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Hmm, that term persona. I keep reading about the need to ‘define a persona’ for clients or those you interact with internally or externally. But what are these pesky personas, and do they have any relevance to our world of GIS and intelligent maps?

I’ve begun to realise they are very important.

Let’s start with a definition:

A persona is a semi-fictional representation of your customers or clients.

That sounds rather wishy-washy; silly marketing jargon. But, before we disregard, let’s spend a little more time digging deeper.

The diagram below is taken from one of our recent blog posts entitled: Why do you need to understand the ArcGIS solutions pyramid?, before continuing here I encourage you to read this article.

arcgis-solutions-pyramid

The ArcGIS Solutions Pyramid provides a way to categorize an ArcGIS request or task. We suggest using a pyramid like this to help assess projects or tasks in terms of elements like levels of complexity. So what does this have to do with personas? I’ll ask the question we pose at the end of the pyramid article. We had a customer who came to us wanting to quickly get started with AGOL. They had limited knowledge of GIS and no in-house ArcGIS expertise. Their request was for our ArcGIS Jumpstart: set up, configuration, an overview of AGOL capabilities and away they would go. We asked them the reason for wanting to use AGOL. Their response:

We have a custom trade area, we need to know the population and sales per square mile respectively for each trade area in the State of ……

From our ArcGIS Solutions Pyramid (see the diagram above), this is a level 3 question: calculate and build a map. Given the description of this client, do you think an ArcGIS Jumpstart would help them find their way to an answer to this question?

Hopefully your response is a very solid “NO”. So let me ask another question. Why?

Clearly this client does not have the expertise to solve this problem. If we were to categorize or create a persona for this client how might that look? Let’s give it a try:

This client recognizes that GIS and intelligent maps can potentially help answer a (complex) business question. But have little understanding of the technology, nor have spatially trained staff to help them walk down the path from problem to solution

How is that? A pretty good start I think. I would summarize this client as curious.

I think you are getting the idea that defining personas is potentially very useful. Its important to tie a request or task to a persona. Again why? Let’s take this example one step further. Suppose we had provided this client our ArcGIS Jumpstart package as they had requested, what do you think would have been the result?

Frustration, confusion, questioning ArcGIS and ROI ….. Ultimately, no answer to the question!

We take personas seriously. Persona definition is something we do. Just like our ArcGIS Solutions Pyramid, ArcGIS personas help us ensure project and client success.

Want to get keep track of new developments in the world of maps and GIS?  Download a free copy of our white paper ‘From Where to There’, which provides a road map for solving problems with intelligent maps and GIS.

matt_sheehanAuthor: Matt Sheehan

Matt Sheehan is a Principal at WebMapSolutions. Matt evangelizes GIS and intelligent maps around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books. Follow him on Twitter:

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