A lot of development teams I work with start out with an interesting technology idea but get stuck on how to transform the technology idea into a winning product concept. As discussed in previous blogs there are many attributes that must be present for an idea to become a winning product and I have presented the case that the common thread, or requirement if you will, for a product to be successful is that it must solve an “important job to be done” better than what is currently being done – or not done – as the case may be depending on how new and novel the concept is.
So let’s explore an example of how a technology team can go from an interesting technology idea into a commercially success. The example product idea we are going to explore is fictitious but is based on a composite of several real concepts and products that my clients and I have both successfully brought to market as well as killed off in the process. I make no claims as to whether this idea will be successful – or for that matter already is on the market and is becoming successful – it’s just for illustrative purposes to help us put some practice behind the theory.
Let’s assume our development team has come up with a wireless sensor technology that appears to have a set of attributes that make it unique and potential better than other technologies currently on the market. But they also know that it lacks certain performance attributes that in certain situations makes their technology inferior to other product offerings.
Let’s just say for this example that the sensor technology provides superior low power performance to extend battery life significantly, is potentially superior in cost performance (i.e. component cost is less) but lacks data capacity and signal range (i.e. low data rates and short range – better than passive RFID tags but not as good as a 802.15.4 radio used on ZigBee products and alike).
The development team is confident it has the expertise and capability to build a product, but they haven’t found a market or business model that makes sense to them yet to justify moving forward. The product is in their white space (it’s new to them and new to the market) but they believe it has huge potential if they can identify a job-to-be-done that isn’t getting done well.
At this stage of the process the development team begins by hypothesizing potential uses for the technology by using the Jobs-to-be-done marketing lens in reverse order to define potential and real jobs that people are trying to get done where their solution becomes an obvious choice for hire.
They begin their exploration by asking the following questions to form a preliminary customer value proposition that they will test, verify and refine.
- What are the solution’s/technology’s capabilities?
- Wireless network technology that can monitor low data rate sensors, assets and other things.
- Extremely low power so it can operate a long time before needing a new battery
- Extremely small so it’s easy to embed into things
- What barriers does it overcome?
- Makes monitoring a wide variety of things extremely simple and cost effective.
- Because its small and can last a long time on one battery, it can be embedded into devices and run for a prolong period of time. This eliminates the hassle and expense of having to replace batteries which for some embedded applications would be near impossible
- What objectives/desired outcomes can it address?
- Automating the monitoring of critical equipment and machinery over an extended period of time – years not months!
- Keeping tabs of the location of assets and things – especially on the move. Better than RFID tags because it doesn’t require super close proximity.
- In what circumstance will it be most effective?
- Low data rates – i.e. good for sensors and item tracking
- Applications that need to run a long time without having to send people into the field to replace batteries – especially where there are lots of these sensors out there and where they are hard to get to.
- What constraints does it overcome?
- A simple way to monitor things – be it simple sensor data or tracking assets – without having to invest people resources to do the task.
- For what jobs is the solution applicable?
- We looked at a lot of potential applications and believe if we could embed our wireless sensors into hand tools, we can help job site workers be more productive by helping them keep tabs of their tools – from making sure they have the right set of tools in their tool box before heading to the site, helping them find tools the put down for a moment but have lost track of where, and perhaps also helping them maintain their tools by providing maintenance and calibration warnings – etc.
- Who would hire this solution for this job?
- There are many job executers we think can benefit from using our location aware tools – from the commercial construction job workers down to the weekend home repair person.
- We think though that the commercial construction and equipment installation and repair users are the best opportunity because of the size and scope of what we believe is a big pain to solve.
A basic job to be done hypothesis now formed – “construction and field workers are constantly losing their tools or forgetting to bring the right tools and parts onto the job site. If there was a simple way for them to kit up their tool box before coming to the site as well as helping them find a tool that they lay down temporarily only to lose sight of it and search for ever to find – they would achieve more productivity and be less frustrated in getting their construction jobs done.”
We will assume the team does some preliminary secondary research and find evidence that there is potential for a product like this – but the evidence is still fuzzy and they aren’t ready to make a giant leap of faith. Next blog will discuss what the team does to help remove the fuzziness and reduce their risk and uncertainty in moving the concept forward.
Finding the right tool for the right situation is a job everyone wants done!