Portals - Good to Great using Qualitative Analytics

By John Brunswick posted 06-03-2010 12:50


User's interactions are not clinical. What does this mean? As much as computing's beloved ones and zeros can create amazing online solutions, they fall short of being able to accurately express how effective our efforts have been in helping to enable users. Wait - don't analytics provide insight into user behavior? To an extent, but they only begin to scratch the surface of providing information that can truly help to take a mediocre or good solution and make it great.

With the evolution of enterprise portal and content technology, tools now exist to quickly create solutions largely from pre-built components. Knowing that it did not take much effort to develop makes it more important than ever to not just configure, deploy and forget solutions for users, but to understanding how they are being received. It is beneath the comforting facade of traditional analytics that truly valuable insight resides, allowing organizations to deliver the highest quality experience to end users.

Let us look at two examples.

In every town there is generally some sort of restaurant that is a tourist destination. The volume of visitors to the restaurant is very high, but would it be fair to make an assumption that the food is excellent? More often than not the food is just ok, but nothing special. The local population generally chooses to eat somewhere else with better food, for a better experience.

Two people take plane trips on ACME Airlines. Each flight departs from Boston and arrives in San Francisco. Were both trips on time? Sure. Did both trips originate and end at the same places? Sure. But on one the food was cold, leg room was cramped, and nearby passengers were very noisy.

It is fair to say that in both of the prior scenarios clinical analytics would actually be misleading in illustrating the actual user experience. In the restaurant example the most popular location provided a poor user experience and our flight example illustrated a huge qualitative gap in experiences that were identical from an itinerary standpoint.

What this Means for Portals

Relating these revelations to our corporate extranets and intranets it is highly likely that parallels can be drawn to these experiences. Perhaps certain areas are highly visited, but that does not mean we are providing the right information or experience to those users. Perhaps certain areas meet requirements on paper, but that does not mean that in practice the solution is ideal.

Organizations place a tremendous amount of effort into delivering solutions for their constituents - internal, external or otherwise. Unfortunately various methodologies for project management or software development end up placing little emphasis on feedback after deployment and rolling adjustments back into a solution. In all fairness the point of project methodologies is to produce tangible output of some nature and not run indefinitely.

So where does this leave us when trying to improve existing solutions knowing that traditional analytics have some shortfalls? Some organizations attempt to address this by way of creating steering committees that meet periodically to review ideas and issues. This is a good step toward truly understanding how a solution is being received and used, but are the individuals sitting on a steering committee really heads-down, working within the systems? This is unlikely given that most steering committees are comprised of management from relevant departments. They know what solutions look like on paper, but are generally not the day-to-day users of them. This is especially true when a solution is attempting to serve an external constituency.

A Solution Right in Front of Us

Enterprise 2.0 strives to empower and support users in the creation and collaboration around knowledge. Just as the evolution of portal and content tools has allowed us to more expediently create solutions, these tools also hold the key to quickly gaining insight into actual user experience that is so badly needed. With a minimal amount of effort we can reach out directly to the users that are being served to get their feedback. Most Enterprise 2.0 technology platforms contain some mechanism to create simple forms and collect submissions - that is all that is needed. Providing a way somewhere on each relevant page for end users to provide feedback through a simple link will suffice. The few hours of effort to develop this solution will pay off in spades. The form and process should not be extensive or arduous, but provide just enough insight to -- over time -- provide constructive feedback that can be used to not only meet requirements according to a design document or clinical analytics, but the in the qualitative, real world experience. Use this insight to take your portal from good to great.

#userexperience #analytics #portals