Moving beyond personas in digital workplace implementation

By: Matthew Johnson


What is a persona? Essentially, personas embody specific demographics in a target audience and provide a useful way to represent the varying IT needs of different sets of users in an enterprise. They help define the different aspects of the workplace across the enterprise. The problem is that when it comes to delivering the digital workplace, personas often tend to be too generic — they don’t cover every situation. Certain specific characteristics are still lacking, including users’ preferences for their primary device, whether they’re entitled to have their mobile phone costs reimbursed and so on.

More specific representation is necessary to make personas real across your enterprise and meet the diverse needs of users in the digital workplace.

Enterprise-level personas

In most cases, all the users represented by these personas aren’t doing exactly the same work, don’t need the same set of business applications and have different computing, peripheral and other needs. Enterprise-wide policies that define IT capabilities and services are generally established at the persona level. For example, mobile workers might need a tablet, while knowledge workers can optionally bring their own device.

Roles within a department or work group

Roles are the next level of detail and are defined at the department or work-group level. This is where you define the default and optional IT capabilities for your users as they join the organization or move within it. While personas are meant to be kept fairly static, focusing on cross-enterprise policies, roles allow a granularity of definition that can be changed with relative ease as the needs of a particular department or work group shift.

The value of roles, as I have defined them here, is the ability to use them to develop templates for new users to ensure they have earlier access to the IT and other capabilities they need to perform their jobs. Roles also reduce the number of one-off exceptions that employees need to request to complete their IT enablement.

Roles for individual users

A profile is the representation of the IT capabilities that an individual user has at a particular point of time. It will change as that user requests and is granted particular services, including business applications and other resources.

A user’s profile helps deliver the appropriate IT capabilities to that user on their current device and, if possible, allows for content to move between devices.

Implement your digital workplace with personas

The key method of moving beyond personas in digital workplace implementation is to achieve a greater level of detail with roles. By focusing on user needs at the department or work-group level, you maintain consistency in your personas while swiftly and accurately enabling users as they join or move across the organization.

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About The Author

Matthew Johnson

Senior Technical Staff Member for Global Technology Services, IBM

Matthew Johnson works with customers across the globe to transform their user computing environment into a superior, personalized, digital workplace. Specifically, Matthew works at the direction of the CTO of Mobile & Client Computing Global Technology Services to develop and extend product offerings, including publishing and maintaining the associated technical work products; assist on customer... Read more