The course is part of this learning path
This module provides a framework for stakeholder engagement through the Stakeholder Engagement Cycle, before looking at how you can categorize your stakeholders. Then it looks at personas – what they are, why they’re important and how you can create them.
The objectives of this course are to provide you with and understanding of:
- The key stages in the stakeholder engagement cycle.
- The categories of stakeholders and how they can be categorized using the stakeholder map and influence/Interest matrix.
- When personas are required and their role in understanding stakeholders.
- The stages in creating an effective persona and how they can be used.
This course is aimed at Scrum Masters who want to improve their individual knowledge of stakeholder engagement practices in service to their Scrum team and their wider organization.
Prerequisites of the Certifications
There are no specific pre-requisites to study this course.
We welcome all feedback and suggestions - please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know what you think.
What is a persona?
Personas play an important role when you’re analyzing your stakeholders – especially if you can’t get direct access to the end users of a product.
A persona is a ‘picture’ of a typical product or service user which represents the needs of the broader group of users. They’re often used by marketing teams to identify who their customers are and how they can interest them in their product.
Personas can include any relevant information - here you can see the sorts of things that might be included in one. Stuff like their biography, motivations, goals, frustrations, personality traits and technology preferences. You’ll also notice they can go as far as an indicative age, status, location and environment, picture and even a name, to make the person as ‘real’ as possible.
What role do personas play in the stakeholder engagement process?
So, personas are used for marketing but why are they used for stakeholder engagement?
A detailed understanding of the target user audience is fundamental to creating exceptional products. So, personas help a product team find the answer to one of their most important questions, ‘Who are we designing for?’
By understanding the expectations, concerns and motivations of target users, it’s possible to design a product that will satisfy their needs and, as a result, provide value to them.
From a stakeholder perspective – particularly those with greater power and influence – personas can be used to provide confidence that the design research and audience profiling activities have been diligently carried out and make the outputs transparent so they can clearly understand and critique them.
Why create personas?
Personas are about more than just creating a written ‘picture’ of the target audience for a product or service.
They help the project team and stakeholders create an empathy and understanding of the end users. This means they can step out of themselves and understand their perspective and needs, and really identify with the user they’re designing for;
Understanding user behavior provides the basis for making design decisions and helps to prioritize feature requests. They prevent common pitfalls like self-referential design when designers design what they like and not necessarily what the user wants; and elastic users who are generic users that mean different things to different people – which often happens when different stakeholders have a perception of the target user based on their own perspective;
Personas also provide a consistent way of communicating information about users that all the project team and stakeholders can understand – regardless of their background or experience.
Creating an effective persona
First, you need to remember a few characteristics of an effective persona:
It’s about real user patterns, not different user roles;
It should focus on how users interact with the product or service now, not how they will use it in the future; and
It’s context-specific, meaning it’s focused on the behaviors related to the product and service, not general behaviors or traits of the user.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ with personas, they can be created in different ways depending on the requirement and resources available. Whatever approach you take, here’s a 5-step process which can be used to create one:
[Step 1: Collect user information]
This is about understanding the target audience’s motivations, mind-set and behaviors – ideally through actual field research like user interviews and observation. The sample audience should be large enough to be meaningful and the more data captured during this process the better.
If field research isn’t possible, the next best thing is to create what’s called a ‘provisional persona’ based on what the team knows about the users. This might also involve looking at things like customer support logs, web analytics and market intelligence.
Remember, you need to avoid generating stereotypical users by focusing on fictional stories of imaginary people based on little or no research. This adds no value to the design process, is likely to send you on a ‘wild goose chase’ and will undermine your findings with the stakeholders.
[Step 2: Identify Behavioral Patterns]
The aim of this step is to analyze the research findings to identify patterns so people can be grouped together into types of users.
Kim Goodwin of Cooper Professional Education has suggested a simple strategy for doing this in her article ‘Getting from Research to Personas’ which involves:
Listing all the behavioral variables – the ways in which the users’ behavior differed;
Mapping each of the real-life user attributes against an appropriate set of variables; and
Identifying trends of users who share 6-8 variables.
These grouping trends then form the basis of each persona.
[Step 3: Create and prioritize personas]
Personas need to be created around behavioral patterns and provide an empathy to understand the users. They don’t need a lot of personal details – one or two bits of personality can bring a persona to life, but too many will be distracting and make it less credible as an analytical tool.
As Don Norman, Director of the Design Lab puts it:
Personas only need to be realistic, not real, not necessarily even accurate (as long as they accurately characterize the user base).
Often, multiple personas will be created for a product or service to reflect the extent of the users. But too many can blur the picture and lead to a lack of design focus. If you’ve got multiple personas, it’s best to define the most relevant, or primary, persona and make design decisions based on this one. Then you can test them against the secondary personas.
Design for the primary – accommodate the secondary
[Step 4: Find interaction scenarios]
Personas are only useful when they’re linked to a scenario – an imagined situation that describes how the persona would behave and interact with a product in a particular context to achieve its end goals. They need to help designers understand the main user flows and therefore create valuable design solutions.
Scenarios should be written from the persona’s perspective to articulate high-level use cases that are likely to happen.
[Step 5: Share findings and gain acceptance]
Every team member and stakeholder should have a positive association with the personas and see the value in them. As they become familiar with them, they’ll tend to talk about them as if they’re real people – which is the measure of an effective persona.
It’s a good idea to illustrate the personas through posters, cards, action figures or other real, physical objects rather than through a Word document or PowerPoint deck. This makes them easier to relate to helps to keep them at the forefront of stakeholder’s minds.
There’s more information about creating personas in the ‘Persona Creation and Usage’ toolkit and the ‘Getting from Research to Personas’ guide. You’ll find links in the Stakeholder Engagement Resources.
About the Author
Tony has over 20 years’ experience in Business Development, Business Change, Consulting and Project/Programme Management working with public, private and third sector organisations.
He has helped organisations to design and create process and procedures to align ways of working with corporate strategy. A highly motivated and detailed solution provider utilising a wide range of methods and frameworks to provide structure whilst promoting creativity and innovation.
As a confident and self-motivated professional with excellent communication skills Tony is able to bring people together and get them working as a team quickly.
Tony is an Agile and Scrum trainer with a vast knowledge spanning IT Systems, Business Change, Programme and Project Management. With excellent presentation skills and a solid background, he ensures that all clients gain maximum benefit from his training. He has successfully guided those new to the industry through their initial training, helped experienced staff as they progress in their careers and worked at Director level advising on best use and practice, as well as tailoring courses to fulfil the exact needs of clients.