Product Lifecycle Jobs (Video)
Innovation Opportunities Surround Most Products
As an innovator, you’re always searching for important customer jobs that are not being done well because these can be lucrative demand creation opportunities. One area of opportunity often overlooked is product lifecycle jobs. More often than not, customers are dissatisfied with their ability to get these important jobs done — and there’re a lot of them! These jobs surround the use of any product, which is why they’re not always obvious. But make no mistake, product lifecycle jobs can be low-hanging fruit for innovators.
We all buy products to help us execute jobs. A product can be physical thing like a mattress or a refrigerator or a non-physical thing like software or digital content that is purchased and downloaded. Recall that products are most often hired to execute some part of a job. They are usually combined with other products, services, and resources to create a self-service job solution.
We don’t just obtain and use a product, we may also have to install it, learn how to use it, move, store, maintain, upgrade, and dispose of the product as well. These are called lifecycle jobs because they are the jobs that arise around using a product through its stages of use and life.
Say for example you hire a new laptop computer to execute numerous workflow jobs. You may have to transfer software and files from an older computer. You may have to learn how to use the computer since it may be very different from your previous laptop. You may have to move, store, maintain, upgrade and finally recycle the computer when it no longer meets your needs.
Helping customers get lifecycle jobs done better is an easy and effective way to quickly lift the perceived value of an existing service. Take for example a retailer of mattresses and/or refrigerators. The retailer sells these products, but can also deliver and install the new products for customers. The retailer can also remove and dispose of old products that are being replaced. While there are many retailers of mattresses and refrigerators, customers will prefer retailers who help them get these important lifecycle jobs done. From the customer’s perspective, such retailers are more valuable.
Lifecycle jobs are defined in the specific context of the product it is tied to. For instance, the lifecycle job “upgrade” in the laptop example could be defined as — “upgrade the memory on a laptop computer” or “upgrade the hard drive on a computer,” and so on.
Defining this job as simply “upgrade a computer” or worse “upgrade a device” would not work because “computer” and “device” are ambiguous objects of action. Consequently, the job map that unfolds the steps of this job action would be too abstract for innovation purposes.
For this reason, lifecycle jobs cannot be defined absent solution context, as it the case with other jobs. Because they orbit a specific product, lifecycle jobs must be defined relative to that product and defined in a way that is actionable. That said, remember not to specify a particular solution for getting a lifecycle job done in your definition. For instance, you wouldn’t want to use a definition like — upgrade the memory on a laptop computer at ACE computer shop.
Services, from the customers’ perspective, do not have lifecycle jobs. They do not need to be moved, stored, maintained, upgraded or disposed of. Although many Internet-based services require the download and installation of an app, this is part of the service workflow and is therefore not a lifecycle job.
Likewise, learning how to use a service is not a lifecycle job because service “usability” is a function of how well the service interface is designed in terms of structuring the service workflow. This can be augmented by integrating user groups, blogs and other support in the form of tips and usage advice directly on the workflow path.
Services integrate many products and other resources into what we call the service-process engine. The integration of all these resources is what gives a service the capabilities to get customer jobs done. But these products are owned and/or operated by the service provider. Therefore, it is the responsibility of service providers to execute these product lifecycle jobs, not the customers of the service.
Lifecycle jobs are very important to individuals and service providers. As such, they have a significant influence on the products they choose for themselves and their businesses. That’s because getting lifecycle jobs done well increases the benefits of using a product. On the other hand, when lifecycle jobs cannot be done well for a particular product, the time, effort, and cost of using that product increases. This, in turn, decreases the value of the product. As innovators, we want to be on the lookout for unsatisfied lifecycle jobs because these represent big opportunities.