How Can Understanding A Customer Job Help A Product Manger?

by drjim on December 9, 2008

Product Mangers Need To Understand The 3 Fundamental Features Of Job Steps

Product Mangers Need To Understand The 3 Fundamental Features Of Job Steps

Last time we talked about “job mapping” how a customer “hires” your product to perform some task. If you can do this well, then you will be able to create an understanding of what aspects of your product the customer likes and is using as well as which ones he/she does not like and is not making use of. All of this understanding can go a long way in helping you to understand what features you need to add to your product in its next release.

The researchers who have come up with the idea of mapping how a customer uses your product spent over 10 years mapping lots of different types of products. As a result of this work, they discovered that there are three principles that all jobs have in common:

All Jobs Can Be Thought Of As A Process: This is actually an important insight – there is no job that can not be broken down into a set of steps. In order for a product manager to start to get some insights into innovative features that could be added to his / her product, the first step is to look at the product through the customer’s eyes and then map out how the product would be used by the customer to complete a specific job.

Once you have a clear understanding of the individual steps that your product is used by your customer for, then you can start to investigate how adding new features would allow you to improve how a given step is performed, or get rid of the need for a given input or output, or just cut out the step altogether.

One area that most products can be improved in is the area of step re-sequencing. If there is a step that occurs towards the end of the process in order to check that something has occurred, then adding a feature that will allow this step to be moved to the front of the process can make your product even more useful to your customer.

There Is A Universal Structure To All Jobs: No matter what product you manage, nor what types of customers use your product, all customers use your product to perform a job that has the following universal structure:

  1. Defining what resources the job needs.
  2. Getting any inputs that are needed by the job.
  3. Getting the inputs ready.
  4. Confirming that everything is ready to perform the job.
  5. Executing the steps that make up the job.
  6. Monitoring the results of executing the job steps.
  7. Making modifications to what you’ve done and re-doing steps.
  8. Concluding the job steps.

It’s important to keep in mind that for each product, some steps will be more important than others. This being said, keep in mind that each step is required in order to successfully complete the customer’s job. The product manager needs to realize that opportunities for new product features lurk within each job step.

Jobs Are NOT Solutions: Just because you love your product, does not mean that your customers do. You customers probably solve the problem that they use your product for in a number of different ways (not all of which involve the use of your product). When looking at the job steps that a customer is doing, the product manger needs to think in broader terms than just his / her product. It is entirely possible that the need for a new product may present itself.

These three guiding principles provide product managers with a foundation that they can use when they begin the search for what new features can be added to their products in order to increase the value of their product to their customers.

Next time we’ll dive into just how a product manager can go about creating a job map for his / her product…

Have you ever tried to break down how your customer uses your product into job steps? What parts of the universal job structure are most important to your product? Have you ever discovered the need for a different product as you studied how customers used your product? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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