Personas rapidly gained popularity in the software industry due to their unusual power and effectiveness.—Alan Cooper
I need a protagonist for many of the stories below. Since these are stories related to product management, let me introduce you to Robin the product manager. We use this persona at Pragmatic Marketing for developing new content and promotions to product managers.
Last year, Robin, age 32, was the company’s best sales engineer and was recruited by the VP of Marketing to take on product management for the company’s flagship product. The sales force is happy that “one of their own” is now driving strategy for the product and is in the inner circle of product information. However, they continue to call her for product demos and roadmap information about future releases of the product. She’d like to help sales people even more than she does now but her schedule is a mess: she has 15 to 20 meetings this week, she has over 100 emails still requiring some action on her part, and she has a dozen phone calls that she needs to return.
Her desk is covered with stacks and stacks of documents related to the next release of the product: hundreds of enhancement requests, notes from sales people about a “special” capability that will ensure a deal, and the defect tracking report with almost a thousand features with problems, either features not working correctly (defects) or requested features (enhancements). To add insult to injury, her company is transitioning development to an agile method and she doesn’t know how that will impact her new role. She has to make some sense of all of this data in order to create a Market Requirements Document (MRD) for the next release.
Robin has no formal product management training beyond marketing courses she took in college as part of her MBA but she really knows the product and has extensive customer experience.
Does Robin sound familiar? She’s the prototypical product manager: she’s technical, enthusiastic, frustrated. She wants to do a good job if only she can figure out how. Do you want to help Robin in her job? I do.
Personas give us a development and marketing target. A phone designed for “anyone” meets the needs of no one. A remote control for one type of person may not meet the needs of another.
Use personas as a shorthand way to define whom we want to delight and remarkable products will result.