Data teams, who's your persona ?

Personas don't just apply to Marketing and Design teams. It's a useful tool for data teams to better understand their end-user needs.

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Thibaut Collette

October 11, 2022 · 4 min read

Post-it notes on the wall: customer interviews, user survey...

As a member of a data team, you're a supplier for other teams: marketing, sales, operations... It means they are your customers. Internal customers but customers nonetheless. In Marketing and more recently in Design, teams use personas to represent those customers.

What is a persona?

A persona is a fictional character that is supposed to be the perfect representation of the person that will buy or use your product/service.

Initially, the idea of the persona was brought by marketers and advertisers. Over the years, it became also super useful for design teams to be able to share a common understanding of the user and create empathy for them.

A persona has a human touch: a name, a face, some habits. This will induce positive cognitive biases on top of what would otherwise be an intangible list of facts. The list of facts should focus on the goals, drivers, capabilities and knowledge of the group of users you're trying to depict and should mix both qualitative and quantitative facts.

Building your persona

Building great persona can take time and resources, which from what we understood from our research you don't have. But you can use a Pareto approach, spending 20% of the time for 80% of the value. Make this process fun. Book a time, book a room and gather the team. It can be a great pizza time together 🍕.

For a data teams, here is a list of questions and dimensions to group users and create personas:

  • Main goals and frustrations in their job (list of 3)
  • Main goals and frustrations related to data (list of 3)
  • Global data knowledge (note between 1 and 5)
  • Data tools knowledge (note between 1 and 5)
  • Time spent in BI tools
  • Time spent in Excel
  • Willingness to use more data
  • Proximity to the data team
  • Need for self-serve vs. ad-hoc analysis

💡Pro tip: be careful to use facts and not to slip into clichés and superficial stereotypes. You know how to use data, leverage that to build great personas.

💡Pro tip 2: Qualitative data from 5 user interviews will have the greatest impact and will change the way you perceive your users. It's easy to set up. Plan a 30-minute discussion around lunch, this will make it.

Business Analyst Persona: bio, goals, frustrations, data specificities
Example of the Business Analyst persona we built when starting Husprey.

Sorry, data teams, but you actually have multiple personas

You should try, as much as possible, to limit the number of personas that you can address. For a data team, customers' profiles are actually changing and many of them have different behaviours. From our interviews, trying to build our own Head of Data and Data Analyst personas we asked about THEIR customers - the customers of our customers (inception 🤯) and we couldn't limit the number of personas as much as we hoped.

Here is the list of 4 personas we came up with and that you can use to start right now:

  • Taylor, the high-level stakeholder
  • Blake, your data champion
  • Brooklyn, the non-technical user
  • Alex, your operations specialist

Sometimes, when delivering data outside the company, you can have an additional persona. I would then suggest to remove one from the initial list in order to keep your focus.

Also, it might be easier to only focus on the needs of the C-level paying you or your data champions as they are nice to you but Brooklyn, the non-technical user needs your help to use data, and now she has a face. So don't give up on her.

If personas look like a marketing overhead to you, think again. It will first increase your "customer's" satisfaction as you continue to better understand what their needs are. It will also boost your own productivity reducing the questions you face when delivering dashboards, small investigations or ad-hoc analyses.

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