Know thy user: The pitfalls of assuming you know your users
by Carmine Porco — First off, intranet managers must come to the realization that their organizations’ employees are in fact their clients. To assume otherwise is to assure failure. Like any client, the organization must understand their constituency by asking them what their problems are, propose solutions, monitor their progress, ask for feedback and continually care and nurture them.
“We get e-mail.”
“The annual employee satisfaction survey told us.”
- Assuming: Organizations assume they know their users through non-formal mechanisms or little or no research
- Quantity: Not sampling enough users; only asking feedback from the Communications or H.R. department
- Quality: Not sampling enough diversity; only asking for feedback from head office and not from other offices or plants, for example
- Copying the Jones’: Using Microsoft’s or Cisco’s intranet as a template, whereas the requirements for your client may be completely different
- The Ostrich Principle: The old head-in-the-sand; “We don’t want to know how bad the present site is, we know it’s bad and they will criticize it.”
- Fear of feedback: “They will ask for too much and we won’t be able to deliver.”
Or refer to Toby Ward’s table for selecting the right research tool:
It’s a fact of business, unless you have formal research training and know how to objectively research your own clients (it’s virtually impossible to be objective about your own subject matter) you must spend the appropriate time and money on gathering user requirements. Consider hiring an objective third party; they will have unbiased opinions and recommendations and they can minimize internal politics.
About the author: Carmine Porco is an Internet and intranet consultant and the GM of Prescient Digital Media. He has worked with and improved several client intranets including BC Lottery Corp, KAO Brands, Manulife Financial, Royal Bank, and others. Contact Carmine to help improve your intranet.