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JTBD-A primer

posted on 12 Jun 2020

Have you heard of the ‘Jobs to be done’ Framework ?

If you already have, let this article serve you as a refresher;if not, here’s on to some enlightenment.

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Jobs to be done framework or JTBD as it is widely known is primarily a framework for understanding a customer’s motivation behind buying your product . All of us want our lives to be better. We all desire for a better standard of living, more time at hand and more peace of mind. We try to accomplish these desires by entrusting the jobs to others which otherwise a primitive man would try to do himself. For e.g, we no longer have to hunt for food or go searching for a cow to get milk . In a way, we’ve hired someone to get the job done and make our lives better.

On similar lines, JTBD states that customers don’t buy your product or services. Instead, they hire products or services to overcome an obstacle and make their lives better. Customers hire your product for getting a job done. If the product does the job well, customers tend to hire the product again when they are confronted with a similar circumstance.

With the rise of data and the need to make sense out of it, a lot of emphasis is given on forming correlations with the hope of improving products for good. We know, for a fact that ‘Correlation does not imply causation’. Yet, many times, we product managers feel comfortable if our decisions are backed by data correlations. In his article emphasising on the importance of “knowing your customer’s jobs to be done”, Clayton Christensen, one of the fellow-architects of JTBD theory, states -

After decades of watching great companies fail, we’ve come to the conclusion that the focus on correlation—and on knowing more and more about customers—is taking firms in the wrong direction. What they really need to home in on is the progress that the customer is trying to make in a given circumstance—what the customer hopes to accomplish. This is what we’ve come to call the job to be done

Clay also substantiates this theory with an example in this interesting video -

While the concept sounds simple, in practice JTBD requires a deep understanding of the customer’s journey and the ability to extract the first thought that led to the purchase of a product. Many times this first thought may not be obvious and conspicuous. And for a software product, it is easier said than done.

So, how does one figure out the JTBD for a software product ? The answer - JTBD customer interviews focused around the functional and emotional triggers that led to the purchase of a product. These interviews aim to find a trigger event that has customer struggles in it and the customer’s desire to overcome those obstacles. In the book “Intercom on Jobs to be done”, Emma Meehan - a Senior Product Researcher at Intercom recommends the following sample JTBD customer interview questions -

  • What tool were you using before you bought software? Were you also involved in buying that?
  • What was it like working in ----- department for ----- company back then?
  • Can you remember if anyone else was involved in the decision? What was their role in the company at that time?
  • Tell me about the old solution. Can you remember how well that was working? Was it just your department using it?

A bit of chewing over JTBD and you’ll realize that JTBD can come in handy during prioritization of features. The features that should go first are the ones that help users do something that they weren’t able to do before or had a hard time doing. Simply put , features that contribute to forward movement rank up higher. However, IMHO, JTBD seems far more helpful in devising the product positioning and understanding who your real competitors are (Sleep is our #1 competition). It could help you design an effective marketing strategy that resonates much better with your users.

Until next time…

P.S - The JTBD framework is massive. With this article, we are simply scratching the surface. If this article has managed to pique your interest, here are some great resources to know more about JTBD -

Resources :

Categories:  #Product-Management