Guidewire, a company delivering property and casualty insurance software to hundreds of user types globally, approached EchoUser to create personas to deepen empathy for their diverse user base. Initially, the company lacked a clear, shared understanding of their users' behaviors, motivations, and needs, hindering their goal of defining and supporting specific user journeys. EchoUser's three-month engagement expanded to 10 months, supporting organizational adoption of the personas and enabling Guidewire's UX team to conduct research, design assets, and increase visibility within the company.
The real value in working with EchoUser was the team transformation that they helped ignite, directing all of us on the path of UX maturity within the company – Design team member, Guidewire.
We kicked off this project with a presentation to 100 internal stakeholders from more than 20 product teams to introduce personas: What are they? When, why, and how do you use them? This was the first of many initiatives that aimed to both educate diverse stakeholders and build organization-wide engagement in the persona project.
Given the high volume of personas to produce, limited user research resources, and comprehensive internal expert knowledge, we started by creating provisional personas across nine products by interviewing industry analysts, product managers, and other knowledgeable stakeholders. Recognizing that this expert-driven approach relies primarily on assumptions about users, we developed a strategy for Guidewire’s 12-person UX team to validate the personas with customers over time.
Through our conversations with stakeholders we picked the highest priority personas and implemented two research studies to understand small business policyholders as well as personal lines (home & auto) policyholders. For each study, one in California and the other in Dublin, Ireland, we designed a highly collaborative approach that included a four-day analysis workshop with product teams and several show-and-tell sessions with key decision makers from product and marketing.
By making the persona and journey map development process transparent and visible, we were able to accomplish the following goals:
Build empathy for users
Train the UX team in research methodologies
Demonstrate the value of UX
Gain organizational buy-in
After creating the small business policyholder personas, we crafted and executed a strategy to familiarize cross-functional teams with the personas and teach them how to use them.
We partnered with UX and Product Management teams to conduct four persona launch events in three countries, targeting an audience of engineers, quality assurance, UX designers, product managers, administrators, and industry analysts. For the 70-person launch in Foster City, we co-presented with the lead product manager to gain cross-functional buy-in and trained the UX team to moderate the break-out groups to build their skills and promote their role as UX leaders. All 20 personas were printed and displayed around Guidewire offices for teams to use in everyday conversations as they make decisions that impact users.
At the end of this 10-month project the UX team was more engaged, collaborative, and skillful at showing and promoting the value of UX across the broader organization. Achieving higher UX maturity has enabled Guidewire to better understand their users and design better products that target their needs.
The UX team demonstrated growth by adopting new UX practices and leading research initiatives:
After moderating the persona launch workshop, many noted a renewed enthusiasm and engagement from working more collaboratively and trying out new methods. They continued the shift from individual to collaborative working styles afterwards, posting their work on the wall to enhance visibility. The team owned their role in promoting the voice of users. They commonly shared stories of helping to resolve design dilemmas by asking what would work best for the persona.
A few UX leaders emerged, taking action to spread of value of UX throughout the organization. They started presenting their work to broad, internal audiences and became more active contributors on product teams. Specifically, they started asking more questions, sharing their perspectives, and challenging teams to define the problem before coming up with solutions.
They demonstrated an improved understanding of fundamental research concepts by transforming unplanned user observations into intentional interactions. They started to define research goals, create moderator guides, synthesize findings, and share what they learned with others. UX designers put their persona and journey mapping skills to practice, initiating research studies and producing artifacts and insights to inform product decisions.
C-level executives and cross-functional teams demonstrated support for persona adoption and promoted a user-centered design approach to product development:
One product team became aware of incorrect assumptions about users and redesigned their product to align with research findings.
Another product team decided to expand their product offering to target a different persona and address their unmet needs.
One Product Manager showed a shift in her thinking about users as she acted out one of the personas that her product targets in a presentation to internal stakeholders.
The UX team accessed funding to hire their first full-time user researcher.
The Chief Product Officer presented our persona and journey mapping work to internal stakeholders to set expectations for adoption, and to external prospects and customers (insurers) to illustrate Guidewire’s user-centered approach. Several customers reached out to learn more from the UX team, positioning them as educators and mentors on user experience within the insurance industry. Our flexible team was able to evolve the scope of the project to address Guidewire’s needs.
We delivered high fidelity personas and journey maps, but more importantly, we increased UX visibility throughout the company, enabling the broader organization to understand and drive knowledge surrounding their user base and how their products are being used.
We’re glad to have contributed to Guidewire’s changed perception of what UX can do and what a dedicated UX team is capable of.