We recently chatted with Chris Chiusano, expert designer, product manager, and champion of the Jobs to Be Done framework about his work at Spotify, and how even the most technical of product work is customer-aware.
First, tell us a little bit about your role and your team at Spotify.
So, we do a couple of different things. Our group is called Content Intelligence, and we build data products and machine learning algorithms. We train models and evaluate the quality of the models. The new data products are things that can be funneled into the Spotify app and enable new user/customer experiences. Something that a lot of people might not know about the music industry is that there are all kinds of different data from the recording side and the publishing side, and not a lot of standards.
There’s a bunch of work that goes in to clean up the data and make it useful to our customers. The other area my squad works on is in the moderation space. It’s all the work that helps us support our policies around the types of content that can be published on Spotify, to make sure it’s legal and doesn’t have any dangerous content.
Rather than work with Product Marketers, we then work with Product Management squads that build the customer experience to connect our work to their priorities.
Given that your work isn’t creating a customer-facing experience, how do you think about the customer in your work?
I personally use the Jobs to Be Done framework to connect with the needs of our audience. What is the user trying to accomplish? What are the steps? What are the outcomes they’re trying to achieve? The customer-facing teams do a lot of work to define these frameworks too, and we can use it as guideposts for our work so we don’t have to come up with the jobs from scratch.
We love using Jobs to Be Done. Can you give some examples of times you’ve used Jobs to Be Done effectively?
So the the way I’ve used it both a path AI and Spotify is for modeling the end-to-end machine learning life cycle. In both cases, I’ve used Jobs to Be Done to define the end-to-end flow as the starting point for developing a model. The questions I always ask are, What are the key stages that go into the job? What are the key steps that happen? Who’s involved in really using that as a tool at each step?
It sounds so simple, but it helps us define where we invest and where we don’t. Jobs to Be Done is especially helpful in working with Machine Learning and data products because they’re so technical, but they’re also so conceptual, and using Jobs to Be Done helps get everyone on a team on the same page without having to be aware of all the technical details of what goes into a project. At Spotify, this has been really helpful in defining the jobs that exist in different human-in-the-loop models.
Chris, in an abrupt turn to the conversation, I’m going to drop a bombshell. Before you worked in Product Management, you worked in…marketing! How does your past life as a Designer, and all the skills that go along with it, show up in your work today?
It’s my number one super power! Especially in the data space, being able to create a strong visual to express a concept goes a long way. And then my design skills come in handy with creating slides that have to communicate abstract ideas to a non-technical audience. In any organization understanding the importance of marketing your team’s work is also super important.
Good design is more than just making things look pretty. It’s a communication tool for your ideas and complicated concepts.
Given the projects your squad focuses on, it makes sense that you don’t work with Product Marketing in your day-to-day. But since we’re a product marketing consulting agency: how do you define Product Marketing, and how do you define Product Management?
Product Marketing is responsible for the positioning, messaging and marketing of a product. Product Management is responsible for building products that help the business achieve their goals and meets the needs of their users/customers.
And finally, how do you, marketer-turned-product manager, think the two roles can best work together?
I think the biggest misunderstanding of the two roles is around when they need to be involved in the process of building a product – specifically how the two can work collaboratively together during product conception phase, especially by combining insights on the customer/user and the jobs to be done. Working together early helps keep the focus on solving the customer’s problems.