Crowdsourcing Feedback on IT Projects with Social Tools

By Simpplr Marketing
Gathering feedback from employees to support IT projects is a great use case for your social intranet.

IT departments have to make sure that the software they build, buy or configure is focused on the needs of their employees. However, some IT departments struggle to successfully connect and consult with employees to ensure technology decisions are user-centered.

This is where a social intranet can really help. Whether building new applications, gathering requirements to select a vendor or working in an agile way with more rapid decision-making, the intranet is an excellent way for IT to engage with a wider set of employees than ever before.

Crowdsourcing feedback through social tools

A social intranet has a range of tools that can be used to get feedback and source opinions on concepts, designs and particular issues during a project.

For example, you may have three designs to choose from for a new application. These have already been reviewed by stakeholders and in a workshop of users, but you want to get opinions from a wider and more diverse set of employees.

You can post up the designs on the intranet and then use a poll to get employees to vote on which they prefer. If you want to try and gather more detailed feedback on the designs, you could create a prominent news article or blog post and ask for people to give comments in the feedback.

Targeting feedback

Sometimes you may need to ask for feedback from targeted groups. If your social intranet has a community site representing a group (for example Executive Assistants or everybody in your German office) you may be able to use social tools to ask them a question directly.  

You may also want to have a dedicated community space for your project where you can ask more in depth questions and engage with users on a regular basis using discussion threads or blogs.  This place can also become where you communicate about project progress, and even co-ordinate activities within the project team.

Advantages of the social intranet

Whatever tools you decide to use, leveraging your social intranet for your IT project has several advantages:

  • It can potentially reach a far greater range of employees with diverse needs and opinions
  • You can use different tools for different needs, both formal and more informal
  • You can target particular groups with different questions
  • You can use discussion threads to follow up and ask further questions
  • You can get feedback quickly, sometimes almost in real time
  • All feedback is transparent, which encourages others to join in

Use your intranet to supplement more focused approaches

While social tools are great for getting wider feedback, they should not replace other ways of sourcing feedback and conducting research for your IT project. It’s very likely you will need to use focus groups, stakeholder interviews, in-depth surveys, user observation, usability testing and other approaches. Similarly your intranet should not replace other software you might need, for example around managing projects or tracking bugs.

Some care may also need to be taken about how you ask for feedback. It’s easy to get an avalanche of ideas of varying quality, but then find you don’t have time to respond, or for employees to have an expectation that all suggestions will be implemented.

Recruiting advocates, super-users and testers!

Engaging with employees also creates more formal connections with individuals who can be useful for future stages of the project and after launch. Those employees who voluntarily give you feedback are often naturally interested in the project outcome, have valuable knowledge or are energized by the aims of the project.

These individuals might be natural candidates to help out in the user-testing phase of a project. They may also even become super-user or advocates after launch, acting as informal champions, trainers and change agents with their peers on a voluntary basis. These groups can be critical in change management efforts and getting the right people who enjoy that role is key.

All of a sudden the social intranet becomes an excellent tool to identify and recruit potential employees who can help you to launch the product. They are also likely to provide ongoing feedback to make it even better – using the social intranet of course!

Breaking down barriers

Sometimes there is a slight barrier between the IT department and other parts of an organization. IT professionals may be misunderstood and unfairly regarded as being a bit geeky or out of touch. On the other hand, the IT team might not have enough experience of directly dealing with different departments and might need better knowledge of what people do every day, what they need and their pain points.

Your social intranet helps to break down these barriers and build a culture of trust and understanding. The everyday connections between employees establishes bridges and the transparency aids mutual understanding. Perceptions can then start to shift.

A new partnership

Using your social intranet for your IT project not only means that you get great feedback for better outcomes and results, but can also allow the IT department to forge a new partnership with the rest of your organization. That’s an exciting development that everyone benefits from.

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