The Importance of Feedback

The quest for useful feedback is often overlooked, yet it can be crucial to the success of any new technology initiative.
When asking for feedback, I’m not talking about asking one person a question or just asking it once. Be consistent. Be persistent. Be redundant. Be a pain in the—you know what —if you must. The key is to ask everyone, all the time, to give you feedback.
One of the most important things you can do as the manager (administrator, architect, designer, developer, implementer) of any SharePoint project is to provide a means for feedback.
No one likes to go through the time, headaches and expense of creating a project no one uses. And yet we’ve all heard war stories of abandoned SharePoint projects. A lack of constructive feedback can result in a project being underutilized, or used incorrectly, or not used at all. Around here, we call those Phoenix projects, because we believe that with a little work and a lot of training, many can be resurrected and put to productive use. But that’s a subject for a future post.
Giving the people who are expected to use the final project an opportunity to give feedback provides them with a sense of ownership by involving them in the project’s creation from start to finish. They’re more likely to adopt it and even become internal evangelists for its use. You can make it a win-win.
What we’re talking about is baking a systematic feedback component into your SharePoint project. From a technical standpoint this feedback system can be very simple, just a custom list with as little as one field labeled “comments.” Set an alert on the list so you get notified when a new one is submitted. Put a link or an icon that represents this list on every single page in every single element of your project, and you’re done.
Then, encourage your team members to use the feedback form any time they find bugs or an epiphany hits them for a new feature or functionality they would like to add. This can come full circle and be part of your regular project meetings or scrums. What is a scrum? I know many of you are already familiar with the term, but a scrum is a regular, reoccurring meeting about the status of your project. Maybe you can incorporate a quick review of any feedback submitted since the previous scrum.
Do everything and anything you can to enforce use of the feedback system as habitual.
Make sure the feedback system is available in the very first alpha release of your project. And then any time you meet with your focus or testing group, reinforce that the feedback link is there. Drill it hard and heavy. In subsequent meetings use phrases like, “Due to the feedback we received…” Be as specific as possible and demonstrate to the business users that their input is being received. Show the changes that were made as a result of that feedback. This will further reinforce the use of the feedback system.
At the close of the project, or after the final launch of the product, the feedback form can be modified to input data directly into whatever ticketing system your company uses or send an alert via email to the help desk.
In the end, it’s a pretty simple concept. Encouraging and advocating user feedback will increase user adoption and enhance the ultimate success of your project.
Mike Dixon will be speaking about this and more in his presentation “Achieving End-User Utopia” at SharePoint Saturday Boston this week. The event is free, and offers a wide range of topics all around the use of SharePoint and Office 365. Learn more or register here. We look forward to seeing you there!

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