End-User Personas: Driving Business Results

Personas help IT deliver the right technology to the right end users. They also help IT and the business align better to achieve strategic goals.

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In today’s always-on, highly connected world, we’ve come to demand a lot from the technology we use every day. As consumers, we want instant access and ease of use, with a personalized and consistent technology experience.

The same is true for your end users. Your organization’s employees expect the power and flexibility to access whatever devices, applications, data and IT support they need to get their jobs done.

A persona is a detailed definition of a group of end users who require the same set of devices, applications, data and IT support

“Every IT department I meet with is talking about this,” says Traci Taylor, CompuCom product director for Persona and Identity Solutions. “It’s a dramatic shift in the culture. End users have higher expectations, and different groups of employees have different requirements for hardware, software and support. You can no longer deliver the same IT to every end user.”

The answer, Taylor says, is to use the concept of personas to better understand end-user needs, segment them into clearly defined groups and deliver the exact technology and IT support that each group requires. The benefits include higher employee satisfaction and productivity, lower costs for IT provisioning and closer alignment between IT and the business.

Have We Met?

A persona is a detailed definition of a group of end users who require the same set of devices, applications, data access and IT support. Personas give IT a better understanding of employees’ business requirements, and they give the business a better understanding of employees’ technology requirements.

Without personas, IT departments spend too much time and money provisioning IT in a largely manual, one employee-at-a-time manner.

End-user personas enable IT departments to:

  • Get control over apps and devices.
  • Meet business demands for the latest technology.
  • Strengthen IT governance and data security.
  • Control costs for devices and software licensing.
  • Deliver the right hardware, software, data and support.
  • Improve IT and business alignment.

Or they use a role-based approach that doesn’t always deliver the right technology to the right people. “In any end-user population, for 10 percent of them, standard issue hardware or software isn’t enough,” Taylor says. “And for 30 percent, it’s too much.”

Likewise, a traditional approach often doesn’t identify the right level of IT support. “One company we worked with had frontline employees who needed very responsive support so they could serve customers effectively,” Taylor recalls. “Because they weren’t getting the support they needed, they created their own internal website with more than 150 IT problem resolutions and workarounds to help them avoid the service desk.” Personas dramatically improved that situation.

Persona Grata

One of the unexpected benefits of personas is their ability to uncover where IT services are falling short, eroding the productivity and effectiveness of employees. “IT departments tend to be metric-driven,” Taylor notes. “But often the KPIs they measure are generalized across the enterprise and don’t reveal issues department by department.”

One company Taylor worked with measured adequate hardware and application performance company-wide. But when it began tracking performance by persona, it discovered that call-center staff had worse-performing machines and a higher number of service-desk calls than the rest of the organization. “That was a real surprise,” Taylor says, “because call-center employees tend to have standard desktops and applications that aren’t typically problematic.” Personas enabled the company to uncover and address the problem.

Another organization Taylor consulted to managed one service-desk ticket per user per month, “which is about average for most companies, though it certainly leaves room for improvement,” Taylor points out.

Tracking by persona, however, revealed that customer facing employees comprised 10 percent of the workforce but accounted for 20 percent of tickets. “That’s a problem that obviously needs addressing,” Taylor says, “and they would have never known that without personas.”

From Personas to Performance

The chief advantage of personas is IT’s ability to better understand business needs. In fact, Taylor says, aligning with the business is where personas begin. “To use personas effectively, you need to start with a formal arrangement between IT and the business,” she explains. “You can’t just have a couple of meetings and say, ‘Okay, now we’re aligned.’” Taylor recommends a structured process that allows the business to communicate needs to IT, and for IT to validate those needs.

To implement end-user personas, follow these steps:

  • Survey — Conduct surveys and focus groups to uncover how end users consume IT. Identify the hardware, software and data they need today, and what they’ll need tomorrow.
  • Assess — Measure the end-user experience. Determine how employees are using IT resources, how those resources are performing and where there are gaps.
  • Categorize — Group end users based on their requirements. Consider aspects like where they’re located, how much they travel, which applications they use and the devices they need.
  • Segment — Organize those end-user categories into clearly defined personas. Map roles to the personas so that both IT and the business understand end-user and technical requirements.

Just as important is capturing the voice of end users themselves. “Many IT departments talk to managers about what users require, but management doesn’t always have a clear picture,” Taylor says. She suggests surveys and focus groups “to learn not only what will make end users successful today, but also what they anticipate they’ll need in the future.”

Adapting to future needs is a key aspect of persona-based IT. “Persona modeling isn’t something you do once,” Taylor cautions. “You need to reassess, typically on a quarterly basis, to be sure your personas are still on-target.” As your organization makes acquisitions, jettisons lines of business, develops new products or services, or responds to market changes, the technology needs for your various personas will change.

And change is at the heart of persona-based IT, which often represents a significant shift in mindset for IT departments, Taylor notes. For that reason, it helps to work with someone who has extensive experience with personas. “It pays to leverage proven practices and lessons learned,” she says. “Plus, IT departments typically don’t have the staff resources to focus on this.”

But whether handled internally or with the help of an external consultant, organizations that are most successful with personas are those that are committed to empowering end users. “When organizations commit to delivering an optimum end-user experience,” Taylor says, “personas become a natural extension of that commitment.”

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