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What is the business case for using personas?

Posted by Chris Adams

Article Rating // 14878 Views // 0 Additional Answers & Comments

Categories: Business Analysis, Systems Analysis, Requirements Analysis (BABOK KA)


Many organizations that lack experience with personas don't fully understand the value of them.  Furthermore, personas can be difficult for the inexperience team member to properly create.  

The most common question tends to be, "We are trying to increase business and our customer base. How does focusing more on 1 or 2 personas align with this goal?"

Intuitively people tend to think that in order to satisfy the needs of a large audience or wide array of users they need to make the functionality of the product or application as broad as possible. This is wrong. When you try to design for everyone, you delight no one.  You end up with a very mediocre product. If you focus on delighting your primary persona then those represented by your secondary persona(s) should also be satisfied due to overlap in needs. A good analogy to remember is this: widening your target doesn't improve your aim.

So what happens without the use of personas?

  • Every time a customer makes a request the design changes because the team is trying to satisfy the desires of everyone.
  • Everyone on the team has a different idea about who they are designing for.
  • Team members end up making design decisions based on what they believe the user would prefer which can vary from team member to team member.
  • The team struggles to understand how requirements and features should be prioritize. 
  • The user that the team is designing for is only vaguely understood leading to lots of blurry edge-requirements.
  • The team spends precious develop time on edge-features that rarely ever get used.

Of course, these problems may not be immediately obvious to management. While you can have discussions about the benefits and value of personas sometimes it's best to just show them.  After all, you don't need permission to do good work. 

Go ahead a make a couple of personas on your own and demonstrate how they help the team make better decisions.  Some personas require a fair amount of research and time to properly create.  But when there is limited time to allocate you can create what some call proto-personas.  These are personas which are based on secondary research and educated guesses by the team about the archetypal person you are designing for.

Chris Adams
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