What is Jobs to be Done Framework? Theory and examples.

Jobs To Be Done is believed to be one of the most effective frameworks for long and happy product life. Why so?

About 11 thousand startups are opened every hour in the world and as a result – more than 100 million a year. 90% of them will fail. Why? According to Fortune, the key reason is: “They create products that no one wants.”

In the age of Big Data and countless analytics tools, it seems easy to identify your user portrait. However, it’s not the issue. For a long time, Nokia and Motorola have worked to meet the needs of their customers: a low-cost mobile phone with good connectivity and a physical keyboard. The need was not taken from the ceiling but formulated based on the results of numerous studies. Are you using a phone like this 15 years after the boom?

It’s too complicated to create something modern and innovative when you are trying to resolve only the common problems of nowadays. People loved Nokia. The numbers showed that everything is good, the audience and sales are growing. But any statistics is just a visible part of the iceberg.

What is Jobs To Be Done Framework

Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard, proposed the “Jobs To Be Done” theory as follows:

“Most companies divide their target audience into segments based on user or product characteristics. But the user has a different view of the market. He just has a task that should be done. He is looking for the best instrument that could help to do that. “

The product you invent solves the user’s problem of “making the job done.” Users “hire” your solution to finish that job – and make the user’s life a little happier.

Imagine that John buys not a subscription to a website builder, but an opportunity to develop their business and if you dig deeper – a better life for themself and their children. User needs do not change as quickly as technology, so it makes sense for innovative companies to focus on problems and only then – work on solutions.

Beyond the philosophy of starting with a problem, not a solution, the theory of Jobs To Be Done consists of a set of principles and tools to help you better feel the user’s motivation to engage. It was not invented overnight, but gradually evolved and took shape for almost 75 years.

It all started with Joseph Schumpeter, an Austrian economist, and his theory of creative destruction. He noted that new innovative products tend to “steal” users from existing products and replace them. People used to ride horses but then cars replaced them.

This idea was further developed by William Deming, a statistician, and management scientist. He noted that:

Companies strive to improve their products, but it’s not enough. Eventually, someone will find a new solution to the issue, and users will simply switch to another solution.

The Jobs To Be Done theory is also based on the works of D. Kahneman, G. Klein, A. Tversky,  and others who have researched the decision-making flow: what influences users making irrational decisions, not acting for their best, and being inconsistent in expressing their opinion about the product. In an article for the Harvard Business Review and in Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton writes that growing user data is not helping companies, but leading them in the wrong direction.

The data shows correlations (68% of users like Page A more than Page B), but say nothing about the reasons.

The second part of the Jobs To Be Done theory- is context. Try answer: “What app do you like best – Instagram or YouTube?” For most people, it will be difficult to answer. The product itself has no value; it gains value when we use it to progress in a particular situation. Let’s reformulate the question: “When would you prefer Instagram to YouTube – and vice versa?” It’s easier? Instagram would be the obvious choice to while away the time on the subway or queuing up to order at a cafe, while YouTube would be the obvious choice for showing friends the meme at a party. The product does not change, the context changes.

Task + context – > Jobs To Be Done 

Pay the bill urgently – > Online banking

Find the video tutorial – > YouTube

To pass the time on the subway – > Instagram

Who will benefit from the Jobs To Be Done Framework

Jobs To Be Done Framework has no scope or user role restrictions: it could suit the top manager in a development company and UX designer.

In 2002, Apple sold 376,000 iPods. In 2008, sales reached 55 million. The iPod has been recognized as one of the most successful and fastest-growing products in the world. However, in 2004, Apple began developing another device that would kill the iPod – the iPhone.

Why did the company decide to take such a step? In 2004, iPod sales were growing, there was no reason why they could fall (and the next 4 years confirmed it).

But Apple understood that growth couldn’t last forever. You could enjoy leadership and wait for new players to replace you and take first place in the market. And you could play ahead of the curve and take control into your own hands.

Jobs To Be Done Framework gives you the tools to move in that direction:

  1. Identify your competitors correctly.
  2. Understand user motivation.
  3. Decide in which direction to move on.

1. Identify your competitors correctly

When we accept a user’s point of view, we open up a brave new world of competitors that have not been revealed before.

For instance, you are going to open online service for the delivery of flower arrangements in beautiful boxes. Should you be afraid of the UrbanStems US online store? If you are serving the demand for “buy flowers quickly”, then probably you should. But if your user’s JBTD is “surprise a girl for her birthday,” then rather, you should worry about a balloon store or a rooftop dating service.

Competition. 3 main types

There are 3 types of competition that explain most of the situations you can face while developing your product or starting a business.

  • Direct Competition – Products are “hired” the same need and deliver the solution in the same way (McDonald’s and BurgerKing).
  • Secondary Competition – Products do the same job but their approaches aren’t the same. For example, Skype competes with flying in business class because they both are used to host a business meeting.
  • Indirect Competition – Products do different jobs with conflicting final results. For instance, Pete loves burgers but at the same time craves being athletic. BurgerKing’s burger and FitBit fitness bracelets solve different problems but share the target audience.

To move forward, you should either make the outcome of another product less attractive to the customer or move your product to another segment so that there is no conflict anymore.

2. Understand the motivation of the users

Most of the current studies concentrate on the way the product is consumed. When you are researching possible job stories (what is the product hired for), it’s easier to understand why the customer has chosen your product to solve their problem.

The research is based on the assumption that four forces influence the customer at the moment of making the decision:

  1. Dissatisfaction with the current situation – “A / B tests cannot be performed on this mailing service.”
  2. The new solution attractiveness – “Another service has this function”
  3. The anxiety that something might go wrong – “What if my newsletter ends up in spam if I use the new service?”
  4. Attachment to the current product – “I have been using the service for a long time and I know everything there.”

To identify these four factors, interviews should be conducted with the users. It is important to consider not only the rational but the emotional aspects of the decision too (“did it rain when you purchased?”):

  • What mailing service have you used before? Where have you heard about it from?
  • Describe step-by-step what happened when you logged in to your account?
  • What was wrong with the previous service? When have you thought about replacing it?
  • Where have you heard about our service from? How many options you have been considering?
  • How long did it take you to decide? What kept you from buying?

Remember, your goal is to talk to the buyer – the person who made the purchase decision, and this is not necessarily the user. For example, if an analyst uses the service, but the purchase was made by the business owner, you need to talk to the business owner.

People are inert by nature. In most cases, they will use the familiar solution instead of looking for something new simply because they are already ok. Something out of the ordinary must happen to make you go for Dropbox when you are have already been using Google Drive. Another important point is that users do not buy your product but replace something else with it.

Customers are not new in the market when they buy your product. They are replacing the previous solution with yours.

Before the new mailing service, there was SMS distribution and before it, there were cold calls (indirect competition, which we talked about).

The cost of switching to another product = (habit + satisfaction) * fear of change.

It is critical for a company to catch this moment of internal struggle and nudge the user in the right direction.

3. Decide which direction to go next: from User story to Job story

When creating a product, it is always important to consider the target audience. There are two approaches for this – in addition to Jobs To Be Done framework, there is a User Story method.

User Story – A short description of your product’s function from a user perspective.

To do this, you conduct qualitative research, analyze data and create several personas – collective images of users – from key segments of your target audience.

The formula for creating user story:

How (user type)As a fashionista Jennifer (user image)
I want (action / goal)I want to buy a new dress in one click (action)
To (result)To spend more time on shopping and not placing an order (result).

A persona consists of many elements: name, place of work and position, demographic characteristics, goals, technical background, statement, photographs/pictures of the person.

The goal of personas is to create empathy for the team, especially those who don’t communicate with users. The goal of the user story approach is to remind you who your user is and to help you make decisions focused on user engagement.

This is a very useful tool if you:

  • Develop a website for a law firm
  • Develop landing of an event for Forbes readers
  • Prepare an email campaign for inactive startup users.

In all these cases, your target audience is defined and known, you are not attracting new users.

However, it doesn’t work in other situations:

  • What if your audience is too large and segmented? Everyone has different goals, different professions, different backgrounds. It is even more interesting when the audience is approximately homogeneous in terms of personal and socio-demographic characteristics. At this point, attempts usually begin to somehow combine everything into “Lana, a lawyer” or “Alex, a student” – this means that you start making assumptions.
  • What if you want to attract new users? After all, personas are based on the data of current (not potential) users.

Let’s talk about Uber( from the perspective of Jobs To Be Done examples). It seems there are definitely two specific personas: the driver and the passenger. In fact, this characteristic describes the context only partly: depending on the situation, the driver may be in the passenger’s seat, and vice versa. That’s why it’s not efficient to look for what makes our users different, but what unites them.

Intercom (San-Francisco, US) invented job stories and uses them instead of user stories.

Job Story shifts the focus from personal characteristics to context.

Job Story Formula:

 Formula: Example:
 How (user type) As a fashionista Jennifer (user image)
 I want (action/goal) I want to buy a new dress on the website in   one click (action)
 To (result) To spend more time on shopping and not   placing an order (result).

Personas let you look at your users under a magnifying glass, but they don’t answer the question of why they continue to use your product and why new ones will come.

It’s important to understand what your current audience looks like – this comes after regular research and interviews. But specifically before developing a new service and product strategy, you need a job story.

An example from Intercom, a company that develops solutions for interaction between business and users. A few years ago, they made a new functionality – a map that enabled the customers to see where their users were concentrated. The feature was hugely popular, and the task for the managers was to develop it further. Improve geographic accuracy? Add interactivity?

Intercom researched the job of a map and found out that it was used primarily at trade shows, presentations, and on social media to impress users or investors. Therefore, the company decided to focus on the appearance of the map (which made it less accurate) and add the ability to easily share it on social networks. By degrading the map itself, they have improved the user experience.


Reaching this point means you have learned about the basics of the JTBD framework, the right conditions for implementing, and its stages that include identifying your true competitors, getting users’ motivation (problems that are being solved by hiring the product), and composing job stories. Make sure to give this framework a try if you found the article useful.