Project Management

Visualization in Projects – User Roles and Personas

Agile methodologies suggest the use of user stories that are specific to a role. Personas are one way of representing these roles.

User Story

As Gloria J. Miller writes in ‘Going Agile – Project Management Practices’ the format for user’s story should include a title and the information on the role of the user, the function they need, and the value they should derive from the function. The following is the type layout of the user stories.

As a <user persona> I want to <function; what they want to do>

so that I can <business value; why they want to do>.

A Role defines the characteristics of typical users for the system. It should be represented by a persona or an extreme character. A persona is an imaginary representation of a specific user role or ideal customer, a sort of a “prototype”. Personas should be created based upon market and demographic research to ensure the persona represents the target audience or user. It is about focusing on the major needs of the most important user groups. One user can’t be everything to everyone.

A function describes the capability that the user requires. The function should finish with the completion of an activity and not an on-going activity. For example, as a webmaster I want to manage a website – is something never ends. As a webmaster, I want to add and delete web pages – is a task that can be checked as completed. Business value explains the importance of the function or the value it derives.

Persona Visualization

A persona visualization that can be used in projects is to create a poster or chart with the personas that are relevant for the system under discussion. The following visualization is an example used in a previous project.

Based on the article a few recommendations for visualization practices in projects, this visual aid fits the recommendations as follows:

  1. Specify your objective for visualization
    • Deciding and scheduling who got what level/content of training;
    • Setting-up the role and security concept for the system;
    • Making design decisions about who could perform what tasks in the system.
  2. Make it action-oriented used to facilitate discussions, meetings and design decisions
  3. Make it messy – N/A
  4. Make it specific to the situation – It was for a specific project.
  5. Use different dimensions – it uses different:
    • Position of the persona – was based on organization hierarchy and functional role
    • Role – system end-users’ role
    • Photos/Avatar – real people with whom details could be discussed
    • Text – describing activities that people would need to do with the system
  1. Make it interesting

Overall, personas are crucial throughout the entire system or product development phase and should be real-life representation. They are vital to launching a useful and usable system or solution.

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