Imaginary Friends

The purpose of product development is to deliver ever increasing perceived value of using a product. As a Software-as-a-Service provider, such as Projectplace, catering to thousands or millions of users, it is obviously not feasible to engage in a conversation with each and every one of these users about their exact needs and wishes and how those can be supported by improvements and additions to the service. It would surely have been nice but it simply wouldn’t scale.

So instead we rely on generalizations to determine what should go into the product we are developing and how those features and improvements should work. We have created a set of “Personas” that are referenced throughout the design and development processes to keep us focused on why we are doing what we do and —generally — what expectations we should meet or exceed. Look at them as stand-in users representing the target audience.

Say hello to some of our imaginary friends; Gun, Birgit and Sebastian.


The controlling one with great responsibilities

  • Profession: Project Controller
  • Age: 59
  • Family: Husband Bertil, two grown up kids, three grandkids
  • Hobbies: What Gun really dreams of is doing ceramics and taking care of her grandkids, but that has to wait until she is retired.

Gun is a former project manager, known for her ability to keep track of huge amounts of information. She is a great organiser and that is why she has climbed the career ladder at her job. To be truthful, she really doesn’t enjoy keeping track of all the details for everyone else, but that’s the way it has turned out and she knows she has a knack for it. She feels somewhat comfortable around computers and the Internet, and she thinks web based tools are a good complement to the organisation’s own tools.


The member who only wants to do what she’s always done

  • Profession: Human Resource Manager at a manufacturer of solutions for four wheel drive cars
  • Age: 62
  • Husband Gösta, two children and two grandchildren
  • Hobbies: Birgit loves to spend time in the family summer house. She takes care of the apple trees and makes juice, cider and apple sauce whenever she has the time. Naturally, the grandchildren are the ”apples of her eye”.

Birgit is the Human Resource Manager of FourByFour, a company that manufactures solutions for four-wheel drive cars. The company has almost 200 employees. At the moment she is completely occupied with an internal change project. The company is a supplier to a major car company and they have now decided to aquire FourByFour. The merger means that many systems and processes have to be adapted to the new owner. Birgit is part of the project group in charge of the merge.

Earlier in her career, Birgit was a union representative and that’s how she came to move into Human Resources. She has been employed at her current position as Human Resource Manager at FourByFour for the last 15 years. Her long experience has given her a good work structure and she knows how to handle her various tasks. She does not view change as something positive – why change a winning concept?

Birgit is viewed as being considerate and kind. Everyone says a cheerful hello to her in the morning when they arrive to work. They all know though that she is no push-over, she knows what she wants. She is the ”office Granny”, a description which covers both her warm and considerate nature as well as the fact that it feels like she’s a bit out of date.


The member who believes in communication

  • Profession: Trainee, Swedish Trade Council in China
  • Age: 31
  • Family: Single
  • Hobbies: Sebastian likes fashion and has a whole closet filled with Hugo Boss suites produced in China. He enjoys spending the weekends strolling around various markets. He is always on the lookout for possible lucrative products that can be imported to his home country of Sweden.

Sebastian is involved in market projects at the Swedish Trade Council in Bejing. In this position he is the link between Swedish companies looking to set up in China and the Chinese authorities/ cooperative enterprises. He manages and helps out with all the necessary application forms, how the Chinese law works, setting up local business contacts, booking various flights and making hotel reservations. Sebastian’s most recent project is launching reindeer meat as an exclusive and exotic alternative to teriyaki. Sarvssis AB is the family business in Jokkmokk that has involved Sebastian to help them break into the Chinese market. The employment at the trade council is Sebastian’s first real job after his degree in Industrial Engineering and Management at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. He started at the trade council already while writing his thesis and was then given the opportunity to stay on as a trainee.

As a person Sebastian is very sociable and networking, which is also a requirement in his line of work. He makes sure to keep in touch with old classmates through Facebook – you never know what opportunities might arise from them in the future. His fellow students saw him as the real ”business type” kind of guy. That’s also how his current coworkers describe him, adding descriptions such as ”eager beaver, wiseacre and a devoted young man who always performs at his best”.

Sebastian’s future vision is crystal clear – one day he will represent the Asian market in the board room at Ericsson.

At Projectplace we in fact use a much larger set of personas to represent all sorts of user needs and wants. Gun, Birgit and Sebastian are only three of those. So, our imaginary friends represent you as a user or consumer and I think they do a fairly good job at that. In fact, on a normal day at the office nobody would be surprised by the question “What would Gun think about this?”

However, they will never completely replace the feedback and input that flesh-and-blood friends can give. While software is driven by generally formulated ideas about needs the software should fulfill, people are not personas. Therefore it is advisable to invite real people into the conversation about what a piece of software should do and why. Projectplace Ideas is a venue for such a conversation and it has been immensely important in teaching us more about you as a user, your needs and your wants. Join the conversation.
(Our personas are made up. Any resemblance with actual individuals is purely coincidental.)

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