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What’s the job of your digital product or service?

What’s the job of your digital product or service?

  • Digital Transformation /
  • Leadership /
  • Product Management /
  • Product Strategy /

Clarity has never been more imperative than it is today. With the impact of digital transformation on your organization’s people, processes, products, and services, clarity is not only essential, but mission critical.

More often than I would like to admit, I meet people with a great idea for a new web, mobile or IoT product but there is a lack of clarity to move forward successfully. Frequently, product teams are tasked with challenges that intersect all functions of an organization without the necessary foundation for success. Consequently, thousands, or even millions of dollars in resources are required for successful delivery.

One primary area of clarity is understanding ‘the job to be done’ and how your digital product or service meets that need. Clay Christensen a professor at Harvard Business School, introduced the concept of Job Theory in the book Competing Against Luck – The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice. The book is focused on successful company practices and their subsequent growth.

Lack of clarity impacts the entire organization

Without clarity, the scope of potential success narrows and our understanding of what is required to reach our goals is compromised. Ultimately, it presents further challenges in assessing how expediently the objectives can be achieved. The lack of clarity impacts individuals, teams, and the organization.

How much time is being spent articulating the vision or value of the digital product or service initiative to people across the organization? Is it being articulated the same way each time or does it change depending on who it’s being presenting to? Is the audience being educated not just about the aspirations, but about the importance of the opportunity or problem working to solve? Are the right people onboard? Can the expectations be managed across the organization, from the C-suit down to the product and supporting teams?

It is essential when creating new and innovative customer experiences (CX) and more refined tools for employee’s, to have clarity. This enables you to make better decisions and navigate the unknown as you proceed from an idea to a strategy, and ultimately, to an effective execution.

It’s a very intriguing question. What is the job to be done by your product or service offering? In my opinion, everyone in an organization; from the CEO to the Product Team needs to be able to answer this question and understand its impact.

What is Jobs Theory and why does it matter?

Job Theory is another case for the importance of taking a customer-centric (aka user-centric or human centered design) approach to your product or service. At the most basic level it’s about understanding the choice your customers make to hire or fire a product. We can then look at why do customers hire your product over another and vise versa. Why are they making that choice? If they choose to fire our product and hire someone else’s product, what are they telling us? Is our product deficient? Is there a better product substitute?

Here’s how Clayton M. Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon & David S. Duncan. describe it in their book “Competing Against Luck – The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice.” 

“It’s not just another framework or marketing approach, but a powerful lens that has driven breakthrough innovation and transformational growth in some of the world’s most successful organizations—in wildly diverse arenas. Jobs Theory transforms how you define the business you’re in, the size and shape of the market in which you compete, and who your competitors are.”

3 Benefits of Understanding the Job of Your Digital Product 

Here are three ways understanding the job of your digital product or service can help you create the clarity and strategic advantage that will lead to greater success.

1) Identify how your product creates value and can be differentiated in the market. 

Once you understand the job of a product you can look at the experiences – online and offline – that need to be created to support that product, tackling the job to be done better than anyone else.

This approach can have a profound impact on your work. Let’s assume that you have been asked to lead the redesign of your website as part of your company’s ongoing investment into its digital transformation. You understand that the website needs to be something much more than a brochure; more than just a resource for the different departments, partners, and customers.

The website needs to be a platform, an integrated product that can effectively serve the needs across multiple user journeys. You may have over 80+ stakeholders and 200+ contributors (We’ve actually experienced this). You need to find a shared purpose and vision going forward. The first task is to evaluate the current ecosystem, to understand the current state of things. You need to take inventory, and map people’s needs across the organization. It’s easy to see there are many essential jobs. But are they the job(s) to be done? Or are they the things that have to be done to address the one “job to be done”?

Fast forward, between your stakeholder meetings and the ongoing research being conducted to inform the new strategy and direction of the website, you realize that you’re missing vital insight. You are unable to answer the question “what is the job to be done?”

The insight needs to come from having a deeper understanding of the customer. Engaging them to discuss their challenges, needs and the value drivers of their business. As you get a deeper understanding the job of the website becomes clear.

There is one job to be done by the website; be the companion guide to the customer journey. You present this clarity and are able to quickly tie it back to the businesses vision and key performance indicators. This new shared understanding by your stakeholders and contributors aligns the efforts to focus on the right things and deliver better than anyone else.

This clarity completely changes the conversation and trajectory around customer experience innovation and improving operational performance. You can look at how you engage customers, from the introduction, product customization, onboarding, navigating use, and the necessary support levels in an entirely unique and innovative way. We can look at the interdependencies of delivering on those experiences considering the people, processes, and systems. This allows you to not only focus on the highest level of value creation but to further differentiate.

2) Avoid the Feature Trap

It is easy to understand why product teams get stuck in the “feature trap”. Some organizations measure performance by delivery, as opposed to the value created. Others may be missing key processes or access to customer insight. Often, an organization may not have internal cross-functional teams to evaluate the impact a feature will have on users and the business. There may be scenarios where stakeholders stipulate a hard delivery-date or the product is being overextended to do too many jobs.

This is common when developing and evaluating strategic plans, product roadmaps, helping to prioritize features, and grooming the product backlog. Imagine an advanced manufacturing company that has been stagnant. They have been shifting from feature to feature and struggling to balance priorities with limited resources. The competing priorities and the broad range of value varying stakeholders placed on individual features stretched the product team too thin. With the team being pulled in a multitude of different directions, the team’s time to make progress is depleted, slowing down delivery, and ultimately burning out the product team. By understanding the job to be done for the product your team can find a new way to approach prioritization, permitting the team to focus on continuous improvement and delivery. With a shared understanding you can help to ensure the right capabilities, resources and technologies are implemented in alignment with and to fulfill the strategic priorities.

When we understand the vision and job of our digital product or service we can help to avoid the ‘feature trap’. This allows us to maintain clarity and focus on continuous improvement and delivery that can successfully move the needle.

3) Leverage BIG Data and the shift from transactional to consumption analysis. 

Not long ago, BIG Data was the only thing being discussed. It hasn’t gone anywhere but how we think about it has evolved significantly. The focus has shifted from the collection of data to the analysis of data.  So how does BIG data inform the job to be done of our product? The focus on analysis has fueled the development of advanced business intelligence that enables better decision making, personalization, and automation.  Today the major technology themes continuing to drive this forward momentum are mobility, cloud, and machine learning.

As you work to create better digital products and services there are two types of data we are evaluating; transactional and consumption.

Let me give you a very brief definition of the two types. Functionally, transactional data includes financial and logistical information related to customer inquiry, conversion rate, on-boarding time, number of active users, number hour worked, and application availability (Uptime), etc. Consumption data is focused on behavior, examining how the product or service is being used, identifying patterns, and contextually related outcomes based dimensions of time, location, attitude, etc.

When you understand the job to be done you’ll have a lens to analyze the data to give you invaluable context and deeper insights into the people, and processes that will inform the continued evolution of your product.  

Can you think of something similar you have experienced, when a deeper level of clarity could have transformed your work? I’m sure you can. Can you imagine the power of having that clarity and the impact? How the perspective transforms the way you work, your processes and the delivery of more impactful products and services. That is the power of understanding the job of your digital product. It pushes to develop a deeper understanding of our customers.

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