“Anthony Ulwick has taken the guesswork out of innovation. For 25 years he has worked to guide companies to success. He has done this by introducing us to Jobs-to-be-Done theory, and converting it to practice using his rigorous innovation process known as Outcome-Driven Innovation.” Professor Philip Kotler
Businesses are often told that they need to change, disrupt themselves etc. based on the fact that the business lifecycle is accelerating. But the fact is that changing the behaviour of a person or a consumer is difficult – in 86% of cases businesses will choose their existing supplier without looking at the wider market (source Circle Research).
Whether it is innovation or asking someone to change brands the forces supporting and blocking change are similar.
In both cases there is a struggling moment when the customer makes a choice between a new supplier or sticking with the old one.
Source: The Rewired Group
So how can your business get and stay ahead of the competition?
For me the answer is deceptively simple – getting the right message to the right person at the right time.
The complicated part used to be putting that into practice. This was before the creation of Outcome Driven Innovation® or the Jobs to be Done Framework, which has revolutionised the innovations strategy of leading US companies but can be more effective for SMEs in making simple improvements to their products.
If done well this can provide you with:
The right message:
- A way of segmenting your customers and prospects so you can communicate with them more effectively
- Information on what motivates at each point
- A clear idea of the competition
The right person
- A list of the sorts of individuals involved, when they are involved and their motivations/jobs to be done
The right time
- A job map (this is like a customer journey map, but also looks at the stages before the customer interacts with your business – according to Salesforce this is 57% of the buying process) – this gives you the right time
So what is Jobs to be Done Concept?
The short answer is that it is the higher purpose why people buy/consume products or services – so what they are looking to achieve from using your services.
This is most clearly shown by the saying attributed to Theodore Levitt that your customers see your product as a tool to get a job done.
Source: The Rewired Group
The customer rarely buys what the company thinks it’s selling” Peter Drucker
The focus is to look at the job done not necessarily the way in which it is delivered. For instance the job that was previously done by libraries (curated knowledge) is now done by Google as the delivery system evolved from books to laptops and phones.
The process simply uses a job statement to measure the customer’s success at achieving their desired outcomes in a more structured way than needs statements etc. which are often vague and rarely contextualised.
The Job Statement/Unit
This is the most important part of the framework. There has been a number of solutions proposed to make needs statements actionable and the job statement is the best I have seen so far.
For instance a typical job unit used is
Source: The Rewired Group
Put crudely it ignores entirely the “how” – this has to be provided by your own experts (engineers etc) as research should be designed to enhance creativity not block it. Breaking down the sense unit one aspect is clear – it focuses on the right time, right person (this is often provided by the context or the situation), right message.
There are variations to this – Ulwick also looks at the direction and looks to quantify the information as much as possible because he is looking for as much precision as possible.
Even without these elements the unit is far more effective than a needs statement as my previous blog will hopefully show. You will find this little sense unit invaluable as they work together to provide a real structure to the buying process.
Structuring the job statements or units
Tony Ulwick at Strategyn has overseen over 400 projects that have used his Outcome Driven Innovation process so when he states that there are anywhere between 50 and 150 jobs that are required by each product, he speaks unrivalled authority.
The key element is how these elements are structured. For each interview the job statements can be codified into aspects as shown below – each job statement may be rational/functional or social or personal or a combination of several aspects. There is often a main job to be done which has a number of key aspects and then secondary jobs to be done for each customer.
Source: The Rewired Group
Ulwick has a nice little formula known as the opportunity algorithm that he uses to prioritise the jobs to be done based on importance and satisfaction which minimises the weaknesses of a Likert scale/numerical scoring system by clustering high and low scores to create a priority score.
This is really useful for prioritising a number of improvements and gives the design team a clear idea of where their priorities will be. Sometimes as is shown in his 2005 book the findings using the formula are counter intuitive based on standard gap analysis because it is purely focussed on under-served demand rather than the market as a whole.
The Right Message: Customer segmentation
One of the job statements will be the main driver or motivator for the individual – this may be the first reason they give you or it may take some digging and need to be checked at the end. The framework will give you the key focus for segmenting customers.
For example the accountant that I chose was one of three I went to see and the only one who actually understood my accounts were relatively simple (in fact he said that I did not need Xero, I needed a kick up the backside) and mentioned the flat rate VAT scheme (before the current chancellor destroyed its value).
His job was to make me compliant and he is actually proactive in this case and a communications strategy that recommended tax efficiency schemes or an annual meeting would not be in either of our best interests.
In fact if the relationship works particularly well because of the limited contact – if I receive a communication from him (missed call email etc) I have usually contacted him within the hour.
For other clients such as limited companies who have more complex needs, he may have an entirely different process.
The importance of the case study is based on the job that I need to be done not down to my SIC code, where I live or other demographic information, my profitability or size of company it is down to the job I want done. This is an actual case from over a decade ago where Bosch became market leader on the basis of making small innovative changes that customers wanted from a market that appeared satisfied with the products on the market.
All the main protagonists have some great examples of this – Christensen and his milkshakes are perhaps the most famous and ubiquitous, but Klement and Moesta each cite some great examples of this – as customer segmentation is a key part of making the framework actionable and valuable. Ulwick has a specific process for customer segmentation as about the market for circular saws indicate:
Gray has identified 4 types of customer segmentation approaches and the Jobs to be Done Framework fits into two main types – Ulwick’s approach is akin to driver segmentation (option 4) whereas other variations which are more qualitative tend to fit into the post hoc segmentation (option 2).
Some of the most famous examples have used a priori segmentation – the most famous example focussed on a noticeable spike in sales of milkshakes and set about looking to find out who these users were and what job they wanted to be done. Profitt also segments innovations using the jobs to be done prism to look at gaps in the market.
If you have a sales or customer service team it may be worth asking them to give you feedback on how they assess your customers – putting this together with information from the customers themselves can give you some really good areas to focus on and take your employees with you, providing you collate and analyse the results independently.
The Right Message: Motivation
Klement views the framework primarily as motivation research to understand why people use a product to do a job. The job statement looks at what motivates the individual and when and the key thing is that the motivation is contextualised. As you are looking at past outcomes there is a need to check for additional more emotional aspects such as the fear of missing out (a social aspect) or brand loyalty (a more personal process).
Source: Klement Insights
As can be seen from Klement’s example the job to be done can then be used to assess the struggling moment that is key to customers changing their buying behaviour.
The Right Message: Competitors
Often businesses focus on their obvious competitors whereas the strength of the jobs to be done process is that it defines your competition currently and in the future. Even ground breaking new products have competition – these may be how customers did the job before the service was created or how it might be provided in the future.
For instance Co funds, a wealth management portal realised that their competition for investment funds were, on occasion, instant gratification products like shoes not necessarily other portals or providers. Alan Klement’s book is called “When Kale competes with Coffee” so you can imagine that this is not an isolated example.
Understanding who you compete with can change the message that you use and where you put your message so that at that point of choosing one or the other, the customer receives a nudge in the right direction.
The right person: Who does what in the buying process
The situation element of the job unit will also provide information on the person – in most cases it tends to be the person you are talking to, so the job statement starts “When I…” but not this is not necessarily the case, the last time I bought an ice cream it was for my son (although it did a number of jobs for me – mainly keeping him quiet). In the business situation it is crucial to check who the instigator is – as there are often a wide range of influencers, decision-makers, gate-keepers and even users.
The right time: Job Map
As the technique involves focussing on a past buying experience you can also then put the buying process into a chronological process and create a job map.
A job map is much more effective than a traditional customer journey because it tracks the entire process from the customer’s prospective.
This means that, although the information may be a bit sketchy they can give you crucial feedback on where they looked for information and what they were looking for.
This will make your communications strategy easier as it will inform you what channels are frequently used and what your customers want to know rather than what you think they need to know.
Source: Planned Market Research/Salesforce
Two examples are shown below, the first is the rewired timeline which is particularly effective for cases where there is one key decision-maker. Below this is the strategy version which is highly effective when looking at business decision making particularly of high value propositions.
Source: The Rewired Group/Strategyn
However it is really defined by the customer, but the labels do generally give a good framework when it comes to analysing multiple journeys.
If you feel that in some areas you would like more information you can design it in to the questionnaire although some information may be a little sketchy. In some cases it is better to leave this to other processes such as your account management process.
What do you get out of it?
“If you understand the job that needs to be done, it makes improvement simple” Clayton Christensen, Harvard University
Understanding the customer and what they want done solves at least part of the problem but it then becomes a question of how you turn your insights into actions.
A big advantage of the framework is that you can cut your cloth accordingly to some extent – a job can be improved in the short term or a market can be disrupted when you feel the technology or resources are not quite there.
If you are looking to create an evidence-based marketing strategy the jobs to be done framework will inform large sections of the strategy including SWOT, STEP, Customer and Competitor analysis.
Strategyn have created an innovation matrix that can be used more generally for the framework to define a number of strategies based simply on the price and job to be done:
Recently I have recommended the process to:
- A company struggling with their marketing
- A company concerned that their industry is becoming commoditised because of technology
- An individual who wants reassurance that their business plan is viable
- A marketing firm looking for a fresh approach to understanding local businesses and a way of reinforcing their brand
- The basis for a white paper showing thought leadership
- A business looking to highlight a new way of using online training platforms
- A business looking at improving their customer satisfaction survey
You do get a lot of information as part of this process so it may be that all of the benefits are not realised immediately which is why I provide a helpline so that you can use your information to answer various questions that may come up at a later date.
It is always worth sharing your findings with your colleagues – they may be able to suggest other ways in which the information is useful and where else the jobs to be done framework can be used.
One option that I have not yet seen the framework used is in internal operations to improve communications and create improvements to processes.
Compatibility with other frameworks
As a framework it is however highly compatible with a wide range of methodologies and you can find case studies that involve focus groups, ethnography, interviews and online surveys.
This is important as it is not a case of when someone has a hammer perceiving everything as a nail – a charge that can be levelled at some research techniques.
So even if you are looking to use other systems such as Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, TQM, Wisdom of the Crowds, Kano Model or Kotlers 7 Ps.
More importantly it helps with cluster sampling, key driver analysis and other statistical techniques by making the statements self-contained, minimising interrelatedness.
Personally I see it as highly compatible with behavioural economics.
The framework revolves around making sure that every statement/desire or need has a number of elements to it – these are important as these units then build up in to a larger picture and need to contain the necessary information.
Using the Framework
In some cases it may be possible to reanalyse raw data using the framework so you will not have to do any new research or rework a questionnaire to ensure that you can get an improved understanding of the job that the customer wants done.
In most cases you will need to conduct some new research, if you are unsure about the process it is worth starting on a fairly simple project such as the job to be done by the website or company’s social media.
You can interview staff or suppliers to hone interviewing techniques or even just look to train your mind through a series of thought experiments about the job to be done by various products or services and even tracing them back to the messages that companies put across.
For instance the first of a new series of adverts from Warburtons involved Sylvester Stallone as a delivery driver.
Why? Because the job that needs to be done by Warburtons is to make sure that there is bread on the shelves of their main clients (supermarkets), quality/brand is not unimportant but less of an issue for the supermarkets.
In other words the job that they do that gives them a competitive advantage is a logistical one.
This picture show it from the opposite perspective, would you use this store?
People use a supermarket primarily for convenience, but if you have to go to two stores it may be more convenient to get your shopping from a baker, butcher and local grocer.
Planning a project
Like a lot of market research, it does not have to be expensive if you are focussed on what you want to achieve from the project.
This tends to boil down to:
- What is the business case for undertaking the project and how does the process fit in with the wider needs of the company.
- What resources do you already have available – can you talk to frontline staff, have access to company assets like customer information, customer feedback etc
- How will you utilise the information effectively when you have collected it – are you looking to use it solely internally or can you use it to drive growth through the CRM system or support marketing in the form of a white paper.
Even if the case is just to look at your current brand through fresh eyes it is worth understanding what information you have and what gaps in knowledge there are in the organisation. Another document on creating an evidence-based marketing strategy deals with the communications side of this.
It is difficult to construct a conventional sampling frame when you are looking to segment your customers based on their results but it is worth using other forms of segmentation to guide you. In the Bosch case study Strategyn used demographic information to structure the sample before restructuring based on the job to be done.
As the Jobs to be Done theory involves displacement – if a customer thinks they have found a better solution they will move from one solution to another so it is also worth looking at customers in terms of usage to get a good cross section from high/frequent users to those who have stopped using your services.
It is worth considering who you are going to talk to and how easy it will be to contact them and the quality of information that you will get from them.
Using a third party is helpful particularly when talking to ex-customers as refusal levels will tend to be lower and are more likely to give honest feedback.
If you can focus the research to a particular group or behavioural type – for individuals who bought milkshakes only at a certain time – this helps define your process.
Market research is becoming more and more an iterative process and the Jobs to be Done framework highlights this.
This means that if you do use an external contractor it is worth talking to them regularly about their findings so that the research can evolve.
I think about sampling extremely early in the process because it is so crucial and I find it is integral to good research. Smaller samples which can be validated to some extent – from other sources such as staff experience, sales information or desk research are better than creating a bloated research project.
Before deciding on your approach you will need to decide on a process – particularly choosing between a two stage process (strategy) or one stage and an initial number of interviews to begin with.
Choosing a system
Each of the protagonists is dealt with towards the end of this document in a little more detail – I tend to recommend a blended research but you may have a preference for one over another.
The Strategyn system, also known as Outcome Driven Innovation is the most comprehensive solution but it is worth spending a little time working out which one is right for you or just talk to a couple of practitioners to get our views– the key protagonists are:
- Anthony Ulwick/Strategyn who created the concept and uses a two stage process which allows a more quantitative approach
- Bob Moesta and Chris Spiek/Rewired – an innovation consultancy who have adapted the process really effectively for the B2C and FMCG market
- Professor Clayton Christensen/Harvard University – a specialist on disruptive innovation who uses the technique alongside other information sources to understand customer expectations
- Alan Klement – who runs a specialist consultancy and a jtbd community. He has a slightly different take on the market focussing on the evolution of customer demand and context of job to be done.
All have produced books and/or online resources to help practitioners and more information is provided below in terms of assessing which variation is best for you. This is dealt with in the appendix.
The key point is that all agree about the bedrock of the framework which is the job statement or unit, after that the choice of which variation to use will depend on the job that you want done!
For instance the Rewired solution is likely to be cheaper than the Strategyn technique but the latter plays particularly well to numerate professionals like engineers, financial directors etc.
How many interviews do I need to do?
One of the frustrating things about research is that the answer to the number of interviews is often based on the answers that you get. For instance when you are looking at the scoping exercise or the number of depth interviews/focus groups etc you need to undertake it is dependent on when you reach “saturation point”. As such it is no different from grounded theory or any other qualitative project.
Again it will depend on what method you are using (Ulwick’s two stage process is more forgiving of a smaller number of interviews at this stage), the current information you are working from and the job you are looking to do. You would be foolish to just focus on say 20 interviews if you are looking at a ground-breaking new service but this may be sufficient if the focus is looking at small improvements if you have a small number of high value customers.
Key requirements in data collection
Basically there are a number of requirements from each interview, focus group or other customer interaction. The main things you need to focus on:
- Completeness of each job unit – each of the units needs to be clarified as far as possible so that it is clear what your customer is really getting at. For example “when I come to purchase X, I am looking for a good price” needs clarification in the same way as “Cheaper” or “Cost” would in a needs statement. The situation is also important as the value for your marketing team is in the job map
- Completeness of all the job units – making sure you have as many of the job units as you can get is important, when you speak to a business coach they often tell you that the underlying issue is not the one that their client initially identifies and the same is true of customers. Often the first few job units are ones that the customer thinks the researcher wants to hear and eventually it comes back to underlying (often emotional reasons).
- Prioritisation of key aspects
- The basics of market research – building a rapport, making sure the questions do not anticipate your own or your organisations beliefs, avoid arguing with the customer and clarifying what the individual has said etc.
It is also important to include an element of looking forward to the future – in the case of choosing my accountant I did not know at the time he was had a large dog (I think it is a Belgian Shepherd) which he walked around a local park at lunchtime but because my reason for choosing him was that he is there to give me a kick up the backside and make sure I am compliant but the dog is a further retention strategy.
Source: Klement Insights
Klement is particularly strong on the importance of getting information about future intent (his system of progress) and you should always be looking at ways of improvement, so asking this directly is always a good way of wrapping up an interview and helps check information that may have been given earlier.
I tend to put the information into a specially designed form as soon as each interview is completed with the main jobs to be done assessed on one sheet of paper – an example is shown below:
Source: Planned Market Research
I tend to provide clients with a pro forma or qualitative interview highlighting where information will come from and where it will go on the template. This is a useful exercise as it provides an extra check that you have not missed anything but often colleagues may ask if you can probe a bit more deeply about affiliate marketing sites etc.
It is worth knowing a bit about the Jobs to be Done framework even if you use a specialist to conduct the research for you. The limits to the technique still need to be defined but because the technique encourages interviewees to provide engage both sides of their brain – the limbic system (for the emotional side) and the neocortex (intellectual side) it can then help businesses realise the strengths and weaknesses of their brand or service.
Needs based analysis has been exposed and other ways of understanding customers are gaining traction – behavioural analysis where customer needs are assessed alongside behaviour is an alternative although to be honest the two approaches are compatible as the jobs to be done framework can be used alongside ethnographic or observational approaches.
It is a highly versatile technique that can be incorporated into current research, sales and account management programmes to understand you current clients and what additional services or improved products would help them.
The system does also offer a lot of deliverables making it ideal for medium sized businesses who can use it rather than voice of the customer research to make the findings from their research actionable. It also helps with aspects such as Key Driver Analysis where needs statements could be misinterpreted because they are interrelated.
Which technique should I use?
As with the number of examples it depends on the job you want done. For my clients I tend to pick and mix depending on industry, budget and most importantly the job they want done.
Sometimes the best technique blends what you already know with the assets you have available (staff, customer feedback etc. – the best solution may simply be a reorganisation and tweak to the customer experience work that is already being done.
The best way of understanding each of the variations and the process in general is to spend some time looking the individuals up on You-tube or looking at their websites, alternatively you can pick up the phone and talk to someone or use #jtbd on social media. They have also all written books that are available online or from all good bookstores (and Amazon!) and are mentioned at the end.
I mentioned a number of the main practitioners at the start, here is a brief take on what each one does, it is liable to my own person interpretation.
Ulwick provides a stand-alone process which is ideal for large corporates, complex decision-making processes where more than one person are involved and where there is an innovation strategy. His latest book looks goes beyond his process to looking at the Strategic impact and transforming companies. I still carry round with me “What Customers Want” from 2005 which is a simple and erudite publication.
Spiek and Moesta’s Handbook is particularly good at focussing on the interviewing and unpicking the process, the company has come up with some great graphics and the authors have a very effective way of communicating complex issues in a simple way. Their book is probably the most accessible but it is very much an introduction and you need to go on their course or look at their examples to get an idea of what their version is all about.
Klement is strong on the competition, his book is thought provoking and has a lot of case studies and he runs a platform that encourages practitioners to innovate for themselves. The author used to work at Rewired and has adopted and developed many of the concepts.
Christensen is a consummate researcher and when you look at where he has used the process it is very much alongside other data sources including EPOS, observation and desk research.
Christensen C (2016) Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice. Available here
Klement A (2016), When Kale and Coffee Compete. Free download from website
Spiek C and MOesta B (2014) The Jobs-to-be-Done Handbook: Practical techniques for improving your application of Jobs-to-be-Done, Rewired Group. Available here
Strauss A and Glaser B(1967) The discovery of Grounded Theory.
Ulwick A (2016) Jobs to be Done Theory to Practice, (Download only). Available here
Ulwick A (2005), “What Customers Want”, McGraw Hill. Available here
Gray K (2013) “Think you know segmentation? Think again! A close look at 4 core analyses”, Quirks
Christensen, C. M., S. D. Anthony et al (2007) “Finding the Right Job for Your Product,” MIT Sloan Management Review, Spring 2007
Basically anything from Christensen is worth considering. There are a number of videos that mention the milkshake case study such as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f84LymEs67Y. A recent ideacast from Christensen via the Harvard Business Review can be found at https://hbr.org/ideacast/2016/12/the-jobs-to-be-done-theory-of-innovation
An English perspective is provided by Sian Townsend of Intercom https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNTW_9mFM7k
Strategyn have some great videos. This one is on using strategy matrices https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fk_YIDckNo and I also like the one on discovering hidden segments https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6t2Bt0hdOus which is one of the best videos I have seen on market segmentation.
For those who like a demonstration, this is probably the best video online at the moment https://vimeo.com/81153746 from the Rewired Group.
http://www.jtbdinstitute.com/ – great list of articles
https://jtbd.info/ – managed by Klement and providing a wide range of through provoking podcasts and articles
https://strategyn.com/ – website packed with information on how to use Outcome Driven Innovation
http://innovatorstoolkit.com/content/technique-1-jobs-be-done great overall summary of the technique
http://predictiveinnovation.com/ website worth looking at to understand how information using techniques such as JTBD can be modelled
www.plannedmarketresearch.co.uk / https://plannedmarketresearch.wordpress.com/ – my own website with information on the JTBD theory and how to fit the theory into an evidence based marketing strategy.