What is "Jobs-to-be-Done?"

3. How is JTBD used in practice?

The JTBD is the unit of analysis for customer value creation. It is used throughout the New Product Blueprinting process.

Jobs-to-be-done usefulness for B2B

In truth, JTBD is used throughout B2B marketing, not just the innovation processes. However, there are four specific areas where it should always be used to get the most out of Blueprinting: 1) Providing a strategic perspective, 2) Creating the scope in Step 1, 3) Providing the basis of Discovery Interviews and 4) Separating the core, focal job from the consumption job.

1. A strategic perspective

Whereas products come and go – technologies come and go – jobs are stable over time. We use new product technologies such as Facebook and LinkedIn– but the jobs they address are not new in the least. Facebook helps us to keep in touch with friends, document memories, and even entertain ourselves. LinkedIn can help us to expand our professional connections, market our services, or even get a job. We were doing these things before we had Facebook or LinkedIn.

It’s just that these new solutions do them better – and so we spend more time on Facebook than writing letters – and we spend more time on LinkedIn than at Rotary Club meetings. The new products outperform the old in addressing the same jobs.

2. Execution of New Product Blueprinting’s Step 1: Market Research

The “job” of Step 1 is to select a market to study. Consider that within B2B, we often have products that perform many jobs. Imagine that your company produces nitrogen. In a traditional scenario, you could define your segments along verticals such as agricultural, industrial, medical and energy. However, as an alternative, you could use a JTBD approach – and define job-segments as such:

  1. Provide nutrition to plants
  2. Inflate automobile tires
  3. Provide oxygen therapy

3. JTBD provides the basis of Discovery Interviews.

Let’s presume that you’ve scoped your project around the job, “Provide oxygen therapy.” You have taken a step back from your product, nitrogen, and instead are focused on the job. Now consider the three core phases of the Blueprinting Discovery Interview: Problems, Ideal State, and Triggered Ideas.

Each section of the interview is built upon a platform of jobs-to-be-done as applied to your B2B market. For example, within the Problems section, your interview questions would be variations on “What problems do you have when providing oxygen therapy?” For Ideal State, your questions would be variations on “What would oxygen therapy look like in your ideal world?” Finally, for Triggered Ideas, you can break down the process of provide oxygen therapy – and likewise probe about the issues that arise with each step of the process such as:

  1. Assess patient overall health
  2. Measure current blood oxygen level
  3. Verify that the Oxygen-Nitrogen mix is correct

Moreover, note that these steps are good job statements themselves. They begin with a verb, are clear, and are solution-independent. Within the Triggered Ideas section, you could essentially repeat the “Problems” and “Ideal State” gambits by asking, “What problems do you have when assessing the patient’s overall health?” soon to be followed by variations on “What would your ideal product be to measure the current blood oxygen level?

4. JTBD separates the core, focal job from consumption chain jobs.

Consumption chain jobs are the jobs we execute as we “consume” a product. For example: purchase, install, receive, learn to use, use, dispose, upgrade, etc. In this case, we have a solution in mind, such as an oxygen therapy machine – and we can compose consumption job statements such as:

  1. Learn to use an oxygen therapy machine
  2. Install an oxygen therapy machine
  3. Change the tank from an oxygen therapy machine

When a market appears to be mature, so that there's little opportunity, innovating with consumption jobs is a great strategy. Consequently, JTBD thinking is consistent with New Product Blueprinting and is essential to an effective innovation strategy. From innovating in mature spaces to adoption of new technologies, JTBD provides a roadmap for success.

Though a simple concept, JTBD somehow eludes mastery – and it can be worthwhile to read the works of JTBD thought leaders. Some favorites, in alphabetical order, are Scott Anthony, Lance Bettencourt, Clayton Christensen, and of course, the architect of modern JTBD, Anthony Ulwick. Further, the AIM publication "The Statue in the Stone: Decoding Customer Motivation with the 48 Laws of Jobs-to-be-done" provides a practical guide for the innovation practitioner. 

For more, check out the 2-minute video, Begin with customers' job-to-be-done, part of the B2B Organic Growth video series by Dan Adams.