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How to Define User Story Roles: User Role Modeling, Persona Development, and Stakeholder Identification

3 Techniques to discover and analyze obvious and not so obvious roles / stakeholders that will generate new User Stories


Author: Tom and Angela Hathaway
Video Duration: 3:11 minutes

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In a User Story, stakeholders are the answer to the WHO of the Story. They receive the business value that the User Story will describe. They are also the stakeholders that a developer can contact if they have more questions.

Missing critical stakeholders / roles is a major cause of missing business needs on any project, agile or traditional. To minimize this risk, you need to start early with identifying as many potential stakeholders /roles as possible who need to interact with your digital solution.

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The Role in a User Story Benefits from the Business Outcome of the Story

The role in the User Story reflects a specific group of individuals who typically perform the same task.

User role modeling identifies potential roles. It’s the minimum you have to do to define the WHO in the User Story. However, if you are a Product Manager, UX designer, etc. writing User Stories to develop the next great product for your company, you need more than just roles. You need to define Personas. So, what’s a persona?

Personas are user roles. The concept of Personas originated in the world of customer-facing product development. If your digital solution is meant to be used by thousands or millions of people around the world, chatting with a small sample of that audience will not go far toward creating the ultimate user experience.

This concept is central to those involved in product development, marketing, product design, User Experience design, etc. In that world, you need to create a set of fictional characters representing your target audience. These characters are called Personas and there is an extensively documented process for creating them.

Although the concept of using Personas has a lot of potential, it is not always suitable for defining the roles for User Story stories. Persona development requires a ton of research and analysis. That makes it extremely time-consuming and requires a lot of discipline. I’m not knocking it, just saying it is not the only approach for people who create User Stories.

Any Stakeholder is either part of a user role group or is a user role. Stakeholder Discovery is an additional technique that allows you to identify roles that you might have missed. During user role modeling. You can also use it as a replacement for user role modeling if you are developing an internal-facing product.  However, it leaves a lot to be desired if your audience is a black box.

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Written for the aspiring Business Analyst and anyone tasked with defining the business needs, requirements, or user stories for a future IT solution.

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