Why Personas Are Critical Product Development and Go To Market Tools for Startups

Yesterday, I attended an event held by the IT team of a major bank. When the data analytics team took the stage, I listened with great interest as the chief of the group described their internal struggles with data and the areas where startups might help them achieve their goals. He articulated his team’s needs and goals in a very concise way by bucketing his users into three personas. I’ve summarized these personas below:

The Three People That Matter in Data

RoleChallengesTechnology
AnalystReveal trends in dataCreate and propagate data silosVisualization tools, Spreadsheets, BI
ScientistCreate models to describe behavior, predict the future and expose anomalies, employing advanced statistics.Spend a huge amount of time manipulating data into an analyzable formStatistical Packages for modeling, ETL tools, Scrubbing and Validation Tools
StewardEnsuring the data infrastructure meets the teams needs and complies with company/industry policySupply the proper infrastructure to met the needs of the data team, manage legal risk, and document data. Master Data Management, Data Lineage, Access Control and Rights Administration, Provisioning

This talk reminded me of the notion of personas from my product manager days. Personas are incredibly effective tools for product managers to employ. Personas focus the product roadmap on important issues and guide product design. By focusing the team on particular needs, personas ensure that all the major stakeholders’ needs are addressed.

For example, I’d never heard the term data steward before. The term data steward was coined in 2007, but the term hasn’t seen nearly the level of adoption garnered by data scientist. But there’s no question that stewards are equally important stakeholders in the purchasing process as analysts and scientists, and startups selling data analysis tools should address their needs, too.

Personas become even more powerful when they span organizational divisions. For example, using the product team’s personas, sales and marketing teams can craft the proper message to interest and close a customer, by demonstrating how particular product features solve the customer’s problem. This continuity of personas creates alignment from product planning through to customer sales and success. When used this way, personas provide a framework for the product team to receive feedback from the sales and marketing teams on what’s working and what isn’t.

Personas are valuable tools for creating a common language to discuss customers and customer needs. In addition, they ensure all the key stakeholders’ needs are met. Last, personas align a startup’s efforts around particular needs, and focus all the different teams on the same customer issues and needs, saving time and improving the company’s sales effectiveness. Consider using them with your team.

Published 2014-10-09 in Management 


I'm a partner at Redpoint. I invest in Series A and B SaaS companies. I write daily, data-driven blog posts about key questions facing startups. I co-authored the book, Winning with Data. Join more than 18,000 others receiving these blog posts by email.


Read this next: