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A jobs to be done primer to transform your innovation thinking

Tony Ulwick, Founder of Strategyn and leading proponent of Jobs to be Done (JTBD) theory and innovation thinker extraordinaire, ran a webinar the other day. I could not attend due to the time it was being held but I did watch the recording that was sent out to registrants. Fascinating stuff and here are my notes.

Straw poll results

He ran a straw poll to start with and the answers were interesting and also set up the rest of the talk and focus points. Results in bold at the end of each question.

  1. Is there agreement on your product team as how to best define the markets you serve? Roughly 50/50
  2. Is there agreement on your product team as how to best segment the markets you serve? Roughly two thirds no.
  3. Is there agreement on your product team as to what a customer “need” is? Roughly two thirds no.


JTBD theory in relation to innovation is mostly about having a new perspective and seeing innovation through a different lens. Especially if you need to transform and disrupt your (product, company, industry – select as needed), this is for you. It requires you to replace a solution lens with a problem lens. It contrasts seeing the world of innovation through the lens of what the company is doing (a product perspective). It advocates seeing the world of innovation through the lens of what the customer is trying to get done (a problem perspective).

The famous analogy from JTBD theory is that rather than see the world through the eyes of a drill maker (company and product), see it through that of the hole maker (customer and problem).

People buy products and services to get a job done.

  • Accomplish tasks
  • Achieve goals or objectives
  • Resolve and avoid problems
  • Make progress in their lives

Some more contrasts between JTBD and a company lens

Market definition:

JTBD LENS: A market is a group of people and the job they are trying to get done.

COMPANY LENS: Markets are defined around products, verticals, demographics, etc.

Needs definition:

JTBD LENS: Needs are the measurable outcomes that people want to achieve when getting a job done. Example, when cooking a meal, minimise the time it takes to prepare a meal.

COMPANY LENS: Needs are solutions, benefits, requirements, gains, exciters, specs, latent, etc.

Unmet needs:

DEFINED AS The important, measurable outcomes that people struggle to achieve

Segment definition:

JTBD LENS: Segments are subsets of people in a market, each with a different set of unmet needs.

COMPANY LENS: Segments are personas, use cases, people with different attitudes, demographics, etc.

Innovation Definition:

The process of devising a solution that gets a job done better / more cheaply.

In summary, you have a process (see below) that will allow you to conceptualize products you know—with certainty—will win in the marketplace BEFORE development begins.

The rest of the webinar is mostly about success Strategyn have had with customers (great examples given) and how to implement the ODI process.

I love this framework for so many reasons. I’ve written about if before as part of the research I did for my As a Service trend report in this post: As a Service trend research – customer solutions. As I said in the post about the JTBD framework: A framework for understanding customer needs, if ever there was an approach intended to help find solutions to customer problems or needs, this is it. So moving towards customer solutions, as opposed to having a product or company lens, that is crucial for all kinds of success going forward, least of all for innovation.

And also in that article and indeed the JTBD framework, is the business outcomes focus which I am also enamoured of and write about a lot.

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Features that delight – mostly – chat to self

No I’m not going mad. As the old adage says, the first sign of madness is talking to yourself. Thankfully, there is this BBC Science Focus magazine’s perfunctory dismissal of that and anyway, that’s not my point. I’m referring to text based chat, be it on mobile or PC and regardless of App, which is booming for both consumers and in the workplace.

I tried ages ago to find out if I could have a conversation with myself on WhatsApp. Turns out you can but it’s a right royal pain to activate. Also, its not persistent between devices, i.e. when I message myself on the phone, I expect to see that same message on my desktop App. That doesn’t work. See below how with the same profile, different messages between PC and iPhone based messages are shown.

Click to enlarge

I tried it on Facebook Messenger and it works – but this is an App I rarely use so no good for me. I need it where I conduct the majority of my personal conversations which is in WhatsApp.

One thing I got excited about concerning my workplace chatting which is predominantly in Microsoft Teams, is that the function is coming to Teams: Announcement by Microsoft Product Manager on LinkedIn. But it is not persistent on mobile yet 😢

I could look at a dedicated App but I don’t want another App like the interesting looking Talk to Myself App. I want to do it all in the Apps I already use heavily for personal or work purposes.

I guess all this begs the question why I want to even do this?

Main purpose and why

  1. Quick sharing between devices. Yes I could use something like Collections in Edge for links, but that doesn’t work for files so easily – they are getting a new Drop function I need to check out. For files I could use OneDrive and for notes I could use OneNote. This leads me to a second point.
  2. Because I spend so much time in chat, I don’t want to have to leave chat to open another App. Less context switching, which places a burden on ease of use, would be a boon.
  3. Journaling has many known benefits (just do a search for any number of good articles on this) but doing it in chat would be sooooo beneficial for reasons already mentioned. Check out the Talk to Myself App mentioned above on how journaling could work in a chat App. Love the tagging function especially for simple categorisation.
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Product led growth is not a panacea – it is a good start

Imagine not having to employ any sales or customer success people or adopt any of the tactics they use – because the product sells itself or gets utilised by users without any help. I’m being facetious, but in a nutshell that is the promise of product led growth.

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Employee Experience Platform – the birth of a category

This week, Microsoft announced the launch of a new product called Viva (disclosure). Actually it is far more than a new product in many ways. It is also an attempt at consolidating technologies in the employee experience category as well as creating the category. It is also a shrewd leverage of the Teams as a Platform strategy which I have written about several times. Since Viva will be served exclusively through Teams, this is a perfect execution of the Teams as a Platform strategy. And it brings the new product and its functionalities into the Flow of Work.

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Another shift the pandemic has accelerated – enterprise sales

B2B selling was already changing before COVID-19. I’ve written before about how I think customer success practices with their emphasis on product usage is changing sales to be more data and impact driven and more receptive to the user, not just the purchasing unit. This change is not unique to enterprise software sales – think about how you purchase cars these days, I did and it involved very few sales people or even physically seeing the car. VC Andreessen Horowitz looks to startups for inspiration and new research from McKinsey provides data points.

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Metrics that matter in Customer Success

I had an interesting conversation on LinkedIn the other day. It was based on a retrospective view of the customer success profession which I had written about on the State of Customer Success in 2018 after attending a conference. I captured the essence of the conversation in a DanelDoodle and discuss briefly here.

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The business of culture change in the tech industry

I had interesting chats with customers and colleagues recently that I wanted to capture and share. The context was enterprise collaboration technology but I also wanted to expand a little on the increasing business of technology’s influence on culture more broadly and vice versa. It probably raised more questions than answers.

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Cloudy with a chance of churn and how to retain your SaaS customers

One of the first things a customer will question in a downturn, is where they can cut or reduce recurring payments or OPEX. They will look for any reason, rational or otherwise. Licensing commitments aside, if you are a SaaS business and have been doing your job well, they should find only reasons to stay. Going forward, you can also do things to keep them committed.

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