In 2013, IBM launched a new initiative to transform our culture from engineering-led to design-led. Part of design thinking is having focused targets to design for, but at IBM, we provide solutions for diverse audiences spread across industries. Our problem: the construct of the traditional persona (for individuals) didn’t reflect the team dynamics we saw in our user interviews. We found we were talking about the arena in terms of the needs of individuals, when the ecosystem they worked in was defining their work. But the ecosystem is huge—too huge for our team to ingest. So we created team-based personas to capture these dynamics.
These personas better portray the team dynamics and reflect the greater complexity of our broad user base, and so we wanted a better way for our team to learn this data. Instead of performing traditional analysis and reporting the results to our team, we brought them into the persona creation process so that different team members with different perspectives could come up with implications together. This process resulted in a defined set of design principles that everyone understood and owned.
In this case study, you will learn how one team took traditional persona practices and adapted them to a new framework, where researchers become facilitators for the rest of their team. Designers and researchers who work in enterprise systems will learn how they can adopt this model to bring focus and alignment around their users using team-based personas.
Julia Zorzanello Byron, an idealistic industrial designer, switched to software when she saw the opportunity to practice and spread empathic design at IBM. Her first order of business when she arrived was to establish user research across her team. She recently dove back into design, doing UX for IBM’s MobileFirst Platform, and is loving the challenge of ensuring users’ needs manifest in the final product.
Omkar Chandgadkar is an experience designer at IBM with a background in computer engineering and information science who is on a mission to improve the user experience in developer’s tools. His work is inspired by the philosophy that designers are facilitators who enable their team to create better experiences by analyzing different perspectives.
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