Fictitious Characters in Agile Development?

I recently attended an interesting and interactive NPD learning event about using “Personas” to define product features.  Very much like User Stories but made using ethnographic (field research) methods.  Personas tell their story in terms of goals, the “why” and “how” of what they do.  It’s not at all easy to be good at defining unique and evidence based personas, but the outcome is worth the effort.

The speakers introduced our personas by name, provided us Post-it notes, Sharpies and paper iPads. We broke into teams of 6-7.  Our goal: to create a wireframe of a Tablet App front page appealing to the travel requirements of our assigned persona.  In about 20 minutes, we were ready to showcase our work.

Here’s the interesting point>>throughout the designing,  the teams remained focused on the person in the persona.  Features, elements, text, flow were all designed with the persona’s needs top of mind. It was as if the persona was there with the team. There was a shared understanding of needs within the context of the persona’s world, and the outcomes were all awesome (and quite different).

I am a believer!  By including personalities and behaviors of  the buyer, early and often, into product decisions, teams will make great product design decisions.

Priority is to Satisfy the Customer.


13 Replies to “Fictitious Characters in Agile Development?”

  1. Persona’s rock, sadly I only have a few seconds to mention them in my courses. I find a good persona really helps clarify our user stories. In the best cases I find teams become very passionate about their personas and will hold arguments like “Angela Admin” would never do that, she’s too busy she needs a faster way to get the job done.

  2. Mark, you are spot on. I find myself saying/doing the same. Teams are known to create pictures of their personas and “interview” them as if they really did sit in a chair right there. The power of imagination, it helps power creativity, doesn’t it? Thanks for taking the time to chat. Appreciate your keen insight. Keep on keeping on!


  3. Interesting your 3D comment makes me think. Its really important to have real pictures associated with your personas. Print the picture and supporting text in a large (poster) size. Display them, see them, know them and live with them 🙂

    Finally remember that satisfying the customer is old news – delight them instead.

  4. Sounds a lot like live action roleplay, sprucing up creation of user stories with a bit of theatre sounds like a great way to bring some fun to the crucial process.

    Luke W
    Commmunity Manager

  5. Personas are such a powerful tool for thinking like the customer or user. If we broaden this concept out to the world of marketing, consumer products are often benefited by actual user interviews and surveys. When Personas are applied to business-to-business marketing the results can be more effective in delivering what the user really needs.

    1. I agree – Personas are powerful, yet simple to understand and use. Role play helps everyone in product get into the mind and needs of the customer. We don’t sell to ourselves – features can be added that make sense to us, but will not be used by customers. A total waste of time and resources, ours and the customers.

      I see a great deal of benefits using Personas. Does anyone perceive pitfalls?


  6. Big believer here. Karol, as I’m sure you know, personas also help prioritize which features are important to that persona. Buyer personas, when crafted the same way, can help with prioritizing features needed to sway the person writing the check. A very powerful tool!

    1. The persona’s power is also in the simplicity – not to say that developing personas is a cakewalk (it isn’t). Personas are easy to understand, so they are effectively used.

      As you say personas are versatile and many product teams can use their power as they perform their craft. That’s the persona power in action.

      Thanks for your insightful comments, appreciate your thoughts.

      — so far no pitfalls noted!

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