7 Keys to Creating Winning Enterprise-level Personas

There are so many good resources on what personas are and how to create them. Learn some of the common challenges UX and CX teams encounter when creating a common set of personas at the enterprise level.

For all the good, bad and ugly, most UX and CX practitioners agree that personas, or models of the customer, serve an important role in communicating the nature and needs of a target user or customer.

There are so many good resources on what personas are and how to create them. My goal here is to discuss some of the common challenges UX and CX teams encounter when creating a common set of personas at the enterprise level.

Best practices for effectively developing and managing a persona program for your enterprise to provide a powerful customer and user experience

1. Personas are more than opinions

Any experienced practitioner has been challenged about the credibility of their personas when presenting them. The key, of course, is to be able to defend them—ideally from research.

But even when personas are research-based, being able to trace the final output back to original data is tedious. The tools you use to collect data are often not the same tools used to create your models. As a result, you end up separating your source work from your persona work.

Even more challenging is the fact that personas don’t often derive from one study. Related to other challenges below, you need the ability to mash up research to tell the whole story.

Key success factor: Link your personas directly to your original data sources. That way, you’ll have a high level of confidence when presenting your rich persona models and be able to quickly drill down to the original source data to address any challenges to your insights.

Make sure original persona data is instantly accessible and able to be layered into new research and insight.

2. One size doesn’t fit all

We’ve all seen personas with extremely rich narratives that we can immerse ourselves in. However, once the initial “wow” is over, using them with multiple teams introduces a new challenge. Different teams need to see different content and levels of detail.

Working with marketing on a messaging campaign is different from working with a group of information architects or information designers. The same persona should be able to be dynamically tailored to different audiences to suit their needs.

Key success factor: We’re no longer in a mode where one view of a persona is anywhere near sufficient to meet business needs and goals. Create dynamic views of the same persona so different teams can access relevant insights.

Marketing and sales may need higher-level views emphasizing segmentation and key psychographics for communication purposes.

IAs and interaction designers need more of the behavioral and contextual elements to differentiate the needs of one persona from another.

3. The proliferation problem

Business units that use personas typically work independently, yet they are often researching and modeling different aspects of the same customer. The ability to nurture, promote and collaborate a common set of personas is one step in aligning teams to create an integrated customer experience-centered culture.

To encourage enterprise adoption, you want to encourage everyone to participate, but you also need an integrated view of the customer. If there are situations where there are five versions of the same customer but no one can see the different variations, it’s a missed opportunity.

Key success factor: Resolve to consolidate and maintain an integrated view of your personas and support flexible usage by different teams.

A consolidated view will support flexible usage.

4. Personas as a continuous program

Typically, personas are developed out of a project to serve the needs of the singular project. But unless the project was focused on persona development per se, they will usually tend to be geared toward the project needs—and buried in the project.

If personas are a strategic asset they should be treated as strategic—i.e. promoted and maintained across projects to serve the whole enterprise.

Think of personas as a program. They should be promoted at the enterprise level and continuously refined across project-level research.

Personas should be continuously updated and modified.

Key success factor: A persona program based on research have a long-term ROI. Building a process that supports continuous research and modification is the best long-term investment.

5. Creating common standards for personas

Personas are designs just like any experience asset. They need to be architected, designed and shared. Building a persona architecture is a key challenge for an experience team.

Developing enterprise personas successfully means having the ability to define a useful standard applicable for various teams, and it should also be able to grow over time. What is the underlying anatomy of the customer that helps inform marketing, sales, design, and development?

Key success factor: Develop a good persona standard and a collaborative place to define, refine and communicate it.

6. Governance

Personas need governance—like any other evolving strategic asset. Having a strong governance framework encourages consistency and controls unwanted proliferation.

A good governance process supports the alignment of best practices and inspires their use. It would also allow for flexible growth of these assets through a process to build on research as it unfolds over time, encouraging continuous refinement.

Key success factor: Establish a persona governance process and maintain a governed set of customer models. At any one time you can show instantly your best model of your customer today, while demonstrating how variations are being used by teams for their own specific needs.

governance of personas

The governance of any design asset requires a centralized group to maintain, inspire and collaborate with working teams to use and contribute to an improvement process. It works when the standards are useful and inspiring to use.

7. Integrating persona and journey mapping initiatives

Customer journey maps are a compact visualization of an end-to-end customer experience. Personas and journey mapping form an integrated view of the customer. Personas live through their behaviors, and journey maps create the framework for personas to come to life.

It’s therefore a natural continuum moving from personas to journeys.   As such, it is difficult to conceive of persona programs and journey maps being created by separate groups in separate tools and stored in separate environments.

Key success factor: Find ways to connect personas and journey mapping into one integrated environment. You should be able to clearly show where persona models and journeys intersect and where they are independent.

Integrate personas and journeys

It’s best to connect journey maps and personas in one environment.

Conclusion

As enterprises implement a customer-centric experience strategy, personas become a critical ingredient. There are always challenges when building customer models intended to serve multiple needs of diverse teams, but each challenge is an opportunity to overcome the organization-centric past and adopt a customer-centric future.

What challenges have you faced when adopting persona programs internally? Let me know in the comments below.

Interested in creating personas, journey maps, and more, with a direct link to your underlying research data? Learn how you can create and share all of your UX and CX assets using UX360.

There are so many good resources on what personas are and how to create them. Learn some of the common challenges UX and CX teams encounter when creating a common set of personas at the enterprise level.

For all the good, bad and ugly, most UX and CX practitioners agree that personas, or models of the customer, serve an important role in communicating the nature and needs of a target user or customer.

There are so many good resources on what personas are and how to create them. My goal here is to discuss some of the common challenges UX and CX teams encounter when creating a common set of personas at the enterprise level.

Best practices for effectively developing and managing a persona program for your enterprise to provide a powerful customer and user experience

1. Personas are more than opinions

Any experienced practitioner has been challenged about the credibility of their personas when presenting them. The key, of course, is to be able to defend them—ideally from research.

But even when personas are research-based, being able to trace the final output back to original data is tedious. The tools you use to collect data are often not the same tools used to create your models. As a result, you end up separating your source work from your persona work.

Even more challenging is the fact that personas don’t often derive from one study. Related to other challenges below, you need the ability to mash up research to tell the whole story.

Key success factor: Link your personas directly to your original data sources. That way, you’ll have a high level of confidence when presenting your rich persona models and be able to quickly drill down to the original source data to address any challenges to your insights.

Make sure original persona data is instantly accessible and able to be layered into new research and insight.

2. One size doesn’t fit all

We’ve all seen personas with extremely rich narratives that we can immerse ourselves in. However, once the initial “wow” is over, using them with multiple teams introduces a new challenge. Different teams need to see different content and levels of detail.

Working with marketing on a messaging campaign is different from working with a group of information architects or information designers. The same persona should be able to be dynamically tailored to different audiences to suit their needs.

Key success factor: We’re no longer in a mode where one view of a persona is anywhere near sufficient to meet business needs and goals. Create dynamic views of the same persona so different teams can access relevant insights.

Marketing and sales may need higher-level views emphasizing segmentation and key psychographics for communication purposes.

IAs and interaction designers need more of the behavioral and contextual elements to differentiate the needs of one persona from another.

3. The proliferation problem

Business units that use personas typically work independently, yet they are often researching and modeling different aspects of the same customer. The ability to nurture, promote and collaborate a common set of personas is one step in aligning teams to create an integrated customer experience-centered culture.

To encourage enterprise adoption, you want to encourage everyone to participate, but you also need an integrated view of the customer. If there are situations where there are five versions of the same customer but no one can see the different variations, it’s a missed opportunity.

Key success factor: Resolve to consolidate and maintain an integrated view of your personas and support flexible usage by different teams.

A consolidated view will support flexible usage.

4. Personas as a continuous program

Typically, personas are developed out of a project to serve the needs of the singular project. But unless the project was focused on persona development per se, they will usually tend to be geared toward the project needs—and buried in the project.

If personas are a strategic asset they should be treated as strategic—i.e. promoted and maintained across projects to serve the whole enterprise.

Think of personas as a program. They should be promoted at the enterprise level and continuously refined across project-level research.

Personas should be continuously updated and modified.

Key success factor: A persona program based on research have a long-term ROI. Building a process that supports continuous research and modification is the best long-term investment.

5. Creating common standards for personas

Personas are designs just like any experience asset. They need to be architected, designed and shared. Building a persona architecture is a key challenge for an experience team.

Developing enterprise personas successfully means having the ability to define a useful standard applicable for various teams, and it should also be able to grow over time. What is the underlying anatomy of the customer that helps inform marketing, sales, design, and development?

Key success factor: Develop a good persona standard and a collaborative place to define, refine and communicate it.

6. Governance

Personas need governance—like any other evolving strategic asset. Having a strong governance framework encourages consistency and controls unwanted proliferation.

A good governance process supports the alignment of best practices and inspires their use. It would also allow for flexible growth of these assets through a process to build on research as it unfolds over time, encouraging continuous refinement.

Key success factor: Establish a persona governance process and maintain a governed set of customer models. At any one time you can show instantly your best model of your customer today, while demonstrating how variations are being used by teams for their own specific needs.

governance of personas

The governance of any design asset requires a centralized group to maintain, inspire and collaborate with working teams to use and contribute to an improvement process. It works when the standards are useful and inspiring to use.

7. Integrating persona and journey mapping initiatives

Customer journey maps are a compact visualization of an end-to-end customer experience. Personas and journey mapping form an integrated view of the customer. Personas live through their behaviors, and journey maps create the framework for personas to come to life.

It’s therefore a natural continuum moving from personas to journeys.   As such, it is difficult to conceive of persona programs and journey maps being created by separate groups in separate tools and stored in separate environments.

Key success factor: Find ways to connect personas and journey mapping into one integrated environment. You should be able to clearly show where persona models and journeys intersect and where they are independent.

Integrate personas and journeys

It’s best to connect journey maps and personas in one environment.

Conclusion

As enterprises implement a customer-centric experience strategy, personas become a critical ingredient. There are always challenges when building customer models intended to serve multiple needs of diverse teams, but each challenge is an opportunity to overcome the organization-centric past and adopt a customer-centric future.

What challenges have you faced when adopting persona programs internally? Let me know in the comments below.

Interested in creating personas, journey maps, and more, with a direct link to your underlying research data? Learn how you can create and share all of your UX and CX assets using UX360.

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Send a message and we will work with you to understand your needs.

UX360 - Enterprise Journey Mapping Platform

Power Platform

UX360 - Enterprise Journey Mapping Platform
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2017-08-11T14:01:27+00:00