Often, it's really easy to focus on solutions when designing or iterating on products. After all, a refined product solution is the end goal.  However, in order to design innovative solutions or products, we need to focus on the problem space.

The Jobs-To-Be-Done (JTBD) framework is a useful tool to better understand the problem space and create more effective outcomes for both the business as well as the end customer.

Illustration of a man looking at the jobs he needs to do

Get the right customer feedback

Most organisations understand that it is important to gather customer feedback and input when creating digital products and solutions. However, it is important to gather the right kind of customer feedback.  At times customers may not know what they want nor may they have the knowledge or means to articulate it.

This can be a challenge when it comes to innovation or generating innovative ideas.  There can be limited value in asking customers what they want when they are limited by their experiences and may not be aware of what's possible.

For example, if customers speak about wanting a better ladder to reach higher places, we might take the feedback and frame solutions in the context of how to improve the ladder. While that may help to make a better ladder it would rule out an alternative like a cherry-picker.

In addition, a customer may have a limited understanding of the organisation which can prove challenging when identifying solutions that are financially and/or commercially viable.

Therefore, instead of focusing on what customers want, at Nomat we advocate adopting a customer needs and goals approach. This will be more useful in getting to effective solutions because understanding customers' needs and goals provides the necessary understanding and empathy to create great solutions. 

Adopting a customer needs approach

As noted in the previous section, when speaking to customers it is important to understand their underlying needs, goals and problems. Why? Because there are a number of different solutions that can solve the problem and meet the customers needs and goals.

For example, if customers are asked what they want in terms of brushing their teeth effectively, they might say "a toothbrush that is easier to grip". However, if we spend time uncovering the underlying needs and goals, we might find out that customers are not happy with the grip because it doesn't allow them to exert enough pressure for an effective clean. The underlying need and goals here might be ensuring good oral hygiene. If the solution is framed around the design of the grip, it narrows possible design solutions and might seriously curtail innovation.  Instead, if we ask ourselves how good oral hygiene can be achieved for the customer, we open the door to more innovative solutions.

When the right kind of solutions have been generated, businesses can then identify and prioritise solutions. This can be done by balancing out the value it brings to customers versus the effort of implementation (see prioritisation matrix: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/prioritization-matrices/)

This is why adopting a customer needs and goals approach will be more useful in getting to effective solutions.

An illustration of an effort matrix

Customer needs and the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework

Now that we recognise the importance of understanding customers' needs and goals, a useful framework for exploring, understanding and articulating those needs and goals is the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework.

The Jobs-To-Be-Done framework is created on the basis that customers have jobs they are seeking to complete. The jobs customers have can vary across segments and each customer might have several different jobs which can be solved by a single product or service.

It is first important to define what a 'job' is. A job is in essence “a task, goal or objective a person is trying to accomplish or a problem they are trying to resolve. A job can be functional, emotional or associated with product consumption” - Anthony W. Ulwick. A job could also be progress that a person is trying to make in a particular circumstance (Christensen 2016).

The upside of the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework is that it is solution agonistic. This means that as long as the customers' jobs are being fulfilled, there could be multiple correct solutions. For a business or organisation, this means that there are more opportunities for innovation.

Another benefit of using the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework is that how customers do a job can change over time but the underlying needs are relatively stable over time. By solving the underlying needs, goals and problems, a product or solution will be relevant for the customer over time. For example, imagine a customer's goal is ‘to be thoughtful’ for the family. They can achieve this in different ways such as by cooking dinner, buying wine, writing a poem and so on. The focus is not to simply solve for how to write a poem effectively, it is to help customers attain the goal of ‘being thoughtful’.

The Jobs-To-Be-Done framework can also be used to assess existing product features to identify ones that do not meet customers’ needs and goals. By trimming ‘excessive’ features, the solution or product becomes less complex which can improve usability and enhance the customer experience.

We have found that the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework resonates well with clients and stakeholders. It is a relatable framework in that people can apply it to their own experiences. After all, we ourselves have jobs we need to complete through different digital products. Using the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework to explore customer needs can bring us closer to the customers' pain points and help foster more empathy.

An illustraion of a man looking at a ladder

Different types of jobs

There are three different aspects to a job that a customer has. These are functional, emotional and social.

As the name suggests, the functional aspect captures the objective and requirements for the jobs to be successful. The emotional aspect relates to how customers need to feel when they carry out the job. Lastly, the social aspect relates to how customers imagine they'll be viewed or perceived by others.

For example, if a customer's underlying need is to 'keep my space clean' the functional requirement of a solution might be that the costs are within budget and the time required is less than 50 minutes. The emotional aspect could be that the solution must be comfortable to use and give the impression of progress. The social aspect could be that the solution must be presentable (i.e. looks good when displayed) or help elevate the customers' sense of social standing.

The Jobs-To-Be-Done framework and Human-centred design

Leveraging the Jobs-To-Be-Done framework for human-centred design and human-centred research can lead to better insights which in turn help create more effective solutions and features that customers will more likely to engage with. Comment below on how you have applied the Jobs-To-Be-Done within your business or organisation. 

Learn more about how we can help you get the most out of research.

About the author

About the author

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Author photo
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Amanda Chen

Senior Designer and Researcher

Amanda is an analytical thinker who strategically combines human-centered design with business requirements to create thoughtful and feasible experiences for the end-user. She utilises more than five years of stakeholder engagement, collaboration and project management skills and enjoys working collaboratively to build a common understanding and to communicate fact-based research findings.

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