Eight and a half ways to collect feedback with SharePoint.

achtAre you interested in what all employees think about your company’s latest product launch, or do you want to know which date would be preferred for that training session? Regardless of your role in the organization, I am sure that you will have asked your team members for feedback or data. How do you usually find out the answers; do you send an email, perhaps even with an Excel file attached? Why not try using your SharePoint intranet? Collecting and managing data is so much easier!There are different ways to enable and collect feedback, depending on your needs and your experience. Are you looking for individual opinions or do you want to know if version A is preferred over version B?

1. Displaying an email address on an intranet page. 

This is often used on web pages on your intranet: “If you have questions or remarks, please contact Firstname.lastname@company.com.” When clicked, this will open an email.
For a little more sophistication, you could add the name as a hyperlink. “If you have questions or remarks, contact Firstname Lastname.
Even shorter is a link called “Feedback” with that same hyperlink. Once clicked, the sender will see the addressee of the email  anyway.

Feedback button, leading to email or a survey/list.

If you want to add some visual interest create a hyperlinked button. (In a Content Editor Web part, add an image, then select the image and insert a hyperlink).

You can even pre-populate the email subject to make sure the addressee knows immediately that this is feedback from the website.

This is suitable for receiving ongoing general feedback about intranet pages, team sites or online manuals and policies. And please do not forget to check the name and the link on a regular basis!

2. Commenting to a Blog.

Because the commenting option in a blog is very visible, you may encourage commenting more than with a button or a link. People comment on a specific blog post and generally not on the entire blog. This may be very good for getting feedback about news and blog posts. These comments will help you to understand which post subjects cause strong opinions and which not.
Comments are stored in a separate list in your site. You can treat them just like other list items: add a workflow (e.g. to review) or create views.

3. SharePoint Survey. 

SharePoint has a decent survey functionality, which allows you many question-and-answer types, a graphical representation of results, different routes depending on answers given, exporting results to Excel for further analysis, configuration of a “thank-you page” and what not. It will suit most purposes for qualitative and quantitative feedback.
If you really want to implement SharePoint in your organization, try to educate people in using SharePoint, and avoid external tools like SurveyMonkey. Like all “one-trick-ponies”, SurveyMonkey has more specific functionalities but it also means data are stored elsewhere and you have to log on when creating a survey. SharePoint will suit most needs perfectly well.

The Graphical Summary gives a quick overview of results

4. SharePoint List.
While I personally think a Survey is generally better for a short-time activity burst, a SharePoint list (generally a Custom List or Issue Tracking List) is better for collecting feedback, such as ideas or complaints, over time. A list allows you to add a description to the questions, you can use a workflow to manage responses and you can create different views to group and manage your data over time. It does not create graphs, however. (But you can create a chart if you export your list items to Excel).

5. InfoPath.
An InfoPath form is a beautiful combination of an Excel document (customizable design, printable, calculations and conditional formatting) and a List item (transparency, lightweight). It can be used when a regular List or Survey does not have enough functionality, such as design or many calculations. I would suggest using it only when you really have no other options. It can be quite cumbersome to create, edit and optimize, and I have personally experienced many access issues.

6. Discussion Board.

Discussion Forum

If you are looking for a no-nonsense way to ask questions and generate answers and opinions, the discussion board is a good idea. In general, everyone will be able to start a discussion, so it is more “democratic” than a blog, where questions can only be initiated by the blogger. On the other hand, while a blog can exist without comments, a discussion board with no comments is not viable. Generally, I would use this either as a Question-and-Answer board for specific networks, or when it is actively endorsed and promoted by management. But perhaps my own experiences with a discussion board play a part in that.

7. Poll.
A Poll is not a standard SharePoint Poll functionality, but many web parts are available. (Kwiz, Bamboo), most of which use a SharePoint survey as a basis.
You use a poll when you want to ask one question with a number of pre-defined answers. It is generally very visible and is also very suitable for lighter subjects. It is great for engagement because it is inviting to click it. A Poll is generally anonymous (unlike the other tools) and respondents are rewarded with the results immediately after voting.

8. Star Ratings.

Star Ratings

In SharePoint 2010 and later you can rate an article or a blog post by giving it a number of stars. It is very interactive and makes it very easy for your audience to vote, but it is not always clear what people vote for: do they like the article for the subject, do they think it is well written? It is also not shown how many people have voted. So it is not so clear how you should act on the results.

8 1/2 : Outlook Voting Options
This only counts for a half, since it is not exactly SharePoint, but most organizations that have SharePoint, will have Outlook as their email programme. If you have only one question with predefined answers and your audience is not too large, you can use the “Voting Buttons” that are in Outlook. (When you have a new email open, click Options > Voting Buttons.) This may be easier to set up for yourself, and easier to answer for your audience than a Survey. You will have to count all the responses though! Please note this is not available in Outlook Web Apps.

How have you used SharePoint to collect ideas, opinions and data? Have I missed something? Looking forward to your suggestions! (This Blog has a comments box :-))

You may also like:

What SharePoint can learn from SurveyMonkey (and vice versa)

Playing “Hide and Seek” in SharePoint

The Perils of InfoPath

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2 thoughts on “Eight and a half ways to collect feedback with SharePoint.

  1. marijn somers October 8, 2012 / 12:17 pm

    Let me add a small contribution to your first way: via an email address.

    You can add a small standard webpart “contact details” on each page or site. That way, the visitor can see the picture of the person responsable, and some basic contact information.

    Downside is you can only add 1 person per webpart.

    • Ellen van Aken October 8, 2012 / 9:02 pm

      Hi Marijn, you are right! Thank you for the addition.

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