Alan Klement is an author and product strategist, who helps organisations apply the Jobs to be Done (JTBD) theory and practices to boost their growth. He’s a partner at Revealed, where he provides hands-on training and research based on JTBD.
He’s the author of the book "When Coffee and Kale Compete" and will speak at UXDX 2019, discussing “How to Identify your Customer's Needs”.
Hi Alan! Great to have you here! Tell us about your career journey so far. How did you decide to set up Revealed?
In the early 2000’ I started my own business to help visual artists create websites in a non-technical way. Even though I was a terrible business person and I was doing it for fun, the business was actually doing great and I sold it. I was like - hey, this is easy, you make something and people buy it. But then I realised I was lucky with my first business, I need to be more rigorous about discovering opportunities on the market and offering solutions.
I started working for other people as an engineer, product manager, designer and strategist. I wanted to learn all the aspects of successfully running a business. During this time I realised that I’m not a business person, I’m a product person. I enjoy making things that people use, and when I see traction, I want to start something new. I’m much better at finding opportunities rather than running a business.
Do you think that your engineering, design and product skills contribute to understanding the customers’ needs better than traditional product managers?
Yes, I do think they’re very important and contributing to being a good product manager, but what’s even more important is the creative, non-technical skills that people are often forgetting about. I have a Fine Art degree and also studied Philosophy which helped me a lot to be more creative and have critical thinking when it comes to evaluating ideas and suggesting solutions. So if you want to be a better product person, cultivate your critical thinking, creativity and learn how to challenge ideas in a constructive way.
What's a critical skill that you think most product managers are missing?
Marketing people should be your teammates. I see this mistake so often. It would be so helpful for Marketing to have access to the research that Product does, and for Product to appreciate the Marketing role and the findings they have. Product and Marketing are often split, but in reality, they’re doing the same research, work with the same data and have the same goal. They just call it differently.
How did you discover the power of the Jobs to Be Done methodology to become the foundation of Revealed?
I was a product manager at a company that’s now called Interactive Pioneers and I was trying to get better at creating a product that consumers would use. I came across the work of Bob Moesta and the famous Mattress Interview and I was like - wow, this blew me away. I needed to have this type of conversations with my customers! There was next to nothing out there on the topic back then and I decided that I’ll learn as much as I can and share it with other people. That’s how I got involved into JTBD, it was actually a selfish act - I just wanted to get better at what I’m doing.
What’s the usual trigger when companies decide it’s time for a change and want to adopt JTBD?
We work with two buckets of clients - one is people who need help with finding opportunities for growth and the other is people who need to create organisational alignment. These are the two types of teams that “Jobs” is brilliant for.
Can you give us an example of companies that implemented JBTD successfully?
I just worked with a London-based startup called howamigoing, which are a fantastic example of a company that used JTBD for growth opportunities and creating organisational alignment. They’re (or they were!) an HR tool for employees’ feedback. After our research, we discovered that our target customer is not the HR people (which the founders were initially targeting), but actually more senior leaders like CEOs, COOs and Head of People who’re intersted in creating a culture of support and collaboration. This let to pivoting the business, introducing new features and changing the pricing. The “Jobs” insights changed everything - Product, Design, Marketing.
What’s the most common mistake you usually see when working with organisations in terms of how the company and its teams are structured and how they operate?
Teams operating in silos and being competitive internally. That’s a very common problem. That’s why when implementing “Jobs”, I Iike working with different teams to help them work together by introducing a unified dataset. This becomes a great basis for conversations and ways of collaboration when everyone is looking at the same insights of what the consumer wants, what’s holding them back, etc.
Another interesting thing is that I’d like to see more product managers looking for opportunities outside their product or project. I know this is tricky because they’re often constrained by the structure of the company, but I’d encourage them to look for solutions elsewhere. For example, sometimes a small change in the way Customer Support operate or a small intro video could be a much better solution than building completely new features.
Do you think that smaller organisations and startups have a competitive advantage over larger, more traditional organisation when it comes to implementing the Jobs to be Done framework?
A startup is not inherently better at getting things right. It’s important how adaptive an organisation is and how willing the leadership is to make changes. It’s more about the flexibility and adaptability than the size. You can often see founders of small startups that are so rigid about how they see their product that they ignore the need to adapt or make changes.
Is JTBD the next buzz thing?
It’s hard to answer this question. There’s so much internal resistance to change, especially from people who have been in a role for many years, that some organisations are very unlikely to adopt Jobs soon.
Young organisations know that their competitive advantage is to embrace new ideas and try new things. Naturally these organisations, in 5-10 years, will be some of the big players, so then this way of thinking will be adopted more broadly. Then they will displace the people and organisations of the old thinking and that’s how I believe “Jobs” will catch on.
What’s next for you, other than speaking at UXDX 2019 in October?
I’m writing 2 books at the moment based on the Jobs To Be Done framework. The first is geared towards practitioners, sharing practical tactics and strategies how to adopt the Jobs thinking. The other one will be a more academic take on “Jobs”.
If you want to meet Alan in person and hear his talk on how to discover, describe, and design for different types of customer's value, come and join us in October. Tickets are now on sale.
I hate "It depends"! Organisations are complex but I believe that if you resort to it depends it means that you haven't explained it properly or you don't understand it. Having run UXDX for over 6 years I am using the knowledge from hundreds of case studies to create the UXDX model - an opinionated, principle-driven model that will help organisations change their ways of working without "It depends".
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