The CTO of Jive had been pushing an initiative of UX throughout Jive since recently joining, and had gotten enough buy-in to start his first goal in establishing UX within Jive; creating a comprehensive group of user personas.
The goal of the Jive persona project was to arrive at a set of well defined, 1st iteration peresonas that could be used primarily for the engineering and development department, but also serve as marketing and sales personas in concert with engineering.
Jive wanted to center the user within the development and sales efforts, and vibrant, effective personas was a very effectual way to do that.
Jive had almost zero customer outreach. Aside from customer service agents who took calls, there was no real upkeep on who the user persona actually was. There were few internal stakeholders to talk to, as they simply had no real insight into who it was they were selling their services to. In a sense, they were “selling blind.”
Another challenge was the human aspect of getting support and buy-in from the company stakeholders to simply believe in the process and project. Everyone saw value in having the customers better known internally, but the idea being pitched to create personas felt far fetched.
One special challenge was a paradox of diversity, but convergence, on each of the personas. They could be split any which way, and often the same persona served two different roles. Differentiation would be key.
- Non-existent user research documentation
- Fragmented, disconnected stakeholders
- Ambiguity on when a persona was necessary, singular, or needed to be split
- Stakeholder buy-in and customer involvement
- Little knowledge of who the end user was
- Restricted access to customer companies
- Lack of external contacts
A 3 month goal was set for user interviews. Jive scoured their lists of customers and sales contacts for potential leads. In the meantime, I lead a project to create skeleton personas based on what we did know. Gathering the stakeholders from inside sales, the CTO, and a few other managers, we assembled our basic assumption to be vetted. This was key because as the UX part of the equation, I could take these skeleton personas out into the field and confirm, or rule out, assumptions that Jive had about its own customers. A positive learning (or re-learning) experience.
Preliminary research sketches for skeleton phase vetting
Once persona skeletons were built, we constructed a series of surveys for each persona we wanted to pursue – eight in total. We went with a tried and true method of interviewing; a blend of my interview techniques as a clinical psychology student, and techniques from the Tamara Adlin school of persona research. Over 2 months, we compiled dozens of hours of phone calls and email surveys into a bulk repository of user data, which we sifted through and gathered patterns, outliers, and overall “sameness” between converging types of people.
After we had a good idea of differentiation between the personas, I could then do my best to write the actual 1st iteration of the persona stories, the narrative introduction spoken in the first person. There is a certain amount of creativity that is needed here to make those personas vibrant, so I enlisted the help of an illustrator to give me some fantastic custom caricatures that I could include in the documents and have printed on to foamboard standups and posters.
Persona documentation and large-format posters
Due to the lively and approachable nature of the persona characters, Jive easily embraced and promoted internally the use of the personas, with posters and foamboard cutouts appearing throughout the office.
The printed personal gallery
Since being adopted, they have appeared in every development story in the engineering department, guiding those processes and decisions in a user-centered fashion, as well as serving as signposts and reminders for the sales and services organizations.
The personas were cornerstone components in the development of the new Jive.com, and in the development of a UX organization within the CTO organization. Having the readily available, iterative, validated personas helps all of the internal stakeholders focus on the user and journeys and problems, and not just rote feature requirements and group think assumptions.
Jive was a supreme example of the power of persona buy-in, and the positive impact it can have on a company’s shared understanding of their customer. I learned that by creating dynamic, fun, and characterized versions of the personas, I got more people involved and interested. The “not fake, but not real” aspect of teh characters was just enough so that the persona could serve it’s most important role – keeping a vibrant reminder of the users we serve right there in plain sight.