By Karl Steiner, PhD

Personas — fictional “customers” used to help companies of all kinds more closely match new products and services to customer needs—have emerged as an important tool for software development organizations in their ongoing quest to develop applications that are enthusiastically embraced by customers. In fact, personas have become a staple today among many organizations for their ability to dramatically improve the utility and acceptance of their end products.

However, recent studies have shown that while personas have become more popular among software companies (as evidenced by their increasing investment in them), most organizations’ personas are neither particularly strong nor extensively used. The problem, in our experience, is that many companies lack formal persona development and management processes, as well as the proper tools and technologies to support those processes.

In this paper, we explore why personas remain a valuable tool for application developers, the challenges companies have in developing personas, and how some leading software development organizations are taking an integrated, life cycle approach to improve the accuracy, relevance and use of personas to fuel new-product success.

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