Tony Ulwick is the pioneer of jobs-to-be-done theory, the inventor of the Outcome-Driven Innovation® (ODI) process, and the founder of the strategy and innovation consulting firm Strategyn. He is the author of “What Customers Want” (McGraw-Hill) and numerous articles in Harvard Business Review and Sloan Management Review.
To identify opportunities for innovation, some companies focus on product leadership, some on operational excellence, and some on customer intimacy.
Some offer services; others offer goods. Regardless of which business model a company chooses, the fundamental basis for identifying opportunities for growth is the same. When companies understand that customers hire products, services, software, and ideas to get jobs done, they can dissect those jobs to discover the innovation opportunities that are the key to growth.
We first wrote about mapping a “job-to-be-done” in an article titled The Customer Centered Innovation Map (Harvard Business Review).
At the time, we felt we had developed an efficient yet simple system companies could use to find new ways to innovate. The method, which we call “job mapping,” breaks down the task the customer wants done into a series of discrete process steps.
By deconstructing a job from beginning to end, a company gains a complete view of all the points at which a customer might desire more help from a product or service—namely, at each step in the job. Then, with a job map in hand, a company can analyze the biggest drawbacks of the products and services customers currently use. Job mapping also gives companies a comprehensive framework with which to identify the metrics customers themselves use to measure success in executing a task.
The goal of creating a job map is not to find out how the customer is executing a job—that only generates maps of existing activities and solutions. Instead the aim is to discover what the customer is trying to get done at different points in executing a job and what must happen at each juncture in order for the job to be carried out successfully.
Back then, we had already created over 100 outcome-based creativity triggers that help our ideation session participants generate breakthrough ideas. Since 2009, we have invented and patented methods for applying jobs-to-be-done theory to market sizing and evaluating revenue potential. These and other advancements are now part of our Outcome Driven Innovation (ODI) process. Through our ongoing application of ODI, we have also discovered that:
- Defining the job-to-be-done as a purely functional job and at the right level of abstraction is critical to the successful discovery of breakthrough product and service solutions.
- Defining a market as a job executor and the job-to-be-done makes it possible to size a market far more accurately because we can learn what the executors will pay to get the job done perfectly.
- Segmenting a market around the customer’s unmet outcomes reveals the exact percentage of the market that is overserved and underserved, precisely which outcomes are unmet in each segment and to what degree. This has become the most powerful tool in the ODI arsenal as it forms the foundation for an effective market strategy.
- Most products only help customers get part of a job done, forcing them to cobble together solutions. Consequently, success often comes from helping the customer get more of the job done (as defined per the job map) on a single platform.
- People will not switch brands or pay more for products that only get a job done 1 or 2 percent better. Winning products and services must get the job done 20 to 30 percent better or more.
So how is it done? We’ve found that all jobs have the same eight steps. To use job mapping, we look for opportunities to help customers at every step:
Where can we innovate? To ﬁnd ways to innovate, deconstruct the job a customer is trying to get done. By working through the questions below, you can map a customer job in just a handful of interviews with customers and internal experts.
Start by understanding the execution step, to establish context and a frame of reference. Next, examine each step before execution and then after, to un-cover the role each plays in getting the job done. To ensure that you are mapping job steps (what the customer is trying to accomplish) rather than process solutions (what is currently being done), ask yourself the validating questions below at each step.
As deﬁned, does the step specify what the customer is trying to accomplish, or is it only being done to accomplish a more fundamental goal?
Does the step apply universally for any customer executing the job, or does it depend on how a particular customer does the job?
Deﬁning the execution step
What are the most central tasks that must be accomplished in getting the job done?
• Validate the steps
Deﬁning pre-execution steps
What must happen before the core execution step to ensure the job is successfully carried out?
• What must be deﬁned or planned before the execution step?
• What must be located or gathered?
• What must be prepared or set up?
• What must be conﬁrmed before the execution step?
• Validate the steps
Deﬁning post-execution steps
What must happen after the core execution step to ensure the job is successfully carried out?
• What must be monitored or veriﬁed after the execution step to ensure the job is successfully performed?
• What must be modiﬁed or adjusted after the execution step?
• What must be done to properly con-clude the job or to prepare for the next job cycle?
• Validate the steps
Finally, with a job map in hand, you can begin to look for opportunities to create value in a systematic and scalable way.
The questions below can guide you in your search and help you avoid overlooking any possibilities. A great way to begin is to consider the biggest drawbacks of current solutions at each step in the map—in particular, drawbacks related to speed of execution, variability, and the quality of output. To increase the effectiveness of this approach, invite a diverse team of experts—marketing, design, engineering, and even some lead customers—to participate in this discussion.
Opportunities at the job level
- Can the job be executed in a more efﬁcient or effective sequence?
- Do some customers struggle more with executing the job than others (for instance, novices versus experts, older versus younger)?
- What struggles or inconveniences do customers experience because they must rely on multiple solutions to get the job done?
- Is it possible to eliminate the need for particular inputs or outputs from the job?
- Is it necessary that the customers execute all steps for which they are currently responsible? Can the burden be automated or shifted to someone else?
- How may trends affect the way the job is executed in the future?
- In what contexts do customers most struggle with executing the job today? Where else or when else might customers want to execute the job?
Opportunities at the step level
- What causes variability (or unreliability) in executing this step? What causes execution to go off track?
- Do some customers struggle more than others with this step?
- What does this step’s ideal output look like (and in what ways is the current output less than ideal)?
- Is this step more difﬁcult to execute successfully in some contexts than others?
- What are the biggest drawbacks of current solutions used to execute this step?
- What makes executing this step time-consuming or inconvenient?
The real value of the jobs-to-be-done framework is that through its effective application, a company can improve its chances of introducing a winning product into the marketplace by a factor of five!