Jobs to be Done: A Guide for Product Managers

Author headshot for CareerFoundry blog writer, Natascha Asberger.

Product managers are often faced with the same problem, namely how to create products that not only meet customer needs but also resonate deeply with their motivations. 

But how do you get to the root of your customers’ pain-points and needs?

This is where the Jobs to be Done framework can be used. It addresses the fundamental question: “What job is the customer hiring our product to do?” 

In this article, we’ll explore the framework in detail and discuss ways for product managers to implement it.

Here an overview of the topics we’ll look at:

  1. What is Jobs to be Done?
  2. How product managers use Jobs to be Done
  3. Advantages of using Jobs to be Done
  4. Disadvantages of using Jobs to be Done
  5. How to use Jobs to be Done

1. What is Jobs to be Done?

Jobs to be Done (JTBD) is a framework, used within product management, that focuses on the customer and their needs. The theory, developed by Tony Ulwick, follows that a customer hires a product to get a specific job done. 

A popular example by Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt is:

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

Using the Jobs to be Done framework, the product team takes a deep dive into what the job is that the customer needs done and how to effectively get it done, so that the needs of the customer are satisfied.

2. How product managers use Jobs to be Done

Product managers can use the framework in different ways. For one, JTBD can act as a customer centric and outcome-oriented lens through which to see the complete product development process. 

That way, it will influence all stages, starting from market segmentation, to competitor analysis, building a product roadmap, forming success criteria, as well as the continuous iteration of the product. 

However, it can also be used as an actual research and prioritization framework. This is most useful when building a new product or new features, as it starts from the beginning and goes deep into the customer research. 

The team will look into the main job the customer wants to get done, this can be seen as the end goal. When they have identified the main job, the team further checks into the functional and emotional aspects of getting the job done, which can be seen as the needs/requirements of how to get the job done. 

All of this will give the product team a good overview of the true motivations of the customer and the data collected can then be prioritized and used as a basis for finding innovative solutions.

Examples of Jobs to be Done in product management

Let’s look at some examples of jobs and collaborating needs and the products they have turned into:

Project management software

The main job here is to efficiently manage and collaborate on projects. The needs could be clear task organization, seamless communication within teams, easy progress monitoring and integration with other tools for workflow continuity.

Popular product examples that offer a solution for the above-mentioned example are Jira, which is the most widely used project management software within product management, as well as Asana and Trello.

Streaming services

The job that needs to be done is to provide entertainment. The needs could be to have a diverse content library, a user-friendly interface, personalized recommendations and high-quality streaming without interruptions. Examples of products trying to meet the above criteria are Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.


A smartphone’s main job is to stay connected and useful on the go. The needs are to reliably communicate, access information at any time and to have a camera functionality for capturing moments. Examples of products are the Apple iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy phones.

3. Advantages of using Jobs to be Done

The JTBD framework can be a powerful tool for product managers. Here are some of the advantages:

  • Customer centric: The framework puts the customer and their pain points at the heart of the product.
  • Informed decision-making: The research process is very thorough, meaning that a lot of data will be collected and analyzed, which will give a sound basis for decision-making.
  • Innovation: By removing the focus from the product and putting it on the customer, the product team is free to think of completely new and creative solutions.
  • Marketing: Once the product team knows their customers goals and pain-points, it’ll be easy to use targeted marketing when the product is built.

4. Disadvantages of using Jobs to be Done

While the framework has many advantages to it, we should also look at one of the main disadvantages of JTBD.

Too abstract

The product team will go for a deep dive into the struggles customers are facing and their specific criteria of how to solve them. 

This creates a lot of qualitative and quantitative data, which is very informative and potentially gives way to innovation, but it might also be too abstract for a product team to translate into a specific product and features. 

At this point, another framework might be used for the ideation phase, such as Design Thinking.

5. How to use Jobs to be Done

You might still wonder how to use the framework in detail. Therefore, let’s take a closer look at each of the steps.

1. Identify customer

The product manager first needs to identify the group of people they want to target with their product. This will be the job executor—the person that needs a specific job done.

2. Identify main jobs

By conducting interviews or surveys, the product team can find out the main jobs customers aim to accomplish. It is important to then find the core job underlying these main jobs, so that we end up with one job that can be used during the rest of the process. 

3. Map out process

With the help of a job map, the product team maps out the process of the core job that the customer is trying to get done. 

4. Identify needs

The next step is to check the metrics the customer will use to judge the success of how the job is being done. These success metrics are called “needs” within the framework.

5. Define job statement

Now that the product team is clear on the core job and the corresponding needs, it’s time to craft a concise job statement, with the format being: verb + object of the verb + contextual clarifier (optional). An example could be: listen to music on the go.

6. Research competitors

Now research should be done to look into existing solutions and how they address similar jobs. Customer interviews can be used at this stage.

7. Find solutions

When the research phase is finished, the product team can move over to the ideation phase, which will consist of brainstorming innovative ideas with an interdisciplinary team. As mentioned above, the Design Thinking process can be applied here.

It should be said that when it comes to customer research, it is not always the product manager that does this task but usually the UX designer. This will depend on the size and structure of the organization though. 

Larger organizations will usually have a UX design department that works together with product management to create concise solutions. Smaller organizations on the other hand mightn’t have a UX designer and thus a product manager might do all of the customer research themselves.

6. Wrap-up

The Jobs to be Done framework can be a powerful tool for every product manager. It offers a lens through which to see the product development process, since it puts the focus on the customer and their pain points. 

By digging deep into customer research, carefully prioritizing information and crafting innovative solutions around the jobs to be done, product managers can create products that deeply resonate with the motivations and needs of their customers.

While the framework offers many advantages, it’s essential to acknowledge potential drawbacks, such as the challenge of translating abstract insights into concrete products.

In essence, embracing the Jobs to be Done framework empowers every product manager to truly understand the heartbeat of product development—the customer’s needs, motivations, and product innovation.

If you want to learn more about what it’s like to be a product manager, check out ourfree product management for beginners short course, or have a look at one of the following guides:

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