Jobs to be Done framework: The key to new products and revenue

by | Aug 26, 2021

If I asked you to tell me the biggest strengths of your company’s product, I expect you’d try to impress me with the quality, functionality, design, value, or any of a host of other possible winning attributes.

But would any of those qualities really convince me to buy your product? 

You may have heard of the “Jobs to be Done” framework (JTBD), which emerged from an insight by the late Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School, in a 2016 article in the Harvard Business Review

He posed the theory that customers “hire” products to do the jobs they need to get done, large and small. And, by understanding those jobs and designing your products to help your customers do those jobs successfully, you can get the right product-market fit and ride that to greater success.

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There are a number of questions that drive the Jobs to be Done Framework. However, there are 3 critical questions that must be answered:

  • Does our product help customers solve the problem they are trying to address?
  • Does our product enable customers to reach their goal?
  • Does our product allow customers to accomplish the job to be done?

Implementing the Jobs to be Done Framework

At Mod Op Strategic Consulting, we run Jobs to be Done analyses for and with our clients every day as we help them refine their offerings to better meet customer needs. In doing so, we’ve developed four key insights that have proven to be valuable for all members of the C-suite. These four insights will help you better understand the potential of Jobs to be Done and how brands and companies like yours can use this framework to drive success.

1. Think about jobs, not attributes

When we tell clients that we need to start by developing “user personas,” their first reaction is often to create a list of attributes assigned to fictional user archetypes:

  • Soccer moms who drive Volvos
  • Empty nesters with disposable income
  • Millennials looking to purchases their first home

But a Jobs to be Done analysis isn’t about who people are — it’s about what they need to accomplish.

A great place to start is to dig into the process of how to run a user-centered personas workshop. As referenced in that article, keep in mind that user personas are different customer targets, demographics, or market segments.

User personas focus on user needs, and helps your organization be responsive to the jobs and tasks customers need to perform in their workflows and professions.

To add some real-life color to this, we recently led a non-profit organization through this exercise. In the end, our team determined there were four personas they needed to consider as potential customers: students, educators, influencers and donors.

Each of those groups came to the organization looking to accomplish something different. Only by examining those needs individually could they figure out whether the organization was providing the right products and services.

2. Examine how customers actually behave in the wild

It’s an all-to-common problem: Companies believe their products are the right fit for the market and their customers. Despite this assuredness, however, they never actually talk to users to find out how their products are being used and why!

In our experience, companies MUST interview users to understand how they interact with the products your company provides. Plus, you’ll want to capture as much data from them as you can. As an external partner involved in initiatives like this, we always suggest outside-in customer research as the first step, before doing anything else.

To illustrate this, we recently worked with a financial services company who was spending a tremendous amount of resources producing a set of books annually. Even though clients repeatedly told them how valuable the books were, overall sales were low.

This wasn’t making sense. So, instead of asking about the value of the books, we used the Jobs to be Done framework. What jobs were they trying to accomplish? That’s when the insights started to roll in.

We discovered that while the books came out yearly, most clients needed updates far less frequently. Plus, one of the main purposes that the customers had for using the books was not getting addressed at all.

Customers wanted to play with the data in the books, incorporating it into their own spreadsheets — but since the books were only in print, this was difficult to accomplish. When customers did incorporate it in the way they wanted, there were often errors because of the manual process of entering the data by hand.

Through the Jobs to be Done framework, the client realized that in order to empower their customers to achieve the jobs they were trying to accomplish with the books, they needed to change the product delivery model. As a result, they moved to a digital subscription service model and created spreadsheet plug-ins to pull in the data for the “job” the client wanted to do. This change yielded huge dividends in the end.

>> If you’re curious how much revenue they were able to generate with this small shift in their product design and delivery, check out the Mod Op Strategic Consulting product development case study.

3. Don’t ignore the white space

Don’t limit the scope of your analysis to what your existing products do (a mistake that’s made all too often!). Instead, explore the opportunities.

An effective Jobs to be Done analysis will undoubtably ask what a customer does with a particular product. However, it ALSO addresses what they do before using it and what they do afterward.

Additional opportunities emerge when looking at customer needs more broadly. This helps yield clear add-ons that you can provide to make your customer’s job easier — and simultaneously improve profitability for your business.


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4. Find the right partner who knows the Jobs to be Done framework

While it may seem straight forward, the Jobs to be Done framework, or customer research itself, can be tricky to do well when you’re inside the company. It’s far too easy for teams to convince themselves of the value of their products. In doing so, they often look for answers that confirm their biases or conform to existing narratives.

Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes to shine light on areas that may be lacking, or customer needs that aren’t being met.

Understandably, it can be difficult for people who’ve been so invested in their company’s work to advocate for the pivots necessary to achieve breakthrough success. Find an external partner or consulting group that can help you truly step out of the box and examine the market and product opportunity from a new angle.

If you’re interested in learning more about Jobs to be Done and how it can help your business, set up a chat with one of our product development consultants

Len Gilbert

Len Gilbert, COO

Len has over 25 years of industry experience and is passionate about helping clients understand their digital potential, especially focusing on digital strategy and digital growth. At Mod Op Strategic Consulting, Len is responsible for building out the company’s digital transformation and advisory services and scaling the company’s external business and internal capabilities.

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Len Gilbert


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