Humanizing the Process of Transforming Your Business

By: Mana Nabati


Organizations are continuously going through change to streamline processes and drive efficiencies. This means changes to systems, processes, and data. 

The impact of such changes on the users doesn’t just affect how they perform certain tasks and activities in the system; it goes beyond that. Understanding and relating to what matters to the users is a critical part of the process and one which many organizations often miss.

The most common way of identifying the impacted users in business transformation projects is through Role Mapping. Role Mapping creates the framework to define each process for users to access the system and interact with it and identifies the system components that users will need training to master. 

Shortcomings of Only Taking a Role-Based Approach

While Role Mapping can be an effective tool, it shouldn’t be used in a vacuum. Role Mapping only focuses on how users interact with the system, and doesn’t take into account real people with unique backgrounds, attributes, likes, and dislikes that impact their reaction to those processes.

Using a role-based approach by itself in designing a process or system often misses key information about your users such as their goals, pain points, work intensity, stress level, etc.

People want to have a good experience with the system they’re designing and using. But with Role Mapping, you may see adoption rates that are lower than you’d like because users may not feel that the system answers their needs, and they may not understand the benefits of using it. 

They may distrust and resent leaders, who may, in their eyes, be forcing them to use a system that doesn’t meet their needs. That’s when you know role mapping isn’t working.

Go Beyond Role Mapping

Dive deeper than simply creating a framework and a one-size-fits-all approach by asking the right questions:

  • What is this role’s purpose? 
  • What business objectives are required for this role? 
  • What functions are served by this role? 
  • How will this role use the system? 

Your objective here is to better understand the user’s goals, objectives, and pain points. We’ve got to get back to handling the human factor that we’ve all been ignoring, much to our detriment.

Let’s Get Back to Being Human

One of the most effective ways to understand the users is personifying the people undergoing the change and identifying their attributes. This is where personas come in! Personas are fictional characters that represent various user types that might use your system or product. They add the human touch to what would largely remain cold facts in your research about your users’ needs.

Personas were informally developed by Alan Cooper in the early 1980s as a way to empathize with and internalize the mindset of people who would use the software he was designing. He interviewed several users and got to know them so well that he pretended to be them as a way of brainstorming and evaluating ideas from their perspective.

You don’t have to dress up and act like your users to benefit from a persona-based approach! Whereas Role Mapping is very task-oriented, personas describe the experience of using a system on a more emotional and personal level.

Using a persona-based approach lets you represent a significant portion of people in the real world and focus on a manageable and memorable cast of characters, instead of focusing on thousands of individuals.

Benefits to Using Personas

More companies are realizing the benefits of incorporating personas in their business transformation projects and seeing firsthand how it improves their requirements-gathering and product design decisions. Also, you can help your project team stay focused on creating an outstanding user experience by using personas.

Personas can guide your ideation process and shape your transformation strategy and can create empathy for the users. They can help you understand the users you are designing for by identifying their attitudes, motivations, and pain points.

How to Create Effective Personas

Now let’s look at strategies for creating personas for your business transformation project.

1. Collect Data 

Collect as much data about the users as possible. What is their background? Challenges? Desires? How long have been in the industry? 

This information helps you envision a typical user and view your system from their perspective. 

2. Group Your Users 

You will need to create multiple personas to group various types of users. Once you have enough data, look for behavior patterns and distinct characteristics. Group the users with similar traits who will have the same interaction with your system/product together.

3. Describe the Personas 

Describe each persona in such a way as to express enough empathy to understand the users. Give each persona a name and select an image to make each a realistic character. Write an overview that clearly states the essential elements of their background and preferences.

For example, you might create the persona of Business Beth. She works in accounting and is in her 50s. She has a decent grasp of technology, but still prefers a hands-on training approach.

4. Define Scenarios for Your Personas 

Define a number of specific situations that could trigger the use of the product or system you are designing. Bring your personas to life by creating scenarios that feature them in the role of a user. 

Start the scenarios by putting the persona in a situation with a problem that needs solving. What problems might each persona encounter? What solutions can you present?

5. Get Buy-In from the Team 

The most effective way of creating personas is to decide together as a group in a workshop. Divide the work between the different participants and regroup after an hour or two to review the personas and determine whether the characteristics are appropriate.

6. Champion Your Personas 

Pitch personas to key members in the organization and help them see how personas can create a unified vision of who you’re serving, develop greater empathy for those users and their needs, and ultimately, create a more cohesive and user-centered experience.

7. Make Adjustments 

You should revise the persona descriptions on a regular basis with new information that may affect the personas. You may need to rewrite the existing persona descriptions, add new personas, or eliminate outdated personas.

Personas have the power to transform users’ experiences with your system. They allow you to learn about your users and cultivate more empathy within your organization than Role Mapping will do alone. They bring back the concept of users being people, not just data points.