The David Bowie song was released as I was finishing high school, and the 40 years since have been characterized by change more than anything. I have had to deal with everything from adapting to the constant change in technology, to having my boss tell me that I had to become an agent of change. One of my early blog entries was on that subject, and when I went back to snag the link I was reminded that I was writing about trying to make SharePoint surveys look a little better. It’s ironic, because today’s post has to do with the same business task, but this time, I’m more focused on the changes that have taken place, than on the disappointing nature of SharePoint surveys (not that they have changed).
The survey today and the one back in 2009 is associated with our Policyholder Meeting. It’s a simple mechanism for gathering information about the attendees to help with planning and scheduling. We’ve been using an on-line survey for a long time, starting out with an ASP-scripted survey on our public website. We moved the survey to SharePoint to make it easier to deal with the results. The ASP page sent individual results as an email to be transcribed into a spreadsheet; SharePoint let us download the results directly into the spreadsheet. Last year, we improved the process by eliminating the spreadsheet altogether, opting to drive the analysis and summarization from a collection of Data View Webparts tucked away on the Policyholder Meeting site. This year, we are working to change this process again, and we are following the lessons that we have learned from our other recent SharePoint success stories:
- Incorporate as much of the process as you can
- Make peoples’ lives easier
You might be shaking your head at the fact that it’s taken me 40ish years to learn the second lesson, but technology has not always been a people-oriented occupation. The first lesson is really a technique used in meeting the goal espoused in the second lesson, and it’s one SharePoint is uniquely capable of helping us achieve. The fact that it takes so little effort to expand a solution beyond the requirements into the realm of being really helpful might be SharePoint’s signature strength. If you chart the evolution of our solution, it goes like this:
- Implemented ASP-scripted survey on our company website
- Implemented survey on our Internet-facing SharePoint server
- Added basic event venue information to a landing page and success page after submitting survey
- Added description of social events and activities to the landing page – also added a follow-up survey
- Added an event schedule, and links to informational websites associated with the social activities
- Replaced spreadsheet for analysis and reporting with Data View Webparts available to employees only
This year, we are expanding the employee-only section to include lists and libraries so that the entire event can be captured in SharePoint. All of the information, all of the images that we need for collateral material, all of the collateral material that gets developed, all of the contracts, menus, pictures, etc. will be in one place. This will help everyone associated with this year’s event and it will help the people who have to plan next year’s event.
These are simple changes, and you might be surprised that is has taken so long to get to this point. Well, it’s an annual event, so “we can add that next year” syndrome is in effect. Also, it seems people always find it easier to start annual projects by returning to the place they left off, thus carrying on inefficient traditions. We are starting earlier this year to get a head start on those challenges; we have a new (IT) team member to help with the heavy lifting on SharePoint and we have a few more employees on the event team, so collaboration is more important. It only takes a small crowd to make you realize that your collaborative solution could benefit from a few changes – so, you know how it goes: “turn and face the strain.”