People have thoughts and opinions, and your users are no exception. A user base that is engaged in the system and interested in sharing their insights and system desires with you at every opportunity is something system admins should aspire to. Even users that seem to complain about everything they come across in the system are, in their own way, sharing feedback with you.
The Many Faces of Feedback
Feedback can come in a variety of ways – a discussion at the water cooler, thoughts shared in a meeting, an email directly requesting a feature or system enhancement, an IM discussion, a support case, a note under the door, a sticky note left on your chair at the office…plenty of options exist.
Capture It All…And Be Consistent
Your role is to capture those suggestions and organize them in a way that you can action them in the future. There is no shortage of systems out there to help you do this. If you do a quick search for backlog and system enhancement software you’ll get list after list of the “top 10” or “top 15” lists according to various companies. Jira, Wrike, Asana, Teamwork…the list goes on and on.
Have a Plan!
No matter how the feedback comes in and what you do with it when it arrives, if you have a set process in place for this it will eventually become an action you don’t even think about.
Example: you get an email where a user has suggested some tweaks on a specific form in the system. Your process could be that you copy that text and paste it into a new System Suggestion file in your backlog/system enhancement management tool. You add who suggested it, the date, the context of their suggestion, and your anticipated next action item for the suggestion (i.e. call user to discuss further, send response with questions A,B,C for more information, review with system advisory committee, etc.).
Have Another Plan!
So you’ve got a process by which you capture those feedback items – GREAT! But what do you do with that list?
First – do you have everything you need on those suggestions? As noted above, sometimes the next action item might be to gather additional information from the user that suggested it. What I’ve found really helpful is to think about what I need to have enough information to explain the request to someone else. To do this, think about the W’s…
- What change/addition is the user describing?
- What is the business problem this is solving?
- Where in the system is the user seeking this change/feature?
- Who would be impacted by this change?
- Why does the user feel this would be a positive change?
- When does it makes sense to roll this feature into the system?
These are just samples. I’d encourage you to outline the questions that are important to you and your system/process/structure.
Additionally, have a schedule for this. Monthly? Quarterly? Twice a year? Point is, have some kind of systematic schedule that allows the steering committee to come together and review the suggestions.
Once you know what you need form the user, why not explore equipping them with a form that they can fill in when they have such a suggestion? Microsoft Forms Pro (err, Customer Voice…) makes creating a web-form as simple as it can be, and comes with some great features like question branching and notifications/alerts so you know when someone has updated a form.
If you know what information you need, why not ask it up front? This makes the process more efficient for you and the users, and gets you input you know you are going to ask for anyhow. It also encourages users to think about their suggestion. It’s a lot easier to rifle off an email with one line saying “I wish the system did a better job of X”. Having them fill in the form with specific questions pushes them to really think about what they are asking for and potential solutions to the business problem.
This can be tough. Remember that people are suggesting something from their perspective based on their experience. It comes with natural biases and is rooted in their understanding of and ability within the system. Those aren’t bad things, they are just things you need to be mindful of.
Not every suggestion is going to be a good one, but providing an avenue for your users to make suggestions is important to fostering their enthusiasm and buy in to that system – it helps provide them a sense of ownership.
But because of this, it’s important to have a ranking system in place. Often times organizations will have steering or system enhancement review committee. This is the group you will need to be able to explain the ideas to, however as there are often many suggestions to review, it’s beneficial to have a ranking system in place ahead of time.
I’ve seen different ways of doing this, but the most recent method I implemented really resonated well. It was a loose composite index model for system requests. Users were asked to rate their request on key business impact metrics. In this case:
- Customer Experience
- Customer Growth Potential
The idea was simple. The user would fill in a form that collected key information about their request as noted above.
On the form the user would also be asked to rate the impact of this change on the metrics noted above – the scale we used was 1-5 with 1 being low impact and 5 being high impact.
I then weighted these. Revenue is pretty important, so it was worth 0.4, the other two items were 0.3. The user rating is then multiplied by this value to generate an overall “Business Impact” rating.
A user that provides ratings of Revenue: 2, Customer Experience: 4, Customer Growth Potential 3 would result in a business impact composite score of 2.9
This was part one, but Business Impact is only part of the equation. Upon receiving the submission the admin team would then add information into the index to make up the “Implementation Reality” index score. Also rated on a 1 to 5 scale, this would have the admin team rate the suggestion on the following metrics:
- Time to Develop
- Dependency on Others (as in, do I need to lean on other teams or vendors to get this done)
- Time Waiting (how long the request has been waiting at time of review)
Same logic – a weighting was attached to each of these; 0.4, 0.3, 0.2, 0.1 respectively.
I managed these in Excel, so formulas drove the calculations and I had a separate tab that provided an graph to rate the priority. (yes, there are likely other systems to do this, but we needed something up quickly so started with Excel).
Items in the upper left box were the highest impact and easiest to implement, whereas items on the right side were more complex to implement.
This method provided me with a baseline ranking to help drive the discussion with the steering committee. I was able to articulate the weighting of each item, which helped the team understand the impact of the proposed item both on the organization AND my team, which was helpful.
That’s just one example, and I can see why some might look at this and think it’s a bit much. I’ve been in the scenario where I am trying to weight and measure the reality of implementation of a suggestion in real time during a ranking discussion. It’s not easy, so anything I can do help provide data to drive the discussion is pretty valuable.
The Overall Point
Perhaps this isn’t necessary, but a quick summary given the length of this post felt like a good idea.
- Give your users a consistent and predictable method for sharing feedback
- Capture EVERYTHING they toss your way so you have a lot to work with
- (also, if you only keep track of the things you like or want to do, it’s kind of a form of favoritism and the reality is that this system belongs to the org, not you personally – perhaps this is a debate inducing comment…)
- Ask questions so you understand the information from the initial idea submission
- Have a ranking system on metrics that matter to your business and your team’s ability to implement
- Have a schedule for the review feedback
I feel as though this topic could have been split up into a few parts. Perhaps I’ll circle back to this at some point in the future. In the meantime, what are your tips for collecting and managing feedback from your users? How to keep track of it? How do you prioritize it?
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