The ‘Jobs Roadmap’ & Honing in on Customer Insights

By Kelsey Alpaio |  November 14, 2016

New product development and innovation teams need a compass — or else they’re destined to wander aimlessly. Stephen Wunker, protégé of Clayton Christensen and author of the new book “Jobs to be Done: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation,” makes the case that focusing on the reasons that customers “hire” a product or service can function as just that kind of navigation aid.

Wunker believes that effective innovation starts with developing a deep understanding of your customer, and the functional and emotional goals that drive their behavior.”

The ‘jobs to be done’ concept basically says that customers ‘hire’ products to get things — or ‘jobs’ as we call them — done in their lives,” says Wunker. “When the products that they’re currently using make it difficult to get a job done, they’ll start thinking about ‘firing’ those products in favor of new one.”

The framework that Wunker details in his book aims to help companies better understand what their customers are looking for — and create new products or services to fit those needs.In a recent conversation, Wunker explained his “jobs framework” and some of the challenges of applying it.

The Core of ‘Jobs to Be Done’

Stephen Wunker

I was working with Clayton Christensen back in 2004 when we got our first consulting client who was interested in applying “jobs to be done”…There needed to be a process to go from high-level insight to very detailed ideas. Over the course of the next dozen years, I’ve been working on developing that process. What I found is that “jobs to be done” can deliver not just product insights, but really fundamental [new] direction for businesses. Coupled with other sorts of insights that aren’t quite “jobs to be done” but are driven by it, it can lead to those detailed decisions that have to be made to develop the guts of a product or service.

The Challenge of Innovating

Companies have a really tough time ignoring their DNA. As long as [companies continue to] interpret markets through historical lenses and talk to their own people about how customers buy or markets organize, they will be challenged with perceiving who they are and what they sell….The wonderful thing about “jobs to be done” is it is extraordinarily customer-centric. It goes beyond the traditional company lenses of what people buy and how they behave to orient around the “whys” behind customer behavior.

Once you understand that “why” and are directed by it, then you have to shed your old DNA because you’re thinking about the world through a customer’s lens. And you can be very choiceful about how you serve that customer. You no longer have to give them a lot of stuff in hopes of satisfying people in a very indirect sort of manner, not knowing what exactly is going to register with people. You can have a much closer one-to-one correspondence about the driver of customer behavior and what is actually going to satisfy them. So, you’ll be a lot more personal in your innovation agenda.

One of the challenges for big companies is that they try to do too much under the umbrella of innovation, when focusing on a handful of things [the customer cares about] can move the needle a lot more effectively. “Jobs to be done” provides the compass to get that direction.

The ‘Jobs Roadmap’

The “Jobs Roadmap” [see graphic below]  is the overarching approach that makes things work. Generating insight devoid of a strategic reason about why you want that insight gets innovators really frustrated. And creating insight while having a broken ideation process or the lack of a mechanism to iterate and develop ideas also leads to a lot of wasted effort. The “Jobs Roadmap” knits everything together into an approach that is robust across a very wide set of circumstance, and yet, almost mechanistic in the predictability of its execution, which is what you need in a big company. It’s what you need to scale an innovation process.

Cognizant Using ‘Jobs’

We have an extended case study in the book about [IT consulting and outsourcing firm] Cognizant, which has been the fastest-growing company in the Fortune 500 for several years. Cognizant has made “jobs to be done” a central pillar of their innovation strategy. They use that to understand what their end users are looking for, and what the different intermediaries along the way are looking to get done as well. Cognizant has done an exceptional  job at making “jobs to be done” a common language. Not just a term, but a language within the corporation. Like many companies, they hesitate to ask customers a lot of “why” questions because they fear the customer expects the company already knows the answer. But in truth, when you start doing that — yes, some answers you do know, but oftentimes you also get surprised.

When ‘Jobs’ Goes Astray

A big error is that people try to focus on one or two jobs… Oftentimes people are a lot more complex than that. Jobs occur in hierarchies and there are several stakeholders. And then if there’s not a rigorous process for applying “jobs,” it all sort of falls apart. They’ve made the universe and set of questions too broad, and so they get a humongous amount of information that they don’t know what to do with. They haven’t created a linkage between the types of insights that they get, so it’s unclear what those insights actually mean in terms of what a company should do. They lack a rigorous process and framework for applying “jobs to be done.”

Another thing that companies do wrong is that they expect that you can just ask people “what are you trying to get done?” and “how important is that?” and “how satisfied are you with that?” There’s a lot of those questions that cannot be answered easily or accurately by just stating them flat out. It’s very convenient to a company to ask it that way, but it’s not how people think.

How to Integrate ‘Jobs’ into Your Existing Strategy

“Jobs to be done” doesn’t supplant [other] innovation methods. It goes alongside customer journey mapping, hackathons — you name it. It provides a way to go beyond those methods in understanding the “why,” not just the “what” and the “how.” But it also provides an integrative way to understand the customer, and then through the Jobs Roadmap, links that through to an ideation process… What’s great about it is that it all fits together in a very clean way, and a lot of companies struggle with fitting together their different approaches to innovation in a logical manner that also corresponds to the messiness of customers.

“Jobs to be Done: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation,”  co-authored by Steve Wunker, Jessica Wattman, and David Farber, has an official release date of November 15, 2016.