User Research to Inform Collaboration Tools

We know different people use collaboration software in different ways. Some use collaboration tools like Webex every day, some might use them rarely, some might look for wow factor, some might be looking for efficiency. So how do you build a collaboration tool for millions of knowledge workers? This is where personas can help. Instead of creating designs that are based on intuition, gut, and preferences of the design team, personas can help us understand the needs of users and build products and designs that speak to those needs.

Research Methodology

The research team at Webex recently set out to create personas for millions of knowledge workers who use Webex. It was a daunting task since Webex has such a wide user-base in terms of different types of users and industries. All types of knowledge workers including lawyers, doctors, engineers, HR, and finance professionals from a wide variety of industries use Webex. Therefore, we wanted to m ake sure that we spoke to a broad range of knowledge workers from different industries and across a range of roles. As a first step, we mapped out users from different industries and roles on a spreadsheet. For example, we wanted to make sure that we spoke to HR professionals from a couple of different industries or engineers working in tech and non-tech companies. After we identified our target roles and industries, we worked with our Customer Success, Product and Account Management teams to identify and contact people within customer companies that gave us the spectrum of voices that we wanted to achieve.

Meet Cisco Webex Users- A Case for Knowledge Workers

In all, we interviewed over 70 people, covering both end-users who work in collaborative environments. The interviews were a mix of in-person and remote interviews with interviewee being located all around the globe.

Webex Knowledge Worker Personas

To synthesize our results, the team gathered together in San Jose, taking over one of the team workshop spaces and covered the walls with quotes, pain points, insights and observations taken from the interview notes. As we read through the stickies we started to notice some patterns and began grouping points under common themes. For example, we discovered within a certain group of users security was a big concern. These happen to be people who work in Finance, HR or legal. It’s understandable that employees who work in these departments are concerned about security. In these roles they are dealing with a lot of sensitive information like headcount planning, salaries, forecast on revenue or profit.

Based on data from our interviews, we came up with five knowledge worker personas: Security Concerned Worker, Agile worker, Mobile worker, Customer Focused and Organizer.

Meet Gwen

We feel that the set of 5 knowledge worker personas developed, embody the insights we learned in our research and bring them to life. For this blog post, it’s hard to share all the personas. There is one we would like to share. She is Gwen. She works as a specialist, and she could be working in HR, Finance and Legal. Security is paramount to her since she works closely with executives and managers on sensitive projects like annual planning. She often defaults to email for collaboration since she believes email is more secure.

Security Focused Worker


We are continuing to refine and develop this persona set as we learning more about our users in different roles and industries. In the meantime, we have adopted personas in our design deliverables: storyboards, wire frames etc. The product team is also working to adopt personas in their user stories. Please stay tuned to hear more about how we are incorporating personas in Webex product development.

You can find out more about The Design Group at Cisco Webex and open job opportunities here.




Kathryn ParkesKathryn Parkes, Senior UX Researcher
Kathryn is an experienced user researcher based in Dublin, Ireland reporting into San Jose. As a member of the UX Research team, she leads research projects across the Webex Suite working with various Cisco Collab teams in Ireland, US and across Europe. The team use a broad variety of research methods, including user interviews, usability testing and benchmarking studies, to get a deep understanding of Webex user needs.

Naghmeh Nouri Esfahani, Senior UX ResearcherNaghmeh Nouri Esfahani
Naghmeh Nouri Esfahani is a mixed methods UX researcher at Cisco. She is curious about people’s behavior and the role of technology in people’s lives. Prior to Cisco, she worked at Microsoft and multiple incubators in Silicon Valley.

About The Design Group at Cisco

The Design Group at Cisco is a global team of Red Dot Award winning creatives who are making collaboration more natural for everyone. Our talents serve our vision of making technology invisible, making the complex simple, and building real human-to-human connections. We explore people’s needs through research and empathy to make the world a better place to work.


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