Jobs to be done

People don’t just want light bulbs, they want to be able to see.

Our mindset on the way we approach problem-solving is crucial. It can be the difference between solving a problem and building a product that we think solves the problem because it looks and feels so brilliant on the surface. The former means innovating solutions (which are more likely to have value and result in a sustainable business) and the latter means innovating ideas (which don’t necessarily have any value).

Enter the jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework.

What is the jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework?

The jobs-to-be-done framework is a systematic approach to design based on an Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI) methodology; it helps teams build products that customers want, need, and will gladly pay for.

The JTBD process begins with a “job” that customers need to carry out, and the result is a “job map” that outlines how the customer currently carries out the job. We can then analyze this map and find ways to improve the customer’s experience, or build a new product altogether.

The benefits of JTBD in product design

The JTBD framework provides a clear map for the road ahead and allows product teams to collect more insight into customer needs. It also sheds light on the possible business value of the problem that needs to be solved.

So, where some teams might try to simply build a better light bulb, the JTBD framework could result in a totally different product that produces even more light, or has additional features, or can be manufactured at a much cheaper cost.

Voice-activated or energy-saving smart bulbs are extremely valuable to customers, but might not exist without the JTBD framework. Because of it, designers put the customer’s problems before their own ideas.

Instead of defining markets based on a product, the JTBD framework helps companies build viable businesses around their customers’ real problems: The people who will actually pay to own a product that helps them get the job done.

The JTBD process

The JTBD process has eight steps, each informed by customer interviews. The findings of each step build part of the job map until we wind up with a complete picture of how the customer currently carries out the job.

In addition to the job map, we should note opportunities to improve each aspect of the job, from start to finish and everywhere before, in between, and after. Once complete, the job map is updated to show which areas could use improvement, and how we propose to improve them.

Let’s run through each step.


What resources does the customer need before they can get the job done?

In this step, teams should find ways to minimize the amount of resources needed to begin carrying out the job. Let’s say the resource in this case is a manual. In order to improve the light bulb manual-reading experience, we could make the manual easier to understand, or eliminate the need for it altogether. This would improve the efficiency of installing the light bulb.


What tools does the customer need to carry out the job?

A majority of light bulbs simply screw in, so there are no tools required (unless we count a ladder for high ceilings!). But let’s say the job is turning on the TV, and the customer needs a remote control. Batteries are required for the remote to operate, so the opportunity to improve this step could be including batteries.


How must the customer prepare to get the job done?

Let’s go back to light bulbs. Since they’re a physical product, the customer might need to battle with complicated packaging. Do we make this step reliant on scissors, or are there opportunities to improve the packaging? What about unnecessary plastic waste?

This is why light bulbs are manufactured with cardboard packaging, which also prevents the light bulb from shattering when trying to open the packaging.

Every little improvement helps. Write it all down.


What must the customer do to verify the setup?

In the case of a light bulb, there’s usually a delightful click! to indicate it’s been screwed in correctly. Failure to indicate success in the setup stages may result in a lack of customer confidence and an increase in customer frustration.


What must the customer do to execute the job correctly?

This step requires the most attention since the customer may have multiple interactions with the product while carrying out the job. With a light bulb, one usually needs light to be able to navigate to the light switch and turn it on. Hence, an opportunity for execution improvement could be to make a voice-activated smart bulb.


How does the customer know they executed the job successfully?

In the event that the light bulb (seemingly) doesn’t work, how does the customer decide if the product is faulty, or if they’ve simply installed it incorrectly? How are success and error communicated?


In the event of failure, how does the customer get back on track?

Frustration leads to abandonment, negative reviews, and refunds. Ensuring that the customer will open up about their frustrations in this step will help identify the most important opportunities for solutions.


What must the customer do in order to finish the job?

For many jobs, this step may be quite obvious, but what about, say, booking a holiday? Where does the user access their itinerary? Where do they go to find important information about their hotel, or check how much they were charged?

The scope of a job can change even after the fact. What if, a week later, the customer needs to book a transfer taxi? How can we improve the user experience even more?

Quickly find the most innovative solutions

The jobs-to-be-done framework, and any other product design process, thrives with the introduction of collaboration tools that allow virtually anybody to express themselves freely.

Not all ideas can be communicated using words, and this is exactly where Freehand fits into the equation. Freehand allows stakeholders to communicate with words, sketches, diagrams, and rough illustrations made with simple shapes; it enables stakeholders to unleash their inner creativity at lightning speed.

In the case of JTBD, it’s the ideal opportunity to create a job map, allowing collaborators to weigh in with solutions that improve the job at its various stages—and create a better product for your customers.

Now that you know, use that new knowledge and collaborate in real time on a digital whiteboard

Transformative collaboration for all the work you do