Personas in Azure DevOps

This is not a sponsored post, and I do not have any contact or affiliation with Agile Extensions, this is just a really cool tool!

As someone who delivers software to multiple clients, I often find myself sifting through multiple Azure DevOps Backlogs on a weekly basis. This can be quite tedious, but one of the most underrated features of Azure DevOps to help ease this process has to be the Personas extension by Agile Extensions.

In my blog post “The Power Of A Great User Story“, one of the themes I spoke about was the individual within the User Story, and making sure that we clearly identify ‘who‘ as well as ‘what‘ and ‘why‘.

For example, writing ‘As a Customer Service Manager…’ provides far more context compared to what I’ve seen so many times, which is ‘As a user of the system…’.

When using this more detailed way of writing ‘who‘ across all User Stores, suddenly you’re able to identify the full story for any individual that may be impacted by the requirement or process.

Interested? Well here are five significant reasons why you should use Personas in your next project!

#1 – It’s free

Personas is a free extension to Azure DevOps available within the Visual Studio Marketplace, and installation requires minimal effort from the end user. Once installed, Personas can be configured across your whole Project and live in the Boards section alongside your other Work Item related functionality.

You might be asking what’s the catch? Well the extension shows a small advert for other free services from Agile Extensions, but these are not plastered across your project and they’re not intrusive either as shown below.

A screenshot of an Azure DevOps project called 'Projects' with the Personas extension installed. An advert for Agile Extensions' Bravo Notes functionality appears at the bottom of the page and underneath the Personas configured.

#2 It’s visual

As you have already seen from the previous image, Personas can have Avatars associated with them, and there are over 80 to choose from! These Avatars follow the Persona’s configuration across the whole of your project, adding some life and colour to your Work Items!

A screenshot of 25 Avatars available for selection in the Personas extension. There are 80 overall!

#3 Personas can be grouped

If your project has a number of different business areas associated with it, it may be helpful to group your Personas by a chosen category for added context. Now this feature doesn’t particularly influence the way that you assign a Persona to your organisation, but given that you’re already using Azure DevOps, you’re probably someone who loves organising things. Any Personas that have been categorised will be shown in separate groups from the Personas tab in Boards.

A screenshot of the creation of a new Persona, showing the following fields: Name, Tag, Category, Description

#4 Add many Personas on each Work Item

Typically, a User Story only identifies one individual and you can sometimes find yourself writing a second part of the User Story as a separate Work Item instead of getting the full context. Personas allows us to easily add multiple Personas affected by a User Story, reducing the number of ‘similar’ User Stories required for the backlog but without losing important context.

A screenshot of a User Story 'Work Item' including the Customer Service Manager and Customer Service Representative Persona.

#5 Auto-generated Tags on Work Items

And last, but certainly not least, you may have seen from the previous screenshot that I also had the Personas tagged in the Work Item too!

These were added automatically to the Work Item, meaning that I can take advantage of all of the native Query functionality within Azure DevOps in the way that I already do for existing Tags and other attributes.

Now this is really why I love the Personas extension. When I’m delivering requirements, I like to go through the way that an individual is impacted by any given requirement, particularly if we are having scoping conversations. A client may want to reduce their scope by reviewing the larger User Stories, and by using Personas we can clearly see the impact on ‘who‘ and ‘why‘ it has that impact if we don’t deliver the ‘what’ within the User Story.

In addition, if you’re mid-sprint and you want to create efficiencies in the way that you deliver, it may be more productive to deliver a chunk of User Stories for one Persona in the same set of delivery days as opposed to delivering just based on capacity or skill-set.


Agile Extensions’ Website

Personas – Visual Studio Marketplace

The Power Of A Great User Story – AaronKGumbs

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