On the web, what is the job to be done?

While the overall economy haltingly recovers, web and mobile development have resumed at full tilt. Maintenance on digital properties deferred since the 2008 financial crisis is now critical to perform. The growth in mobile device adoption and the proliferation of tablets in multiple form factors are forcing even the desktop-devoted to accelerate mobile development. Vendors are busy, RFPs are everywhere, and clients are eager to get started.

But when clients undertake a web project, what is really the job to be done? Back in the 2000s, Clay Christensen pointed out that “every job people need or want to do has a social, a functional, and an emotional dimension.”¬†The customer’s articulation of the job, which he offers up in his popular milkshake example, is not always the job that needs to be done.

Christensen’s findings ring especially true today during this renewed digital development boom. Clients say, “I need a web refresh/mobile app,” as a statement of their perceived¬†functional need. But often what they are looking for is a strategy that guides them through:

  • Walk me through my audiences in the digital realm
  • Help me understand how digital technology will change my core business processes
  • Show me where my company fits in a new competitive landscape in a disrupted environment
  • Teach me about social media, and how to use it

Large management consulting firms have the chops to tackle many of these questions, but often without a strong delivery arm for the quick prototyping and execution required for digital. Conversely, web and mobile development shops want to solve a technology problem, ideally with a reusable product, and may be ill-equipped to take on the strategy component. The right blend of digital firm does exist, but may not be on the clients’ radar if they are beginning with the functional end in mind. What’s the solution? Re-focus your team on the higher level of problem — the complete social, emotional, and functional job to be done by your web presence.

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