I get asked by a lot of people what articles, books, websites, frameworks, and tools I use to get motivated and inspired to build products and help other businesses do the same.
This is a non-exhaustive list that may be useful to some people so I thought I would share it.
For the last number of years, the most powerful tools and frameworks that have helped me to get a handle on building software are listed here. I have expanded on these concepts with resources further down.
These tools and frameworks solves three key problems:
- How do you know what customer problem or need to solve for?
- How do you frame and communicate that problem?
- How do you effectively experiment, design, and communicate when building a software solution?
1. JTBD — Jobs To Be Done. Build better solutions by understanding the “job” your customers are looking to “hire” for.
2. Event Storming — Event Storming is an excellent hands-on process that involves a lot of sticky notes to create a shared visual understanding of a business process or customer experience. Very powerful and non-technical (no mention of databases or code).
3. DDD — Domain Driven Design is a way to think about building software for a business. It helps to close the gap between business and IT, which can be a massive cause of miscommunication and failed software projects.
In the meantime, here are some books, podcasts, and websites that I find particularly useful and helped me in my learning journey so far.
I’m still a student of may of these concepts and love talking about them, so if you feel like discussing further, please get in touch on twitter or drop me an email.
- Book: Anything You Want by Derek Sivers
Brilliant short book about building his first business and the principles that guided Derek on his way with plenty of practical advice and lessons. #inspiration
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
The book that started a mini-revolution in how founders should approach starting a new business. #lean #inspiration
- Running Lean by Ash Maurya
Another excellent book that helps you think about how to start a business in a practical and lean way. #lean #inspiration
- Getting Real by the founders of Basecamp
A book packed with simple insights and unconventional approach to software. Excellent for anyone working on, or planning to work on, the web. #instpiration
- Smart Passive Income by Pat Flynn
A great way to get inspired as Pat interviews a lot of other businesses who started using his techniques. His website is also jam-packed with great advice, but his podcast I found to be inspiring.
- The Startup Chat with Steli & Hiten
A podcast from two successful entrepreneurs with good advice on sales, marketing, growing, and running your online business.
- Inside Intercom
The Intercom company has an excellent podcast that interviews some excellent guests with great insights into building product and serving customers.
- SaaStr Podcasts
SaaStr is one of the biggest SaaS events in world bringing together investors, startups, and scaling companies together. Their podcast has excellent interviews and insights from those who have founded SaaS businesses.
Websites / Blogs / Community
- Stacking The Bricks
An excellent site by Amy Hoy about building a business from the ground up. Really practical advice. Also check out The Year of Hustle on the site.
- Indie Hackers
A community site that has great engagement from the members sharing their stories and questions about building their online businesses.
- Why Build a Productised Service (Instead of Software)?
A good website by Brian Casel that is really useful for anyone thinking of scaling a service offering rather than building software
- Inside Intercom - Design, Customer Success, & Startup Blog
The Intercom company’s very transparent insight into how they think about building software. Learn from one of the best in the business.
- Tomasz Tunguz
Brilliant articles on fundraising in SaaS in particular, but also thoughts on management, marketing, and more from a leading VC.
Key Concept: JTBD
JTBD stands for “Jobs To Be Done”. The best definition I have found of it is by Tony Ulwick, Founder of Strategyn :
JOBS-TO-BE-DONE is best defined as a perspective — a lens through which you can observe markets, customers, needs, competitors, and customer segments differently, and by doing so, make innovation far more predictable and profitable.
JTBD is excellent at focusing on the “job” that a customer is trying to get done. It removes some of the assumptions about personas and users, instead focusing on situations, motivations, and desired outcomes.
This resources list is not exhaustive, but will give you a good foundation on what JTBD is, and how you can apply it.
- Jobs-to-Be-Done - Prof. Clayton Christensen - YouTube — A great introduction to JTBD as explained in this video by Clay Christiansen
- The Iceberg of Jobs-To-Be-Done
- Jobs-to-be-Done + Outcome-Driven Innovation — The website managed by Tony Ulwick. Good resource with lots of articles.
- Combining Personas, JTBD, and Journeys to make a more complete user story — Claire Menke, Senior Manager of UX at Udemy, with a good article on how to combine JTBD with other more traditional user story tools like Personas.
- Jobs-to-be-Done | It’s more than just Milkshakes. — Bob Moesta and Chris Spiek are two of the veteran thinkers of JTBD. Good site with articles and resources
- Course: Mastering Jobs-To-Be-Done Interviews
- Jobs to be Done — Alan Klement manages this site which contains contributions from other practitioners including case studies
- Designing Features Using Job Stories - Inside Intercom — Intercom are great proponents of JTBD and have some great resources on their blog. This one is brilliantly practical and useful.
- A template for Jobs-To-Be-Done: The Timeline — A useful template for performing Customer Interviews
Key Concept: Event Storming
Event Storming was initially introduced by Alberto Brandolini in a blog post he wrote in 2013 entitled Introducing Event Storming.
Event Storming was originally designed as a way to explore complex business domains in an engaging and powerful way.
Alberto original post contains lots of references to DDD concepts (see next concept), but the workshop itself can be implemented without any DDD knowledge with a team.
Why is this useful? In my experience, this has single-handedly helped the most to close the gap in knowledge between what the “business” people know and what the “software” people know.
The workshop is highly effective at building shared understanding.
- A step by step guide to Event Storming – our experience - Solve Blog
- Event Storming For Rapid Domain Learning
- EventStorming: book and more by Alberto Brandolini
- Video: Event Storming for fun and profit
Key Concept: Domain Driven Design
Domain Driven Design is about trying to make software a model of a real-world system or process. DDD is about trying to model the software, in terms of language and design, as closely as possible to the real world by working closely with a domain expert.
If you understand design patterns, you have a much better chance of getting to grips with Domain Driven Design. It’s certainly more of an advanced topic in software building, but is highly effective when working with complex business domains.
In the future, I plan on writing a little more about how DDD can help businesses from a commercial perspective too, but for now here are some resources on getting to grips with DDD:
- Domain Driven Design Quickly — Free download by InfoQ
- Domain-Driven Design: Tackling Complexity in the Heart of Software: Eric Evans — The “Blue Book”. Required reading on the subject.