. It's your situation that you're in that triggers your causality."

So a clear focus on the context can give clarity on the reasons for "why we do what we do".

The key take-aways for me from this jobs-to-be-done framework are
- Take a deep dive into the context or situation ("When" and "Where") that is applicable to a specific job
- Get a clear understanding of the reasons behind the context ("Why")
- Identify the potential issues the customers face because of the context





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