Grow my company, and maintain profitability. This is likely the core job for any business owner and/or management team. The markets punish public companies that cannot maintain growth and/or profitability over time. Hey founders, initial growth don’t count! Everyone grows from zero.
The term “Digital” is simply the latest proxy for current unmet needs in many markets. While it’s simple, it’s also confusing. Both customers and suppliers alike have difficulty expressing what needs are in a consistent fashion; which is why we — as whole — have great difficulty achieving high rates of product launch (or solution implementation) success. The only way to address this is to, once and for all, come to a common agreement.
Terms like Digital, the Sharing Economy, etc. are simply trying to describe how certain solutions and platforms are addressing current unmet needs in the market. Products and services that are struggling are serving former unmet needs.
In the world of Jobs-to-be-Done theory, we look at customer needs through the lens of the job they are trying to get done. As it is with processes, there are numerous steps that must be accomplished in order to achieve a satisfactory result. That satisfaction is described through the metrics customers inherently use to measure success at each step.
As with a process, there are typically more than a single metric at any particular step. While processes are measuring activities (things we’ve done), a customer job is measuring outcomes (things we must achieve). A complete set of metrics describes the unlikely scenario where the job is executed perfectly.
This is where digital comes in….
The term digital is defined in many ways — most of the time confusing customers who are simply (still) trying to grow their business profitably; albeit in various contexts. I liken this to the outcome approach to segmentation used in the Jobs-to-be-Done’s outcome-driven innovation framework. Outcomes drive customer segments and their respective profiles. Digital attempts to describe the solutions that are emerging to satisfy currently unmet needs — in those segments. The term will certainly change one day.
Take for example the job of pumping blah out of the ocean (there are many other categories where this applies — including marketing). Yesterday, the step monitor pump valve in remote location required that a crew of maintenance professionals visit a rig every other month and physically inspect the pump valve. If there were a problem, they might be able to correct it at that time, or more likely, they would need to order replacement parts, or a replacement value. This could take weeks on top of a potential 2 month lag between visits.
In the digital era, these pump valves can be monitored in real-time as a part of the Internet-of-Things. If a problem, or potential problem is detected, the problem might be mitigated remotely, or a crew could be dispatched with the right parts or replacement pump valve to intervene weeks or months before they would otherwise be able to.
Aren’t we still just getting the same job done? Just differently?
At the end of the day, digital should be described using the same metrics we use to measure customer success in getting a job done (I’ve addressed this here, and elsewhere.) The metrics never change even-though their importance and satisfaction will (current ratio is always the current ratio); which gives us a strong platform to not only describe digital to customers but also to describe the next buzz term that arises; which in turn is attempting to describe the next set of solutions or emerging platforms in the markets.
If you’d like to know more about how to consistently define customer needs and how they might be used to understand why new economies and terms emerge, here is some recommended reading over the holidays…