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Venafi Persona Research and Creation

My Roles

UX research, internal/external interviewing, documentation

Key Collaborators

Sr. Director of Product Management, Professional Services, Sales Engineering, Sales, Customer Support, external customer stakeholders/contacts

Venafi had a new user-centered initiative in their product and engineering departments, and needed well defined personas to help focus the new UX efforts. The world of PKI and enterprise security is a specialized pocket of product and service development. In the past, I would usually have some sort of tangential experience with the medium we were creating experiences in. But with PKI, it was outside of my background. All the considerations that revolved around enterprise corporations, security management assets, encryption, and the rigid policies customers had was a treasure trove of all new UX exploration.


The enterprise end user persona was completely unknown to Venafi. Dealing mainly with the purchasers and IT administrators, there was very little contact with the actual end users of the product. The IT administrators set up and configured the Venafi product, but the internal enterprise end users were the actual persona’s who would experience the interface and interaction. Some of the primary problems were:

  • Little knowledge of who the end user was
  • Restricted access to customer companies
  • Lack of external contacts
  • Undefined persona target
  • Fragmented, disconnected stakeholders
  • Ambiguity on when a persona was necessary, singular, or needed to be split
  • Stakeholder buy-in and customer involvement

Due to the nature of the enterprise space, contact with end users was difficult to come by. There was no process on either end for how we would reach and speak to the users who previously were inaccessible.


Skeleton persona narrative journey


Internal sharable documentation; overview and posters


  • Extensive internal stakeholder interviews
  • Extensive customer and user interviews
  • Focus on face to face interviews with users
  • Steady evangelism throughout company on persona usage and value
  • Creating vibrant, engaging representations of the user personas

The most powerful solution we found was setting up direct, on-site interviews with the end users themselves. This gave us the chance to observe our targeted users in their natural environments and gave us the chance to probe and ask questions that phone or offline surveys would not have allowed us to explore.

We traveled around the USA and Europe visiting customers and conducting interviews, making video and audio recordings, and conducting surveys. When meeting face to face was not possible, we made extensive use of video conferencing tools and phone interviews.


Persona sketch and completed poster


Persona characters and details documentation


The ultimate outcome of the Venafi persona project was the complete adoption of the personas into the company culture and everyday language. The personas were used extensively in product design, development, and in targeting ongoing testing and prototyping.

The Venafi personas became a part of the company culture and a part of every conversation that was around product design and development.


First day of school