Wednesday, February 14, 2018

what is your Customer's Job to be done ?

Background: I discussed with a friend on an idea for a mobile application. While both agreed on a broad level about the need and necessity of the mobile application, the details of what specific problems the app with solve for the end users and how to identify those was still incomplete.

Both of us have the experience of having launched an application on Facebook that had very few takers. We were discussing about the specific aspects of the app that will be useful for the end user, which in turn makes them use the app more.

My friend mentioned the concept of Jobs to be done by Clayton Christensen and suggested that I explore the concept to see how the product’s offerings mapped to real customer needs/ problems people have.
What follows is notes from reading Clayton M Christensen’s article published in HBR about the Jobs to be done concept. I have given references for the source. Please also note that this is based on the articles read and I am yet to read the book ‘Competing against luck’ that talks about this framework.

A recent McKinsey poll found that 84 percent of global executives said innovation was extremely important for business growth, yet 94 percent were dissatisfied with their own innovation performance. Companies want to strategise their best in the interest of their future . They invest in expensive projects, use lot of data, try to focus on the correlations and conclude what the customer wants. But if the approach were successful, majority of the strategy initiatives must yield results. But actual results point to anything but that and 84 % of global executives are actually unhappy with the results delivered by their innovation programs.

According to Christensen, the fundamental problem is that most of the data companies collect is structured to show correlation: This customer looks like that one, or 68% customers say that they prefer version A to version B. While it is actually interesting to find the patterns, they don’t actually mean one thing caused the another. Though we know correlation doesn’t mean causation, most managers have grown comfortable basing decisions on causations.

Christensen says we are really missing out on what the customer wants to accomplish and he calls them as jobs to be done.  or in his own words “What they really need to home in on is the progress that the customer is trying to make in a given circumstance—what the customer hopes to accomplish. This is what we’ve come to call the job to be done.

This part where he explains what he means by Jobs is very important. Quoting from the HBR article “When we buy a product, we essentially “hire” it to help us do a job. If it does the job well, the next time we’re confronted with the same job, we tend to hire that product again. And if it does a crummy job, we “fire” it and look for an alternative. (We’re using the word “product” here as shorthand for any solution that companies can sell; of course, the full set of“candidates” we consider hiring can often go well beyond just offerings from companies.)”.

The Theory of jobs to be done came out of a course taught by Christensen over two decades. It was developed in part as a complement to the theory of disruptive innovation—which at its core is about competitive responses to innovation: It explains and predicts the behavior of companies in danger of being disrupted and helps them understand which new entrants pose the greatest threats.

The main difference is while the disruption theory doesn’t tell us what products or services to offer to customers, the jobs-to-be-done theory provides a framework to arrive at this. The key differentiator is the focus on the causal driver behind the purchase of a product or a service. Once we start looking at this, the perspectives are entirely different.

In the article, he takes the case study of a real estate developer selling condominiums ideally priced for people moving out of their family homes and single parents – a classic scenario where the conversation rates were low. Architectural changes done to the building still didn’t help. Typical response is to blame any or all of the following: bad weather, underperforming salespeople, the looming recession, holiday slowdowns, the condos’ location . The consultant brought into help took an entirely different direction and tried to understand from the people who bought the job they were hiring the condominiums to do. The interviews didn’t throw any light on who was most likely to buy or nothing emerged as such a profile on the buyers other than the fact that they were all downsizers.  

The most interesting factor that decided the purchase wasn’t even sold by the developers. It was the dining table. Fact was that the dining table had lot of memories associated with a family and people wouldn’t move without deciding what to do with the dining table. The developers not only increased the size of the dining room to accompany the old table, they also announced free moving for buyers,  two years storage for their old belongings and a sorting room where the customers can decide at their own pace what to discard. This helped in the buyers taking a decision peacefully.  Not only did the company raise the cost of the condos to include the additional costs, their sales also increased in a recessional market.

And the beauty of this all is that the insight allowed the company to differentiate its offering in a manner difficult for its competitors to understand , forget copying.

So the question is how to we define jobs to be done ?

Quoting from the article
“Job to be done” is not an all-purpose catchphrase. Jobs are complex and multifaceted; they require precise definition. 

Here are some principles to keep in mind
  1. “Job” is shorthand for what an individual really seeks to accomplish in a given circumstance.: This has to consider the experience a person is trying to create. In the above case study, a condo buyer’s experience is very different from a first time home buyer’s .
  1. The circumstances are more important than customer characteristics, product attributes, new technologies, or trends. Before they understood the underlying job, the developers focused on trying to make the condo units ideal. But when they saw innovation through the lens of the customers’ circumstances, the competitive playing field looked totally different. For example, the new condos were competing not against other new condos but against the idea of no move at all.
  1. Good innovations solve problems that formerly had only inadequate solutions— or no solution.Prospective buyers were looking for a much simpler life. For that they had to go through the hassles of downsizing their existing possessions. And they didn’t want to go through the same, though it would have resulted in a simplified living. And presenting a third option actually helped them to make the transition to a buyer.
  1. Jobs are never about function. They have powerful social and emotional dimensions. Reducing the stress of prospective buyers through the additional offerings made the key difference. 

Creating the right customer experience and integrating the processes into the company’s process is another key step in addition to identifying the job to be done and building a product or service around the same. The case study of the American Girl Dolls is shown as an example of a company that created the right experience for the purchase and use of the product , with the company process taking in all the experiences. 

The article also has a case study of the success of the Southern New Hampshire University’s (SNHU) distance learning program,

The diagram summarizes how jobs are fundamentally different.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Notes to Self : Intelligent Digital Mesh - Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2018

Note: I have given below my notes from reading Gartner’s strategic Technology Trends for 2018. I see that some of the ideas, like AI foundation, analytics and event driven apps can be explored for any transaction based application.  While the names may sound different, the underlying concepts are familiar 

According to Gartner, this mesh is  “Enabled by Digital Models, Business Platforms and a Rich, Intelligent set of Services to Support Digital Business.”
Following is how the article defines Intelligent, Digital and Mesh

Intelligent: How AI is seeping into virtually every technology and with a defined, well-scoped focus can allow more dynamic, flexible and potentially autonomous systems.
Digital: Blending the virtual and real worlds to create an immersive digitally enhanced and connected environment.
Mesh: The connections between an expanding set of people, business, devices, content and services to deliver digital outcomes.

The 10 trends are categorized under one of the above category as given below

  1. AI Foundation
  2. Intelligent apps and analytics
  3. Intelligent Things
  1. Digital Twins
  2. Cloud to the Edge
  3. Conversational Platform
  4. Immersive Experience
  1. Blockchain
  2. Event-Driven
  3. Continuous Adaptive Risk and Trust

I have given below the key points of each trend .

Trend No 1:  AI Foundation
The scope of general AI ( where the system could magically perform any task an human being could do and learn ) is speculative at the best. Organizations are better off to focus on narrow AI ( highly scoped machine learning solutions with suitable algorithms for optimization ) since that is where the action is right now.

Trend No 2: Intelligent Apps and Analytics
According the Gartner, AI has become the next major battleground in a wide range of software and service markets, including aspects of ERP. “Challenge your packaged software and service providers to outline how they’ll be using AI to add business value in new versions in the form of advanced analytics, intelligent processes and advanced user experiences”. Where the focus should be to take care of the human angle is made clear by the statement “Explore intelligent apps as a way of augmenting human activity, and not simply as a way of replacing people” 

Trend No 3:  Intelligent Things
“Intelligent things use AI and machine learning to interact in a more intelligent way with people and surroundings.” is the definition.  While  some intelligent things wouldn’t exist without AI, other existing things (i.e., a camera) are made intelligent with AI (i.e., a smart camera.) . 

As more and more intelligent things proliferate , the focus will shift from stand-alone things to collective things or swarms. A car being able to communicate to other cars, get input about traffic and weather conditions and make decisions is a classic example of this proliferation. 

Safe Swarm is a recent concept introduced by Honda (co-operative mobility eco-system) is a good example.

Trend No. 4: Digital Twins

“A digital twin is a digital representation of a real-world entity or system. In the context of IoT, digital twins are linked to real-world objects and offer information on the state of the counterparts, respond to changes, improve operations and add value.” While this can help with feedback about how products are managed , in the short term, in the longer term, the feedback can encompass improvement suggestions and usage changes.
While not immediately feasible, the long term prospects of this idea is very enticing. To quote from the article,  “Over time, digital representations of virtually every aspect of our world will be connected dynamically with their real-world counterparts and with one another and infused with AI-based capabilities to enable advanced simulation, operation and analysis,”. 

I am not sure if I can have a digitial twin of Ramanan that will help me practice yoga better in the absence of my teacher ;-)

Trend 5 : Cloud to the Edge 
“Edge computing describes a computing topology in which information processing and content collection and delivery are placed closer to the sources of this information.”   To decrease latency, the apps will be deployed in the cloud server which is closer to its user group. This will happen automatically with no human intervention. And depends on the network traffic and scaling requirement.  There are already companies that provide such services and is one example.

Trend No. 6: Conversational Platforms

To quote from the article “Conversational platforms will drive a paradigm shift in which the burden of translating intent shifts from user to computer. These systems are capable of simple answers (How’s the weather?) or more complicated interactions (book a reservation at the Italian restaurant on Parker Ave.)“.  Amazon Alexa, Google Now Microsoft Cortana and Apple Siri are only the start and the potentials are enormous for conversational platforms when they are applied along with AI and AR.

Trend No. 7: Immersive Experience
Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality are changing the way that people perceive and interact with the digital world.” When this is  combined with conversational platforms, a fundamental shift in the user experience to an invisible and immersive experience will emerge. Application vendors, system software vendors and development platform vendors will all compete to deliver this model. Apple’s release of ARkit and iPhone X, Google’s Tango and ARCore, make AR and MR an interesting area

Trend No. 8: Blockchain
As per the article, while the focus is now on financial services, the potential applications in other areas like government services, healthcare , supply chain has to be explored.  
And for those who want to implement Blockchain, here is a word of caution ”A practical approach to blockchain demands a clear understanding of the business opportunity, the capabilities and limitations of blockchain, a trust architecture and the necessary implementation skills. Before embarking on a distributed-ledger project, ensure your team has the cryptographic skills to understand what is and isn’t possible. Identify the integration points with existing infrastructures, and monitor the platform evolution and maturation. Use extreme caution when interacting with vendors, and ensure you are clearly identifying how the term “blockchain” is being used.”

Trend No. 9: Event-Driven
An event is defined as a state change that is of interest and a moment is a combination of such events and such a moment calls for a specific action or response. When this events happen across applications or business lines, technologies like AI, iOT make it easier to detect and respond. A quote from the article is given below.
“Business events reflect the discovery of notable states or state changes, such as completion of a purchase order. Some business events or combinations of events constitute business moments — a detected situation that calls for some specific business action. The most consequential business moments are those that have implications for multiple parties, such as separate applications, lines of business or partners.“

Trend No. 10: Continuous Adaptive Risk and Trust
When the levels of digitalization keeps increasing, so does the threat potential. The traditional ways of risk management and security doesn’t help. The risk management should be real time, continuous and adaptable. Gartner introduces the idea of CARTA. Quoting from the article, Continuous adaptive risk and trust assessment (CARTA) allows for real-time, risk and trust-based decision making with adaptive responses to security-enable digital business.“
The article also suggests couple of ways to make CARTA a reality. It suggests that “Integrating security into your DevOps efforts to deliver a continuous “DevSecOps” process and exploring deception technologies (e.g., adaptive honeypots) to catch bad guys that have penetrated your network are two of the new techniques that should be explored to make CARTA a reality.”