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7. Techniques

7.7 Personas

Agile Extension to the BABOK® Guide

Personas are used to understand and empathize with an intended stakeholder in order to align the solution with the stakeholder need.

Personas are fictional characters or archetypes that exemplify the way that typical users interact with a solution. They are often used in agile approaches to understand value from the perspective of a particular stakeholder and allow a team that may not have direct access to a customer representative to better understand their needs. Work can then focus on the features of greatest value to a particular persona.

A persona is described as though it is real person. Personas may provide a name, personality, family, work background, skill level, preferences, behaviour patterns, personal attitudes, goals, and needs. They can also include a picture and a short “day in the life” narrative that helps to visualize the user and their experience.

Business analysis practitioners use personas to gain a deeper understanding of stakeholders than is generally provided from a role or actor description. Personas help improve a solution, a purpose, and usability because they are patterned after the subtle qualities of real people that will interact with the solution and how they do their job.

Personas are ranked to identify those that will realize the most benefit from the solution design.

.1 Long and Short Template

Business analysis practitioners frequently use two different templates when creating personas:

  • a short template which offers a one-page quick view of key information, and

  • a long template which offers more in-depth details and understanding. Additional user research helps expand from short template to long template.
Figure 7.7.1: Short Persona Template


Figure 7.7.2: Long Persona Template


.2 Persona Name and Image

Business analysis practitioners give personas a realistic name and attach a fictional image in order increase its relatability and thereby the understanding of and empathy with the intended stakeholder.

.3 Traits and Characteristics

Personas include unique, distinguishing, and differentiating characteristics or traits regarding the intended stakeholder.
For example, one ATM persona may be an office manager who deposits cash at the end of the day. A different ATM persona may be an individual who likes to get small amounts out at a time.

.4 Motivations

Personas include a representation of the underlying motivations regarding how and why the intended stakeholder interacts with the solution.
For example, an ATM office manager may be motivated by reducing risk of fraud or theft. The individual withdrawing from the ATM may be motivated by withdrawing the minimum amount needed.

.5 Needs

Needs for the persona address very specific needs. These can be basic needs such as safety, trust, or access to food and shelter. They can be higher level needs such as the need for acceptance and validation. Needs are finite as compared to wants which are infinite.

.6 Differentiators

Differentiators identify specifically why this persona is different from another persona. They identify what is unique about this persona. These could be generational or experiential differentiators, preference differentiators, or identifying characteristics.

.1 Strengths

  • Personas facilitate the shared understanding of specific requirements for different sets of users. These requirements can be used to develop user stories.

  • Proposed solutions can be guided by how well they meet the needs of individual user personas. Features can be prioritized based on how well they address the needs of one or more personas.

  • Provide a human “face” so as to focus empathy on the people represented by the demographics.

  • If the data is available, using demographic (or anthropomorphic) data about the intended user population is a good way to start building personas. However, in some cases it is necessary to be creative and invent personas based on little more than a few dry facts about the intended end users. In either case, a representative pool of personas should be identified.

  • Personas help stakeholders from projecting individual values and biases onto the solution. They help to develop compassion for various users.

.2 Limitations

  • Personas are fictional, so there is a tendency to create personas that embody traits common to most users, but this creates a generic user that is not distinct or realistic. This can lead to solutions that are trying to be everything to everyone.

  • Personas may not be a good substitute for a real user. Personas can distance a team from a user community.

  • Personas need to be regularly reviewed and updated.