Project Management: Leveraging User Surveys

One important aspect of improving your Project Team’s performance is the review of end user feedback data. Unfortunately, many project management consulting professionals either don’t actively solicit feedback, or they fail to take the time to closely scrutinize feedback once they receive it. User feedback is a success-building goldmine—learn to capture it and use it to your advantage.

The simplest and most common tool to solicit and gather meaningful user feedback is the survey. The beauty of this basic approach is threefold: 1) everyone knows what surveys are and how they work; 2) you can modify each survey to be as simple or as detailed as necessary; and 3) it’s an easily repeatable process.

Getting useful results

To maximize the usefulness of your survey’s results, keep a few suggestions in mind.

  • Limit surveys to only 1 or 2 per project.
  • Keep surveys short—the majority of users will simply toss surveys that are too long.
  • Tailor each survey to be applicable to as many end users as possible. If you’re interested in specific information from a subset of users, create a survey just for them.
  • Ask relevant questions. You’re guaranteed to have poor return rates if your surveys focus on areas of the project that aren’t of primary concern to your end users. Issues such as timely communication, an accurate understanding of users’ concerns, and readily available support are generally good places to start.
  • Unless your survey is anonymous, quickly acknowledge receipt of each survey returned. Few things are more frustrating for end users than to never know if their feedback reached anyone.
  • Follow up with users about the results of the survey. It isn’t necessary to divulge all the details, but letting folks know that you actually read the surveys they return is a huge step toward building a successful partnership between your project management team and its clients. Highlight either the total number of surveys received, or the percentage of users who filled out the survey.
  • Let users know what you’re doing well, and which areas need improvement. Again, don’t delve into the details publicly, but if the surveys revealed any themes you’ll score points by sharing those with your user base. And while it’s a no-brainer to capitalize on good feedback, remember that you can continue cultivating happy end users by thoughtfully framing less-than-positive feedback, too.

Developing & implementing solutions

Follow this straightforward process to keep your team focused on finding the best solutions.

1) Remember: it’s a rare project that doesn’t have room for improvement, so unless the issue is truly heinous, don’t beat yourself (or your team) up too badly.
2) Don’t hesitate to contact end users for additional or more detailed information. Understanding the problem is the first step towards fixing it.

3) Gather your team to discuss the issues. Take the time to dig down to the root of your users’ concerns so you aren’t repeating the same mistakes later. Ask a lot of questions beginning with “why,” and keep asking until you understand the problem’s primary trigger.

4) Develop solutions. Once your team understands the issues and has investigated what caused them, talk about the best ways to address and resolve these concerns next time.

5) Change your processes. Formal process or procedure changes may not be necessary, but be sure the entire team is made aware of what changes are needed going forward.

6) Be diligent in following up with users about specific issues during future projects. Have your solutions successfully resolved users’ concerns? Improvement is an ongoing process, and continuous adaptation will result in greater success.

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