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It’s the Jobs-to-Be-Done, Stupid!

I do product management for Spigit. I’ve done product management for other companies as well. And let me tell you, the easiest thing in the world is to fall into the trap of focusing on how customers are using your product. Product forms your relationship with customers. It’s how you know them. They will tell you about your product, and the features they want improved. You can’t not listen to that. Of course, you’re going to improve your product.

But don’t confuse that with understanding what your customers need.

Just because you’re on top of what you’re customers need from your current product, doesn’t mean you’re on top of market changes. Two titans of the television industry remind us of that. They have, in recent weeks, been dismissive of a rumored Apple HDTV:

Sharp isn’t paying much heed to rumors that Apple is developing an HDTV. Nor does it have much reason to, says Kozo Takahashi, head of the company’s operations in North and South America.

All Things D

“TVs are ultimately about picture quality. Ultimately. How smart they are…great, but let’s face it that’s a secondary consideration.” – Samsung AV product manager

TechCrunch

And there you have it. Apple HDTV? Whatever.

Of course, one might be reminded of the comment by Palm’s CEO before the Apple iPhone was introduced: “PC guys are not going to just figure [phones] out. They’re not going to just walk in.” Ouch!

What we’re seeing is incumbents falling back on the thing that got them to their position: features. This is feature-led innovation. It’s got its place in the market, but relying only on it puts companies at risk for missing either (i) critical market shifts; or (ii) emerging needs that will drive organic growth.

Divergence between Product Features and Jobs-to-Be-Done

In the graphic below, a typical scenario for feature-led innovation is depicted. What happens is that over time, companies lose touch with where the market moves, with customers’ changing jobs-to-be-done.

When a company “makes it” in the market, it has the features that meet what customers are trying to get done. On the graph above, that’s set as “Time 0”, where features match Job 1. Given this is the ticket to success, a company will of course continue to develop these features. And the people who were looking for Job 1 fulfilled will follow along as the new features are rolled out.

Somewhere along the line, a new job-to-be-done emerges. Call it Job 2. New jobs enter the market all the time, via what Re-Wired Group’s Bob Moesta calls the “push” force. After Job 2, Job 3 emerges. And on and on.

But many companies are never aware of this. There are too many customers. Product is selling. You know your company’s product, and you’ve gotten lots of feedback for improvements. Systems are in place to reward and nudge you further along the path that fulfills Job 1. When they do solicit feedback from customers, it’s all Net Promoter Scores, focus groups for new features, surveys, customer service ticket analysis. Believe me, I really can appreciate how companies get lulled into this cycle of feature-led innovation. Professor Freek Vermeulen of the London Business School calls this the innovation “success trap”.

Meanwhile, customers cast about for ways of fulfilling their new jobs-to-be-done. They improvise. They settle. They experiment. They’re open to new entrants that meet their emerging jobs. And this is how it happens to companies.

Let’s look back at what the Samsung product manager said: “TVs are ultimately about picture quality. Ultimately. How smart they are…great, but let’s face it that’s a secondary consideration.”

Here are three jobs I’d personally like fulfilled that aren’t about picture quality:

Situation Job to Be Done Success Metric
When I turn on my TV I want a set of recommendations
based on my viewing habits
Increased awareness of
shows that interest me
When I want to share a moment I want a link to post to
Facebook or Twitter
Decrease steps it takes to
share on social networks
When I’m watching a sports
event
I want to order food for delivery Decrease time it takes to find
food and place order

The first two of those jobs have emerged based on new technologies in other arenas (recommendation engines, social networks). The third is a tried-and-true job that’s been around forever. Might there be a play to improve that via my TV?

All three of those jobs-to-be-done are divergent from the ongoing focus on picture quality espoused by the incumbent TV leaders.

Parable of Digital Cameras

The feature race of the HDTV manufacturers has a parallel in the digital camera industry. A key feature of digital cameras has been the megapixels. The higher the megapixels, the better the image quality. It has been escalating so much in recent years, Consumer Reports ran a piece wondering when the megapixel arms race would cease.

But in another case of new jobs emerging, lower end digital cameras are seeing their sales decline. Why? As the L.A. times noted in December 2011:

According to a survey by NPD Group, 27% of photos and videos taken this year were shot with smartphones — up from 17% last year.

Wait a minute. Are you telling me that with all that megapixel firepower, we’re gravitating toward phone cameras? What’s wrong with people these days?

Nothing actually. There’s always been the job-to-be-done of capturing moments. It’s just that lugging around a separate camera everywhere you go is a pain. But people want to be connected – talk, messaging, email, surfing – and will gladly carry their phone with them. Which is quite sufficient to fulfill the job of capturing moments. Megapixels be damned. Of course, the megapixels are getting better on smart phones too. Clayton Christensen must be amused by the ongoing disruptive innovation.

Sharp, Samsung…heck, all companies…are you listening? How well do you know the emerging jobs-to-be-done by your customers?

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter, and I’m a Senior Consultant at HYPE Innovation.

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Should I Buy the Apple 3G iPhone or Nokia N95?

I’m in the market for a new phone. And I’m pretty damn easy.

Apple has now released the next version of its phone, the 3G iPhone. With all the buzz around it, it’s hard not to consider buying one. But before taking the plunge, I wanted to understand what I’m getting myself into. I also wanted to consider what many people claim is a superior phone on the market, the Nokia N95.

But first, about my being pretty damn easy…

I’m a Mobile Phone Luddite

When I bought my current mobile phone, I really didn’t want all the fancy stuff. Just the ability to talk to someone. And that’s just what I got with my Nokia Sprint phone, pictured below:

Not much “smart” about that phone. Just cheap and functional. Any phone that does the things I list in the picture above will be a quantum leap forward for me. Obviously, I’m no early adopter.

Hence, I’m easy when it comes to smart phones.

Apple iPhone vs. Nokia N95

The crux of the argument seems to boil down to this:

  • 3G iPhone offers a superior web browsing experience
  • N95 offers superior camera and actually has video

Oh, there are other things…

Apps for the iPhone are supposed to be really cool. But I’m really not interested in Tap Tap Revenge. One thing I learned from Facebook is that most of these little apps grow boring quite quickly. However, there’s always the possibility that some interesting app will be developed.

There’s also Apple’s closed platform and restrictive DRM, which means all development requires approval of Apple. But considering that I’ve been using a phone without anything that would cause such concern, I’m mostly unconcerned about this as well.

The Knocks Against the iPhone

Here are the the biggest knocks I’ve seen on the iPhone. Gotta know what could ruin my day if I buy one.

Short battery life. This consistently comes up as a negative for the iPhone. It sounds awful, especially in comparison to my current lowly Nokia phone. The battery on that phone can last for days. But it sounds like any 3G smart phone may suffer a similar battery life issue. Here’s what GigaOm said about the Nokia N95:

The battery on this device [Nokia N95] simply sucks. It doesn’t even last the whole day, and that is when you are using it in GSM mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS turned off.

Apple does provide tips for preserving battery life. In addition, Cyndy Aleo-Carreira reports that a simple change to one feature – push email – can dramatically improve battery life.

Crappy camera, no video. There’s no getting around this one. The iPhone’s 2 mega pixel camera is woeful compared to the N95’s 5 mega pixel. Here’s a picture that Fred Wilson took with the N95:

Look at that quality! And with two young children, I think great pictures would be nice. Not to mention the ability to do easy video.

Forced to go with AT&T. This is a big one for many folks. They don’t like AT&T for whatever reason. AT&T appears to have good 3G coverage in the San Francisco Bay Area. But outside the region, coverage gets dicey. As Robert Scoble tweeted about his drive from southern California back to the Bay Area:

Out of the past 7.5 hours of driving we have had 3G for less than an hour. AT&T needs to do a much better job at coverage.

My Sprint phone actually has pretty bad coverage inside my house. So I’m not sure AT&T can get much worse, unless I was unable to get any signal. I did ask about what happens when 3G isn’t available on FriendFeed (comment on Scoble’s tweet). Here’s what Zach Flauaus said:

The iPhone’s priority is 3G, then EDGE, then GPRS. Aka: Fast, ehh… And “Oh hell no!”

So even if I can’t surf the web, I get a phone signal. OK…I probably can live with that.

The new apps crash the iPhone. Let me repeat that: NEW APPS CRASH THE iPHONE! Tim O’Reilly describes the laments of iPhone users and their crashing phones. He includes a Summize Twitter search for iPhone crash. The search reults are frightening:

  • “so it seems writing mobile applications is not such a trivial task. On the iPhone they crash like crazy”
  • “first iPhone crash since I restored it 4 days ago, I guess my strategy has worked, and coincidently it crashed on a newly installed app”
  • “Experienced my first iPhone app crash tonight. Screen turned black. After a few tries the phone came back to life but I deleted the app.”
  • “Just had my first iPhone app crash. Facebook!”

Sounds like it’s best to avoid putting apps on the iPhone for the time being. But I am hopeful about  downloading some good apps down the road.

No copy and paste. Honestly, this one doesn’t bother me so much…yet. The iPhone doesn’t support a clip board to copy things you find. My initial reaction is “so what?”. But I”ll probably want that. One example: wordpress.com’s new iPhone interface. You can post blog entries from the iPhone. As you can see in this post, I’m a huge fan of copy-n-paste. Not having this feature could chafe.

The Nokia N95 Knock: Web Surfing Is Bad

The N95 does include web surfing and email. But this is what I’ve been reading about that experience:

  • “@Jonathan – does Nokia have a decent web browser?” – Yolanda
    “@Yolanda, no, it’s crap. But there’s Opera mini (http://operamini.com) which is somewhat decent.” – Guillermo Esteves (link)
  • Question: “If you could only take one device to a tropical island would it be a smartphone or a laptop?”
    Robert Scoble: “Assuming I am going on vacation to get away from it all? My Nokia N95. Good camera to take pics and videos of me drinking MaiTais. GPS so I can get around. But hard to use for Web and Email so I am not too tempted.”
  • “After seeing, feeling & experiencing the Web on the iPhone, I Know I need one, even though I have an N95 (hate it for browsing)” (link)
  • Yes, I borrowed a friends N95for a day and they had my Blackberry. Phone quality is important to me with a hearing aid. The web browsing sux on the N95, phone was ok. The camera and video were way cool though, nice but not necessary toys.” (link)

iPhone Gets Some Real Love Though

I’m impressed by the number of people expressing their affection for the iPhone, despite its limitations.

Ryan Spoon blogged: Confessions of a Blackberry Addict – I’ve Moved to the iPhone 3G

Yahoo EVP Jeff Weiner was raving to Tim O’Reilly about his new iPhone, urging him to write something that explains why the iPhone is such a paradigm-shifting device.

Gina Trapani of Lifehacker wrote this in a generally negative piece on the iPhone: “But Mobile Safari’s tabbed browsing convinced me to trade in my principles for convenience. This job requires me to be online everywhere I go, and as far as I could see, the iPhone was the best way to do that.”

And here’s the Twitter search for “love my iPhone“. Look at all that love!

What About You?

So I’m close to making a decision. My use case is more web browsing than picture/video taking. But there are definitely issues with the iPhone.

If you’ve got thoughts about the 3G iPhone or the Nokia N95, I’d love to hear ‘em.

UPDATE: ReadWriteWeb covers the Apple vs. Nokia issue this morning as well here.

*****

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