Personas are an excellent tool that Product Managers can use in conjunction with requirements and use cases. A persona is an abstraction of a prototypical customer, including details like age, gender, education, income, number of children, and other details. Personas can be invaluable when explaining use cases to Development – they enable the Product Manager to say “We have to develop this feature for a beginner user level, because ‘Bob,’ who is our primary user of the product is not computer savvy enough to navigate through 14 levels of menus to find it.”
CNN has a great article on Ford Motor Company and their user of personas. In the development of their new crossover SUVs, Ford realized that there were different needs and wants across their different user segments. So they sent their researchers on the road:
…researchers took a sample group of Phils from around the country and started following them everywhere.
Roughly two-dozen “Phils” received some moderate financial compensation for allowing themselves to be openly stalked. (Not all the “Phils” were men, by the way. Ford is expecting a 50-50 gender split among Edge buyers.)
They were followed in their homes, cars, offices and on shopping trips by researchers carrying note pads and video cameras. Their tastes in clothes, home furnishings, even beer, were noted. Everything they did with their cars, or wanted to do but couldn’t, was noted and studied.
Of course, there is a little spin as well:
Of course, Ford can’t just sell cars to people who precisely match the composite they were designed for. “It’s about keying in on a core group,” said Shrank, “and others will follow”
Reading the descriptions of each vehicle’s core customer you might start to notice they each seem very admirable.
Phil isn’t depicted as an effete snob driven by insecurity – he is “dynamic, engaged in life and on the go.”
Greg isn’t a frustrated middle manager given to juvenile expressions of rage – he is “moving forward by seeking new experiences and then bringing others along.”
These composite people also represent the aspirations of potential buyers. If you find the Ford Edge attractive, it might be because even though you’re not Phil, you’d like to be Phil.
Personas don’t have to be 100% positive; you can note negative traits as well. Anything that is relevant to your customer or how they will use the product is fair game.