Developing an Effective SharePoint Survey
A fantastic, but often overloooked, feature of SharePoint is the Survey. Built into SharePoint is a robust survey engine that can easily be made available to teams. Surveys are useful when additional input is desired, and are particularly helpful when there is some foundation of understanding around the issue(s) in question -- such as feedback around a recently deployed application, or the launch of a new business process.
Surveys will take a certain amount of research. They are best used to illicit more direct information from a somewhat pre-defined base. The better understood this base, the clearer the results of the survey. It is also very important to understand the constituency of the survey. If the survey owner asks management questions to team members, the respondents may view the survey as a waste of their time, since they are responding to questions outside the sphere of their function and influence.
Surveys are used to collect information, but they are only as good as the questions asked. In other words, if the questions are poorly framed, chances are really good the survey owner will not get the desired information. The rule “Garbage In, Garbage Out” definitely applies to surveys.
The most time-consuming portion of survey development is question creation. Some tips for creating effective survey questions are:
- Be careful of using open ended questions. This will innately allow a wide range of answers. Instead, think about the type of answer you would like to receive, and the data you hope to capture. From this table, you can see the various types of answers that SharePoint can receive:
Use the Single and Multiple line(s) of text questions sparingly. This can lead to very diverse answers, some of which may not pertain to the question at all.
- Avoid using compound questions. This is also known as a double-barreled question. These questions offer one set of answers, but touch on more than one topic in the question. This can frustrate responders. An example is: How satisfied are you with the amounts of vacation and sick leave? This can cause a fracture in the response. The responder may be very satisfied with the vacation leave amount, but quite dissatisfied with the sick leave amount. One topic will affect the view of the other and the response can get muddied.
- Be careful with loaded or biased questions. The idea is to get feedback and input from others, not push or find support for your own opinion. Example: Do you agree that management’s lack of input is problematic to team success?
- Use the ‘N/A’ or ‘No Opinion’ or ‘Prefer Not to Answer’ option sparingly. These responses will generally not contribute to the data you are hoping to obtain.
- Make questions concise. Wordy questions can be confusing and will try the patience of responders, as can extraneous questions that do not directly pertain to the point of the survey.
From the image above, one can see the range of question types available and find the right response type to meet your business need. This flexibility grants the survey owner a wide range of possibilities in creating questions. Make sure to use the best option for your question. If you are trying to see which four options are preferred, use the multiple choice question, not the single line of text question type.
One thing to note – although there is a Yes/No option, it does not perform as one would expect. If this type of question is selected here is what the question will look like:
In this example, Yes was set as the default value. This means that if the box is checked – it means Yes. If the box is unchecked – it means No. Not particularly helpful, is it? So instead of using a Yes/No answer option, use the multiple choice option and make the available choices Yes and No.
As with most capabilities of SharePoint, there is quite a lot of flexibility.
Two options to think about when designing the survey is will the respondent name show in survey results and will multiple responses from a single respondent be allowed. Generally it may be preferred to not allow the user names to show in the survey results. This will help to prevent group think and encourage more honest participation if names are not listed. Likewise, by not allowing multiple responses, participants can respond once. If they try to respond again, they will get an error message. This will prevent one party from skewing the results by answering the survey multiple times.
It is best to know exactly the information you would like to collect. Surveys should be shorter rather than longer. Statistics show that people have an average attention span of 10 minutes for responding to surveys. It must be remembered that the respondents have work awaiting them when they are done with the survey. If the survey is taking too long, chances are great that the respondents will abandon the survey, or complete the survey quickly rather than thoughtfully.
A great benefit of utilizing SharePoint for surveys is that since it is innately embedded into team sites it becomes part of the historical record of the site. This preserves the data collection for current and future access.
SharePoint surveys are also a cost effective way to collect data. Using SharePoint surveys employs a platform that is already in place. Users are familiar with the application lessening the learning curve. It is also easily accessible on the team site and available via a link that can be emailed to targeted respondents.
Surveys are a fantastic way to collect information from teams. The caveat is that the survey must be smartly created and executed. Surveys take time to develop and care should be taken in their creation. But by giving the care needed, surveys quickly become an effective tool in data collection.