Customer-Driven Product Development: Taking the Jobs-to-Be-Done Approach

product development

Errors typically happen when things aren’t planned carefully enough, or when entrepreneurs are overwhelmed by the product development process.

With the right mindset and framework at hand, companies can do more than just launch products. They can create solutions to real challenges that users have.

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Research Helps Provide Better Solutions to Customer Problems

It’s important to get customer feedback throughout the entire product development process. In fact, observing customers using the product at any stage is much better than collecting feedback after the product has been launched.

How the Jobs-to-Be-Done Framework Can Help

The jobs-to-be-done framework (JTBD) seeks to help companies answer two important questions.

First of all, what does the product do?

Secondly, what problems does the product solve for its users? The answers to these two questions help companies design a product and develop functionalities that will help solve these problems.

What Does the JTBD Framework Entail?

The JTBD framework consists of eight process steps that remain unchanged, regardless of the job.

The eight steps create a structure, which captures the needs users have and helps companies identify opportunities for innovation. The steps are as follows:

product development jobs-to-be-done
The Job Map – Source: Strategyn
  • During the Define stage, customers outline their goals and plan their resources. Companies, on the other hand, can jumpstart innovation by simplifying planning.
  • Next is the Locate stage, during which customers gather the information that is necessary for doing the job. At this point, companies ensure easy access to all the inputs required.
  • The Prepare stage has the customers setting up the environment for the job. Meanwhile, companies provide guides on how to handle this with less effort.
  • Customers verify during the Confirm stage that they are ready to execute the job. The job of the product developer is to provide the information necessary for confirming readiness.
  • Following up is the Execute stage. Companies are working now on preventing any delays or hiccups that could occur while customers carry out the job.
  • The Monitor stage implies the analysis of the results on the customers’ side. Companies innovate by discovering which aspects could improve execution in the future.
  • It’s during the Conclude stage that the customers finish the job and prepare for starting a new one with improved execution.

Implementing these 8 steps for every job that customers want to perform could seem time-consuming. However, the results can bring companies a lot of satisfaction. This framework is what actually helps software development companies and businesses from outside the IT sector to release early and release often.

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Product Development Influenced by Opportunity Scores

Each job to be done refers to a feature, a functionality, or a set of each.

Depending on the importance of the feature, the satisfaction it could generate and the amount of users it could affect, each feature gets an opportunity score.

Based on this score, companies decide which features should be prioritized. It should be noted that opportunity scores should be taken into account in every product development stage, from the first mockups to the product/market fit.

product development

The opportunity score helps the entire company understand its product better. Using them, the development team can get a clearer picture of the context the product is built for.

The sales team can better position the product, and the implementation team can train new customers more effectively. Opportunities can lead to completely new product strategies that help entire companies better understand how the product works and what jobs it does.

Was the JTBD Framework Enough for Ford?

When Ford launched its Credit Link program in March, the American automaker wanted to bring two hot automotive trends together: leasing and ridesharing.

Using an app that helps manage the payments and the riding schedules, three to six people can share leasing on a new car. To the company’s surprise, there were no subscribers three months into the program.

Mind you, Ford focused on customer jobs when developing Credit Link. The company targeted young people that either couldn’t afford leasing a car by themselves or who found long trips by Uber too expensive. Ford wanted to secure its position by starting the program in Austin, Texas, a college town. While most students here don’t own a car, they are comfortable with the idea of a shared economy. Since commuting is an important job to be done for this audience, Ford thought that by uncovering it, the program could be scaled easily, should it prove successful.

The automaker got to experiment fast and at a small expense. Launching the program at a national level with the same results would have been catastrophic for Ford. However, by testing in a single city, the company got to monitor the execution. Should it conclude that the program is worth expanding, Ford could make alterations to it, for a better outcome.

What Else Was There to Know?

While Ford uncovered a job to be done, it missed the context. Customers can have habits that they are not willing to change.

People who don’t own cars don’t go in groups to buy one. Therefore, Ford would have had to change a mentality for it to see any results. Besides, it’s quite impossible for six people to share a single car on weekends or during holidays. Texas’ low leasing rates should have been yet another red flag. The fact that sales agents aren’t trained to sell to groups was yet another obstacle in the way of adoption.

While the JTBD framework is rigorous, relying on it without minding the context can hurt the company, more than it can help it. As Ford’s example shows, implementing it without minding the bigger picture can have quite an unexpected outcome.

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