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In my experience, lots of product design problems are born when you forget about somebody.

In a complex environment, especially in B2B, your product needs to start to cater for different roles other than the person that it's going to use it. How is this?

If I'm going to eat a burger, I usually decide to do so, and pay for it before I make a pig out of myself. But sometimes, as a user I'm not in control of the decision, when I was in school it was not my choice, it was my parent’s or the state, and depending on if I was part of a public school or not, taxpayers or my family paid the bill.

So, these three roles can be the same actor (as in the burger), or could be splitted in two or three. The important thing here is to be able to recognize why each actor:

  • Decide that it will be used
  • Pay for it
  • Use the product.

Let me give you an example:

Meet Mary.
Meet Mary.

Mary works in a front desk job in a bank, her task is to receive customers who open new accounts. Mary's salary it's fixed, and she works 8 hours a day.

The bank CEO decides that customer attention times are too long, so she buys a license of a product that somehow allows for front desks employees, like Mary, to be faster in their data entry tasks and talk to more clients each day.

There is clearly value for the bank, but unless the product provides some value for Mary , such as reducing the effort of the job, she will probably hate it. She is still being paid the same and she is working more.

She might not have the power to decide not to use the product, but she will voice her unrest. And the next time somebody offers the CEO a product that does the same but better, she will try it. Because “everyone hates the one we have”.

In Summary…

When designing, remember to identify who Uses, Who pays, and who decides. And understand what value you are providing to each actor.

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