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Persona

Background
This persona project was for an educational nonprofit organization that provides services to improve academic standards worldwide. They use personas to identify, influence, and validate design decisions for their technology solutions. In this endeavor, I was the only Product Designer representing a five-member Product team and solely responsible for the management, research, and execution.
Goal
This project's goal was to expand the existing user persona inventory by including new personas that had not been previously identified.
Challenge
The main challenges of this project were limited resources and access. Our earlier persona research efforts were completed with additional UX team members, but the biggest issue in achieving this deliverable was the lack of direct access to the research subjects. I had to get creative and devise a plan leveraging what I could do rather than focusing on what I couldn't do.
Solution
I was able to identify and deliver all relevant user personas leveraging the resources I had available. I utilized various cross-functional teams with frequent and direct access to the identified research subjects. The result represented the specified users and provided better context while acknowledging that this was a trade-off from industry best practices.
Process
Identify

First, I determined which teams within the organization regularly and consistently work directly with the users I was trying to personify. I pinpointed about 15-20 subject matter experts that work with the subjects in various capacities. Some of the groups I engaged with were state and global representatives, operations, improvement, volunteer, and client services.

Contextualize

Over the last few years, I have learned that it's much easier to receive feedback from cross-functional groups when reacting to a visual.  In this case, I had a working knowledge of the organization. So, I broke the cardinal rule in personas and made-up examples.

Analyze

Next, I engaged with each expert and communicated with them via the preferred method they specified. We reviewed the content from each example, and then I asked each person to reflect, then provide feedback and changes within an agreed-upon timeframe.

Compile

I received feedback from all of the experts, I updated the persona to represent all of the input. I used my judgment and consulted other members of the product team to reconcile conflicting data.

Review

Once I completed my revised personas, I shared the deliverables via email with the group. I chose to follow up via email because it provided flexibility, transparency of group feedback and documentation, plus it allowed all the experts to review at their leisure. All parties were able to confirm the final version before completion.

Next Steps

My recommendation is to further validate this project in the future by collaborating with groups such as marketing and the data analytics team by creating a user survey based on each persona's content to obtain and verify the user's feedback directly.

Lessons Learned
In user experience and product design, we learn how to conduct research and execute solutions in a perfect world. In my experience, I have never had the luxury of such idyllic conditions. Instead of being discouraged by lack of access or resources, this was a moment to be creative and take the initiative. A Product Designer's role is to make the best deliverable possible within the constraints you have.
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