How to define User for your Connected Product

User-centered design practices are an effective method to design products. But who are the users of your connected product? Usually, there are many more users of your product than what you typically think of in a first pass. This article provides a method to systematically identify all the users you need to think about when planning your product.

Let’s suppose you are building a predictive maintenance solution for HVAC systems. The product is for operations managers of commercial buildings. The value proposition is to reduce the number of service calls by half. In this example, who are the users of your product?
potential users:

  • building occupants (who control HVAC)
  • facilities manager (who is responsible for the building)
  • director of operations (who purchases your product)
  • repair technician (who performs repair)
  • operations engineer (who does remote monitoring)
  • distributors (who sell your product)
  • engineering (who analyze your product data)
  • support (who support customers)

So where do you start?

First, think about all your users in three types.

Customers: Users within your customer’s organization. For connected products, there are often direct users, manager users, purchaser users and more.
Partners/Vendors: Users outside your company who help sell, install or maintain your product.
Internal: Users are people within your company including operations, engineerings, sales etc.

The number of users often increases with the complexity of your product. We find the best guide is to identify all the users who are involved in every stage of the customer lifecycle including:

  1. Sales
  2. Install
  3. Provision
  4. Onboard
  5. Operate
  6. Maintain
  7. Decommission