Listen to podcast episode

Read for free from Intercom

Jobs-to-be-Done is a framework for creativity limiting the imagination of your product and building focused products that people actually want.

Major takeaway: People are experts in their problem, not the solution. Use the Jobs-to-be-Done framework to get to know their problem in great detail. Focus on the specific part of the job they’re working on where your product can create value within a reasonable scope. This can inform everything from product to marketing efforts.

Focus on Jobs > People

“Personas will always have their place. If you want to create an advertisement that attracts 21-year-old men or 35-year-old professionals, personas will help create realistic representations of your target audience. But if you want to build a great software product, making crucial decisions based around a series of personality traits won’t get you there. That’s because products don’t match people; they match problems.”

Personas are good for:

Bad personas happen when:

When are personas the wrong tool for the job? When a product is better defined by the job it’ll do than the users it serves. Some products have users of all backgrounds and demographics who share little except the common job they have to get done.

“In these cases, it’s best to get an intimate understanding of the job itself, what creates demand for it, and what you’d hire to do the job.”

A company building a shipping product doesn’t benefit from knowing that its users gender and age – it needs to know about the job to be done, such as the user needing to get a fragile product from point A to B quickly.

Identify Your Actual Competitors

“When people think about their competitors they tend to look at what’s closest to home. If I run a pizza slice store, and you run a McDonalds, we must be competitors, right? But real competition is usually a playing field away.

Jobs-to-be-Done gives you a much better lens to think about your true competitors. It gives you the situational context that triggers people to use products. To use the above example, if I know my customers are choosing my pizza because they only have five minutes to spare, and need to eat while walking to a meeting, then I know my competitor isn’t McDonalds. I’m really competing with a Snickers bar and the hot dog cart around the corner.”

Using Jobs-to-be-Done Research for Software

Step 1: Extract the “first thought”

Identify circumstances that led to the purchase decision. What tool/method were you using before? What was your old solution like? What was it like to live in / work in X before buying? Can you remember anyone else involved in the decision?

Step 2: Consideration set

Consideration set is the time in which a person is looking at all the possible solutions for a job they want to fulfill through a product. Get to know all of the details around the purchasing decision and create a timeline of events between the customer’s first-thought and their purchase.

This allows you to identify the real why someone bought your product – the job they’re interested in it doing.

Getting Customers to Switch

“The way you motivate somebody to make a switch is the same for a friendship, a relationship, or a software product – identify the struggling moments your customers are experiencing and build around that. Emphasize why the existing way does not make sense, why it’s safe to switch to your product, and why they don’t need to worry about leaving the existing way behind. ”

“Advertising lets you manipulate these four forces. Specifically you can:

1. Increase the push away: Show how bad their existing product really is.
2. Increase your product magnetism: Promote how well your product solves their problems.
3. Decrease the fear and uncertainty of change: Assure consumers switching is quick and easy.
4. Decrease their attachment to the status quo: Remove consumers irrational attachment to their current situation.”

Where one job stops and another begins

It’s important to know where your product ends, and not to try to do too much and cram everything in.

Identify all of the steps (or jobs) to be completed in order to solve the higher-level problem. Start your product at the first step where you can add value.

“A real world example would be Instacart. Instacart is an online grocery delivery service. They could have tried to replicate the entire grocery supply chain – buying warehouses, trucks etc. But Instacart couldn’t add value there. The first point they can add value is actually ordering the groceries online, something big retailers had traditionally struggled with.”

Your product should end when the next step is an area where you can’t deliver any value, either because of incumbents, product scope, or otherwise.

A worse product does a better job

Often you’ll release a product to solve one problem, but customers use it for something completely different. It’s important to find out why your feature is succeeding (or failing), discern what job your users tried to solve with it, and then work to be a better product for that use.

Abandoning personas

Personas help with building empathy amongst employees who don’t frequently interface with users, but provide limited value to the actual designer.

Intercom never uses personas. Why? Similarities between users are much greater than differences. Personas tend to divide your users/audience based solely on their attributes rather than their goals.

Key difference between jobs-to-be-done and personas: JTBD designs for situations and motivations, and answers the question “why?”

Here’s how a persona / user story fails.

Image credit: Intercom on Jobs-to-be-Done

This doesn’t mean to dump personas entirely. Just recognize what they’re good for: to get buy-in and user-empathy from less-engaged members of the team.

Intercom has a one page brief before starting a project you can find here.

Designing Features using Job Stories

The breakdown of a Jobs Story is:
[ When _____ ] [ I want to _____ ] [ so I can _____ ]

Image credit: Intercom on Jobs-to-be-Done

Step-by-step (copied directly from book):
1. Start with the high level job.
2. Identify smaller jobs which help resolve the high level job.
3. Observe how people solve the problem now (the job they currently use).
4. Come up with a Job Story to investigate the causality, anxieties, and motivations of what they do now.
5. Create a solution which resolves that Job Story.

Asking Why the Right Way

Ask “why” until you get to the real motivation for why a user is performing (or wants to perform) a certain action.

Read for free from Intercom