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If you're a product manager, I'm pretty sure you've already heard about the JTBD framework, either from your colleagues or by reading about it online. You might also have heard fans of the framework rave about its effectiveness. But how can you trust this praise without learning about actual success stories? Let me share a couple of Jobs To Be Done examples with you and show just how powerful a framework it is.

But First: What is Jobs To Be Done?

Jobs To Be Done is a framework for clearly formulating what customers want and prioritizing the solutions that are able to best cover these needs.

This framework is the brainchild of Tony Ulwick—a veteran in innovation management from IBM. Tony was one of the pioneers and vocal supporters of the idea of building new products by prioritizing the desired outcomes that the customers get from them.

As part of this philosophy, he formulated a framework that would make it easy for everyone to think and act in an outcome-driven way and called it Jobs To Be Done. In his book on JTBD theory, Tony argues that people do not simply buy and use products. Instead, they are hiring these products to do a job that they were supposed to do themselves.

According to JTBD, you are not buying a Grammarly subscription. Instead, you are hiring Grammarly to help you write like a pro.

There is also a famous quote explaining JTBD:

"People don't want a quarter-inch drill, you want a quarter-inch hole."

By identifying these “jobs” that your customers are ready to pay for, you will be able to focus all of your attention and resources on a product that is able to successfully perform this job for them and make your customers eager to hire your product instead of handling that job by using alternative solutions.

There can be different reasons why a person would want to hire your product. However, you can almost always arrange them like this:

job to be done infographic

Each job will likely consist of a functional aspect and an emotional one. The emotional aspect, in its turn, has a personal and a social dimension. Let’s look at these one by one and understand what they are about.

Functional Aspects: This is the case when the users want to choose a specific product based on the practical benefit they are getting from it.

For instance, let’s look at the Job To Be Done for a work laptop.

When I am working remotely, I want a laptop that I can take with me and work from anywhere so that I can be productive and do my work from outside the office.

In this case, your work assumes constant travel and you are rarely able to find an outlet to charge your work laptop. So, an important functional aspect of your Job To Be Done would be to have a laptop that is able to hold the battery for the entire workday.

So, this is what the JTBD would look like with our functional aspect highlighted more clearly.

When I am working during travel, I want a laptop with a battery that can last a full work day so that I can take it with me and work from anywhere, so that I can be productive and do my work from outside the office.

Emotional Aspects: Your customers are not always making their decisions based on rational criteria. Sometimes the motives behind their purchases are purely emotional.

Looking at the example of the work laptop above, apart from it having a large battery, you might also care about the way it looks because a good-looking laptop would make you feel cool and fashionable.

Therefore, we can have another version of our JTBD above that take your feelings into consideration and highlights them.

When I am working during travel, I want a smart-looking laptop that I can take with me and use to work from anywhere, so that I can look fashionable when working in public.

The emotional benefits that you want to get from the products you purchase will also differ based on the social factor. Therefore, you can have two dimensions for the emotional aspects of your JTBD.

Personal Dimension: These are the emotional benefits that you are experiencing personally and not as a member of a social group.

For instance, you could prefer buying a powerful laptop that is able to run the latest games because you are an avid gamer, and apart from work, you would also enjoy playing games on your laptop.

Social Dimension: In this case, the emotional benefit that you are getting from hiring your product is about you being a member of society in general or a particular social group.

You could prefer buying a MacBook because its priciness and looks indicate the high social status of its owner.

Now that we know the philosophy behind JTBD and the motivations of our customers, let’s look at the way you can formulate a Job by following this framework.

How to Craft a Job Statement

An infographic breaking down how to craft a job statement with the template “when [context], I want to [job], because I am [motivation], so I can [outcome].”

In jobs theory, the format for writing a job statement is not set in stone and different companies and product teams use different variations of it. In my case, I prefer using the following template:

When {context}, I want to {job} because I am {motivation}, so I can {outcome}.

Here’s what each part of this format means:

Context: Here, we are giving a bit of background to let the people who will read this job statement know where and when this job is happening.

If we return back to our JTBD for a work laptop, the context would be the beginning when we state that the user is working during travel. This context helps us understand why the user would prefer having a laptop instead of a stationary PC and why having proper battery life is important.

Job: This is the actual task that the user wants to complete. We need to be careful not to write down anything here that represents the user journey instead of the job they want to perform. These two look similar at first glance and it is quite easy to use the wrong one.

Imagine you are writing JTBD for a hotel booking app. It would sound natural to have a job that says “I want to be able to sign up” or “I want to be able to search for hotels”. However, these are not jobs (they are mere steps in the journey) and they do not properly represent the eventual task and the benefit that your users want to get from your app.

The real task, in this case, would be something similar to this: “I want to find hotels that match my budget and fit my vacation dates”. This is what you eventually want to achieve in a booking app, right? To book with the right hotel.

Motivation: This is the core reason behind your users’ need to complete this job. Knowing the motivation of your users will help you better understand how frustrated they feel when the job is incomplete and how happy or satisfied they'll be when your product covers the job for them.

Outcome: Finally, we have the eventual result when the user has successfully completed the job. With a well-formulated outcome, you will be able to visualize what success looks like to your customers and make sure that your product is able to achieve what your users were expecting from it.

Now, with all of the components clear, let’s create an example JTBD by following this format.

When I am working from home, I want to use a noise-canceling application because I feel awkward when my dog is barking in the background during work calls, so that can look more professional in front of my colleagues.

I really like how this looks. Everything is clear and you can easily understand what your customers want and why they want it.

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Examples of Product Successes Using JTBD

Thanks to its outcome-focused approach, JTBD has become a popular tool among both digital products (like Apple and customer messaging giant Intercom) and physical products (like BOSCH) and has helped many of them achieve great heights. Let me tell you about the success stories of a couple of them.

Example #1: How LeanStack used the JTBD framework to find out that they had already covered their customer’s jobs

I first heard about Ash Maurya from an interesting framework and tool that you can use to formulate your business plan—the Lean Canvas.

Apart from creating the Lean Canvas itself, Ash soon started working on a digital platform LeanStack that would help entrepreneurs fill in a lean canvas online, and manage the information in it by constantly validating/invalidating their hypotheses and updating the canvas based on these learnings.

leanstack jtbd framework screenshot
Source: LeanStack

This product management tool came with a great user experience and a solid value proposition that was matching customer pain points. So, it was quite popular and entrepreneurs enjoyed using it to find the ideal business plan for their startups. One metric, however, was not great with LeanStack—retention.

Ash was noticing that the majority of users would soon leave the product and never come back. In an effort to find out the reasons behind it, Ash started talking to the users who had abandoned LeanStack to find out the reason they were using the tool and the reason they stopped coming back.

To determine these needs, Ash used the JTBD framework and soon created the core jobs that the LenStack users had in their minds when subscribing to that product. Although the actual job statements are not public, I can make an educated guess that it looked something like this:

When I'm in the process of developing a new business model, I want to create a Lean Canvas because I am looking for a structured way to outline my assumptions and test my ideas, so I can identify potential risks and opportunities, prioritize my resources, and build a scalable and sustainable business.

As soon as the core job statement for LeanStack was clear, Ash understood the reason behind the low retention rate—users had simply successfully completed their jobs and left.

This learning encouraged Ash to start developing supplementary products that would be able to cover the jobs that appeared as soon as the startup founders finished their job of creating a business model.

One of these jobs was about the growth phase of the startup and looked like this:

When starting a new business, I want to identify the most effective traction channels for my product or service because I am looking to gain traction and grow my customer base, so I can achieve sustainable and scalable growth.

To cover this job, Ash came up with the Traction Roadmap, which was based on the framework with the same name.

The traction roadmap helps entrepreneurs calculate the amount of traction that their startup needs in order to maintain a state of exponential growth, which is something that both startups and investors dream about.

The tool could also show the required metrics that the startup needed to hit for each quarter in order to reach its goal. These metrics include the following:

  • Amount and conversion rate of referral traffic, sales traffic, and regular traffic
  • Activation rate
  • Revenue conversion rate
  • Churn rate
  • Retention, and more

It means that the entrepreneurs using this tool could convert these quarterly metrics goals into OKRs for their startups and focus their efforts on reaching them.

The nature of the job and the way that Traction Roadmap was covering it were able to significantly increase the retention rate of LeanStack as entrepreneurs would constantly return back to the tool to review their current traction and obtain goals for the upcoming quarter.

Example #2: How Kroll Ontrack used JTBD as a persona template to zero in on what’s important

Kroll Ontrack is a service that allows legal professionals to automatically go over a massive list of online legal documents and discover laws, court decisions, cases, and other important pieces of information that they can use in their day-to-day work.

Back in 2001, when the product was still very new, Kroll was struggling with entering the market of legal document discovery despite the large potential for growth and revenue there.

But, luckily, after employing Strategyn Consulting to thoroughly analyze their product development processes and practices using the outcome-driven innovation framework, Kroll Ontrack quickly understood that the reason behind their struggle was that they did not properly understand the needs of their customers.

Therefore, the management team started an intense customer discovery process with the goal of defining the user persona of the legal expert that would buy and use their product. To make the persona definition more effective, apart from gathering traditional data like customer demographics, Kroll Ontrack decided to also use the Jobs To Be Done framework and the Job Statement template.

Again, there is no public Job Statement for the product, but, based on the market they were targeting and the use case, it would look something similar to this:

When working on a legal case, I want an electronic document discovery solution that can help me easily find relevant information and evidence in digital documents, because I need to build a strong case and be able to access important information quickly and efficiently.

Knoll Ontrack did not use a single Job Statement though, considering the complexity of the product they were building, they had multiple jobs that they could cover for both the legal experts and other specialists that were involved in the document discovery process.

The result of using the JTBD framework was the ability of Kroll Ontrack to focus its resources on covering these jobs and becoming a leader in the market.

Example #3: How BOSCH used JTBD to target the right market with its circular saw

You read that right! Yes, people don't just use JTBD for digital products, and this example is about the German power tools giant BOSCH and an exceptionally-popular circular saw that they created—the CS20. Here’s what it looks like.

image of bosch power tool

This story might feel a bit unusual for you—the digital product manager. However, the process of product discovery, development, and reaching a product-market fit is very similar to how it works with digital startups too.

The story starts when BOSCH decides to enter the U.S. market with its power tools. Specifically, they were interested in the lucrative circular saw market. This market was relatively saturated with local and international brands.

So, to be able to compete with these established players and successfully secure its own piece of the pie, BOSCH decided to do market research and analyze the needs of the customer segment who would eventually buy the product—carpenters.

They utilized the Jobs To Be Done framework to identify the variety of jobs that carpenters would cover using circular saws. What they found was a wide variety of tasks ranging from the ordinary creation of boards out of sawed-off logs to the delicate woodworking of furniture masters.

They could not cover all of these jobs. Therefore, they also analyzed how the existing alternatives were able to cover each job and decided to focus on the job that was the most underserved:

Finish-quality cutting of wood in a straight line and under an angle.

Thanks to the proper identification of a specific customer need and the development of a saw that was able to perfectly do the job, BOSCH’s CS20 soon became one of the most popular tools for carpenters out there.

Example #4: How Microsoft revived its assurance business with JTBD

Our next story is about the giant Microsoft and its Software Assurance business that experienced a significant phase of decline recently.

microsoft software assurance screenshot
Source: Microsoft

In order to save it, Microsoft started investigating the core reasons behind the decline by interviewing both existing and churned users. What they found was a high level of dissatisfaction with the way Microsoft handled licensing for its service and a wide variety of underserved jobs.

Using the JTBD framework, they quickly defined the jobs that their customers had and prioritized them based on how unmet they were. Then they started fixing these underserved needs with new product features, improved onboarding on existing ones, and great UX design in general.

Here are two of the many different jobs that they found.

Procurement managers need to efficiently manage their company's software licensing while minimizing costs and staying within budget.

IT professionals need to ensure that software deployment and updates happen smoothly and without errors while minimizing the impact on end users.

To cover these jobs, they added the possibility to manage current and past licenses as well as view and mitigate any software conflicts when applying these licenses.

The result of these efforts was the successful revival of the Software Assurance business, as it started to grow and develop a healthy bottom line.

Example #5: How Clarity used JTBD to improve the effectiveness of customer discovery

Clarity is an online marketplace for startup founders and entrepreneurs. The marketplace connects users to experts in specific fields, allowing them to connect, get advice, and seek counseling through calls hosted by Clarity.

Its founder, Dan Martell, is a proponent of the JTBD framework and has actively used it during the customer discovery sessions for the product (before selling Clarity to Fundable in 2015).

According to Dan, JTBD has allowed the Clarity team to focus their thinking and the way they interview users on the actual needs and the jobs that these users need to cover by hiring Clarity.

Dan soon found out that before joining Clarity, its users were using alternative solutions such as joining professional communities on LinkedIn and taking part in trade shows and professional conferences.

This was a gold trove for the Clarity team, as they could ask their users if these alternative solutions properly covered their jobs and probe to find out the underserved aspects—letting them focus on building solutions that would handle these underserved areas.

JTBD Helps You Get to Know Your Users Better

As we can see from the five examples above, the JTBD framework has been quite an effective tool for stakeholders, founders, and product managers. Using this framework is a simple and powerful way to identify the core needs and desires of your customers and make sure that the product you build is something that users will happily hire to handle the jobs they have.

JTBD is among the many valuable product management frameworks that you can consider using in your day-to-day work.

For further reading on JTBD, I recommend checking out the following authors:

If you cannot commit the time to read these books, then consider benefiting from our lightweight product digest by subscribing to our newsletter.

Suren Karapetyan
By Suren Karapetyan

Suren Karapetyan, MBA, is a senior product manager focused on AI-driven SaaS products. He thrives in the fast-paced world of early stage startups and finds the product-market fit for them. His portfolio is quite diverse, ranging from background noise cancellation tools for work-from-home folks to customs clearance software for government agencies.