Data-Driven Personas at Salesforce

Understanding Our Users in a Whole New Way

At Salesforce, we face some special challenges around understanding our users. First, many (if not most) of our users have customized their Salesforce instance: every user sees a different version of our solution. We also have a broad, complex, and disaggregated user base: our users leverage Salesforce in a myriad of industries, regions, and market segments.

So how can we draw meaningful conclusions about our users, at scale? How can we surface insights that are both accurate (based in real data) and actionable (actually useful for lots of teams). How can we better understand your users without spending so much time and effort that our findings are unusable and outdated?

We’ve landed on data-driven personas as an efficient, research-led method for better understanding our users. User personas based on data provide our designers, product managers, doc writers, engineers, and executives with a common shorthand for our users that’s both easy to use and is based in current data about our user base. Here’s how we do it.

Salesforce personas

Creating Our User Personas

We then take our survey data and use clustering analysis and factor analysis to reduce a broad range of behavioral variables into clear, mutually-exclusive categories: our user personas. We craft personas such that a given user is based into their group if they perform the tasks of that group at a higher rate than those of any other group. Users can fall into two personas if they perform both sets of tasks at the same rate, but that’s generally uncommon.

Surveys vs. Usage Data

Personas vs. Job Roles

Distribution & Evangelism

Once collateral is prepared, we distribute our findings throughout the company and focus on helping teams adopt the research. We provide Brown Bag sessions where we present the findings, hold meetings with individual teams to workshop ways for them to use the personas, and solicit feedback from teams on how personas can support their efforts.

We are also integrating our personas into our agile software development process, so that when we write user stories we have background on exactly which users we’re envisioning will use our products. We also shared our personas with our users and customers at Dreamforce, and discussed how personas can be used to enhance the development process for our customers as well.

How Can I Bring Personas to My Organization?

Interested in providing feedback to the Salesforce User Research team? Join our Customer Research Program!

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