How 3 researchers used the ‘jobs to be done’ framework

Earlier this year, strategist and researcher Stephanie Troeth and Adam Warburton, Co-op’s Head of Product, gave some of the Co-op Digital team Jobs to be Done (JTBD) training. Since then, our digital teams have tried out this way of working.

A quick introduction

JTBD is a framework for understanding the outcomes users are trying to achieve – this could be a job, a task or more widely their goals in life.

It’s been particularly popular in commercial organisations because it helps us understand where users underserved needs are and, therefore, where the opportunity for the business is in the market. More traditional user needs frameworks don’t say much about the market, and as the Co-op is an organisation looking to make a surplus to put back into member initiatives and community work, we thought it could be useful.  

In this post, 3 of our user researchers talk about their experiences using JTBD.

Vicki Riley, Ventures team

Functional, social and emotional motivations

We’re working towards developing, testing and improving an online platform that connects customers with products from independent sellers, providing benefit to their local community. It’s my job to understand the needs of customers and sellers so we can provide mutual benefit to both.

We used the JTBD framework to find out customers’ underlying motivations and desired outcomes for buying from small independent businesses. We also wanted to understand the competitor landscape from a customer point of view, and identify areas of opportunity, where customers are underserved in an area that’s important to them.

We started with interviews to identify functional, social and emotional jobs, and then created a survey to validate or disprove, then prioritise in terms of importance.

We found that JTBD has worked well while we’ve been facing a new challenge and figuring out a value proposition. This might be because it allows for wider thinking and delving deeper into motivations or desired outcomes, and takes the insights out of the current solution and up to a broader level that could be applicable across different categories.

It’s also been really useful when we speak to stakeholders. Categorising what people are trying to get done into functional, social and emotional needs helped senior stakeholders understand what’s important to people and also identify our value proposition. It became clear our proposition – the area where we were able to leverage some competitive advantage – was going to be more emotional, than functional or social.

It was the unintended consequences that people talked passionately about, for example, the conversations that buying from small independents allowed them to have with friends and the way it made them feel when someone complimented the thing they’d bought. JTBD allowed us to put our focus on these emotional and social elements when developing the service.

Simon Hurst, Healthcare and wellbeing team

A survey to identify underserved needs in the market

We wanted to understand where there were potential underserved needs so we could potentially build a service around them. To try and identify a gap in the market, we ran a survey to assess which jobs around getting access to healthcare we’d identified in interviews were more significant, and which of those users were unhappy with the current way of doing it.

It looked like this:

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 16.03.14

Our product manager Derek Harvie wanted to do the survey so we could back up our qualitative insights with some quantitative data. Seeing the data gave both the team and the stakeholders more confidence – data is, of course, very important to new businesses which is what the Healthcare team is aiming to be.

The results of the survey allowed us to map jobs according to whether people were underserved or not – and from that helped to determine the product strategy. This abstract graph is what we worked from:

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 16.04.31
The survey worked well. It’s given us additional confidence in our qualitative research. Whilst I can write a decent survey, I sometimes struggle to analyse raw quantitative data, so having Michael Davies, a data scientist at Co-op who could help us with that, was invaluable.  

However, writing a survey for JTBD is challenging. It necessitates a substantial use of matrix style questions. This results in the survey having lots of very formulaic questions, and runs counter to good survey design (something we’ve learnt a lot about through Caroline Jarrett).  

Also, recruiting people for surveys is expensive. Current quotes to go out to non Co-op members is between £3 to £5 per participant. We need to find a way to get these surveys out more quickly and cheaply.

Naomi Turner, Communities team

The switch interview

I’ve been researching how and why people participate in communities. It quickly became apparent that there are lots of tasks involved even when community organisers wanted to do something relatively simple, for example, arranging a meet up. We were interested in:

  1. How people performed these tasks, eg, with a Trello board/ringing round/emailing community members.  
  2. What they were ultimately trying to achieve, eg, a community dog walking day.

Looking at these things together would help us see if there were underserved needs we could potentially build a service around.

I interviewed 3 types of community member:

  1. New volunteers.
  2. Volunteers who had stepped up to an organisational role.
  3. Volunteers who had recently stepped away from an organisational role.

We asked each of them to recall, in detail, when they have switched from using one solution, to using a different solution (for example, moving to Google Docs to record member details from Microsoft Excel). This technique is called a ‘switch’ interviews – it aims to help us understand more about what pushes someone to change their behaviour, and what the pulls of a proposition might be.

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 16.05.48
Image: Intercom

Once we had a broad idea of the kinds of generic ‘jobs’ that people were trying to do, for example, how they manage recruitment or finances, who opens up the hall they use – setting up a process routine which meant they as organiser could step back on some tasks), we could break these down further and see broad patterns of activity (the tasks they perform for example?) across people’s experiences, and why.

It was challenging to apply the functional framework to varied and emotive reasons for participating in groups to achieve an outcome. It was also hard to understand what outcome they wanted from their participation in the group.  Creating the most helpful level of abstraction is key to needs being useful to designers to work with, and something we got better at knowing. We went in too low level initially and had things like ‘handling cash’ when it was the higher level that was more useful to design solutions for, in this case ‘managing finances’.

Where we’ll go from here

Overall, we’ve found that JTBD is a useful way of working. However, we think teams would get most of of it if they look at it as part of a toolset rather than as a framework, and tweak their use of it depending on their specific situation.

Vicki Riley
Simon Hurst
Naomi Turner

The Membership team is maturing, and so are our ways of working

On the Membership team we’re switching up how we organise ourselves to help us be more effective. Here’s why and how we’re doing it.

Evolving with the product

As teams mature, ie, they get bigger and the scope of work widens, it’s not hard to figure out that they’ll need to reorganise. American investor Ben Horowitz famously wrote about this in the book ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’. He said he believes that every time a team doubles in size, it should review its ways of working.

We’re doing something similar in the Membership team. Back in September, the product management team was just one person, Derek Harvie. Since we relaunched Membership, the scope of work has been getting larger so the team needs to scale up. The product team is now 4 people to reflect the change. One of those newbies is me.

Realising we’d outgrown stuff

When I joined, we had 3 teams: Blue, Orange and Pink. They were named after the colour of the post-it note that corresponded with what they were working on in the backlog. And that all made sense when the team was starting out; being lean and nimble negated the need to be aligned. But as our ambition for Membership grew, the team became more and more thinly spread and it became more difficult to properly focus on one thing, and really do it well.

Clarity around where we’re going (and how to know when we’ve got there)

We’ve introduced OKRs (objectives and key results) to make sure that everybody is moving together, in the same direction and aiming for the same things. Now, each team has a set of objectives and has agreed on a set of results that will show when it’s achieved what it set out to.

We looked for natural ways to split up the work so teams don’t have competing objectives. It means they can be in control of their own scope of work without lots of dependencies.

4 teams, 1 direction

At this point we naturally fell into 4 teams. This time, we’ve named them in a (slightly) more self-explanatory way. There’s:

  • More members (recruiting more members)
  • Member trading (looking at how our members shop with us)
  • Member engagement (engaging with Membership, causes and community)
  • Member services (managing the membership platform, ie, the backend infrastructure)

With clarity comes better prioritisation

Now we’re all on the same page we’ll find it easier to prioritise. Before, it was hard for the team to understand what to work on next because the tasks in the backlog fell into different areas.

Prioritising will be much simpler now we have the 4 teams working on different areas. Tasks are compared against other tasks from within that area so now it feels like we’re comparing apples with apples rather than apples with pears!

Better for us. Better for stakeholders

Working in this way is also really good in terms of how we’re working with stakeholders. The old way of working meant we had 30 plus stakeholders all wanting the tasks that fell under their area to be the priority. Hopefully, things will be calmer now each team has around 10 stakeholders to work with and include in decision making.

In a few more weeks we’ll be able to see if we’re achieving our targets and back it up with data, but at the moment it just feels like the right way to be working.

The team will continue to grow. Keep an eye on our work with us page.

Adam Warburton
Head of Membership Product