How to create IT end-user personas for your organisation

In this post, we’ll show you how to create detailed IT end-user personas that will help you understand your users better and equip them with the right software and devices.

As the world of work has become more technologically sophisticated – and reliant – the IT department have ‘moved out of the basement’.

Both McKinsey and Accenture report that 84% of executives say innovation is a core part of their business strategy. Innovation can include offline practices like ‘agile working’ but more often than not, it refers to new technology. And if you’re introducing new technology into the workplace, you’re going to need help from IT.

As a result, IT teams have evolved from being ‘the ones who know how to fix things’ to being value-creators and productivity-drivers. The ones who know how to deploy and manage solutions that will help us work faster, better and more securely.

Alongside this, flexible working has ended the ‘one size fits all’ approach. Employees now expect to be able to work remote and on a range of devices.

The upsides of the ‘one size fits all approach’ are scale and efficiency. If you’re an organisation of 10,000 with a unilateral device specification across the whole business, you only have to learn how to configure one device. And chances are you’ll learn to do it pretty quickly. Economies of scale also mean that you can buy devices and software licenses in bulk, bringing down costs.

But what if you’re an organisation of 10,000 with an open-ended device policy? This could spell disaster. Even if you managed to distribute a personalised device to each and every user, the inconsistency would make routine patching and updates a nightmare, leaving your business vulnerable to serious security risks.

This creates real challenges for IT departments:

  • How can you predict the device and software combinations your users will need?
  • How can you enable new ways of working without tailoring each device to each worker individually?

End-user personas are a great way of grouping users together based on needs and preferences. A well-researched and regularly updated set of end-user personas will allow IT teams to manage the scale and complexity of the modern workplace, without being crushed by the sheer volume of work required.

What is an IT end-user persona?

A persona is a proxy, or a fictional representation of your imagined user. Anyone who has worked in Marketing, Product Management or User Experience Design will be familiar with the concept.

They allow you to group disparate users around specific characteristics. They also help you to build empathy with those users. By taking the time to consider the wants and needs of your colleagues, you’ll be able to design solutions that help them achieve their goals. Whether you’re building an app, creating content or configuring a device.

The typical questions asked when defining IT end-user personas are:

  • What department do they work in?
  • How senior are they?
  • What are their goals?
  • How do they prefer to work?
  • Who do they work with?

The key here is imagination. The more vivid and descriptive your personas are, the more useful they’ll be in the future. If you’re struggling to get the ball rolling, here are four steps to help you bring your end-user personas to life.

1 – Give them a name and mission statement

As soon as you give your persona a name it will start to feel more real. People often include a key feature such as their department or role as well. Here are a few simple examples:

  • Alan from Accounting
  • Grad-scheme Chris
  • C-Suite Suzanne

Once you’ve got your name, create a short punchy statement that captures what they want from their devices.

  • Alan from Accounting – “I need to use Xero and email with secured access to sensitive documents”
  • Grad-scheme Chris – “I’ll be working across multiple teams and on a range of different platforms with low access privilege”
  • C-Suite Suzanne – “I want a lightweight laptop or tablet that I can take with me to meetings”

2 – Build out their character

You’ve outlined your persona, now you need to colour it in. Adding personal, professional, environmental and even psychological details is a great way to empathise with your users and explore what makes them tick.

Let’s pick an example from the ones above to expand on:

  • Alan from Accounting – “I need to use Xero and email with secured access to financial documents”
    • Needs accounting apps pre-installed
    • Works from home one day a week to look after the kids
    • Is a security priority as he handles sensitive personal data
    • Prefers laptop to desktop but needs a second screen for working on large spreadsheets
    • Wants mobile access to emails but is concerned about security risks with his personal phone
    • Is interested in secure automation that can take on repetitive accounting tasks

3 – Add a ‘user scenario’

Finally, a short statement written in the first person can help to bring these details to life. Here’s an example for C-Suite Suzanna:

“I spend half of my time in meetings and receive more than 100 emails a day. Solutions that can help me prioritise my time without weighing me down are a must. I speak to stakeholders all over the world on a daily basis so video collaboration is a must. The ability to take notes and sketch ideas in meetings would be really useful. I also travel a lot, so whatever device I get needs to be lightweight and compact enough to slot into hold luggage.”

Ready to create your own IT end-user personas?

This three-step process should give you everything you need but if you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line on LinkedIn. And you can click here learn more about equipping your workforce with the right technology in our Optimal Office report.

John Chambers

Director - IT, Communication & Business Process Services Ricoh UK

Read all articles by John Chambers