Use Analytics to Improve SharePoint User Experiences and Increase Engagement

Loren Johnson

by Loren Johnson on 3/16/2015

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Article Details

Date Revised:
3/16/2015

Applies to:
analytics, SharePoint, user engagement, user experiences


Companies across the globe struggle with employee adoption and engagement of their intranet platform – often a version of Microsoft SharePoint. Using analytics to gain a clear and detailed understanding of a SharePoint environment is a critical step toward solving that problem.  

Microsoft SharePoint is one of the most widely used enterprise software platforms in the world. Microsoft has continued to innovate SharePoint from its more humble beginnings to the dynamic and interactive intranet engagement platform it is today. With ever more capabilities and the flexibility to fit virtually any workplace environment, SharePoint can quickly become the central nervous system of all types of organizations.

But it can only truly become the vibrant marketplace of ideas and collaboration if there are high levels of end user engagement. Thus, adoption and continued engagement are often the primary concerns of SharePoint advocates and corporate stakeholders. Though the question of how to drive users to adopt and engage with SharePoint is not unique to SharePoint and not unique to any single SharePoint environment, end user adoption rates are a nearly universal concern.

There has been much written about how to drive users to adopt a new enterprise software solution, and much of that has been specific to intranet communications platforms, including SharePoint.

In a nutshell, the top reasons for slow or low SharePoint user adoption and engagement come down to:

  • Insufficient business case made for the SharePoint investment
  • A lack of shared decision making across the organization and user base
  • Ambiguity on processes, roles and reasons
  • Corporate cultural resistance and executive disengagement

On the other side of the coin, there are many standard suggestions and best practices for improving end user engagement. Some of these include investing in additional software or the next version of SharePoint, with its advanced social and collaboration capabilities, and some are designed around ways to break down communications, process and cultural barriers to drive end user engagement.

In brief, these plans all involve cultivating end user buy-in by involving stakeholders from across the company and in various roles and levels in the earliest SharePoint decision making, designing and implementing plans. This helps a variety of stakeholders in the company understand what’s in it for them and their teams and creates diverse peer advocates across the company that can help train and onboard colleagues. Especially when replacing legacy systems and old habits with SharePoint, it also may be helpful if companies start small in terms of purpose, teams and processes, and gradually expand. This can help inspire trust and create a contagious engagement environment across teams.

Finally, companies investing in SharePoint need to show that fellow employees are gaining an edge by using it – that it’s making a positive impact on individual and company performance from top to bottom. This is increasingly important as the role and position SharePoint plays in organizations evolves to include enterprise social, collaboration and anytime/anyplace connectivity.

Measure for Success

Central to all of these engagement concepts is a strategic measurement program built around baselining performance, setting targets, evaluating successes and being able to learn from and adapt SharePoint based on clearly identifiable results. As teams enact tactics designed to better engage users, knowing the starting point, the target, midway points and the ending point allow for on-the-fly adaptation of tactics and objectives. This is all the more important as the purpose for measuring usage of a SharePoint environment evolves from a more straightforward adoption metric to a series of analyses about enhanced user experiences.

Caring about the user experience within an intranet has always been an issue – you want your users to be able to find, access and use key assets – but these days, when companies are integrating ever more interactive capabilities in SharePoint, user experience can define so much more. Ideally, users are not only searching for and navigating to content, but they’re actively interacting with each other, cultivating ideas, sharing innovative solutions, and removing artificial barriers to communications and productivity, all within the SharePoint environment. This proactive engagement can now be measured, quantified and improved upon.

Use analytics to track user behavior on SharePoint sites

Analytics dashboard SharePoint user behavior

Use Analytics to Get the Most Out of SharePoint

Measurement is a valuable tool for assessing and improving SharePoint performance and end user engagement rates. With the right solution, you will be able to:

  • Capture details and gain insight about how individual content is being used.
  • Understand how site design and search performs.
  • See how users interact and collaborate with each other in social groups or around pages and content.
  • Know exactly how SharePoint environment is delivering value to your organization.

With this information, you can turns the insights into action. Once you identify trouble spots, you can actively attack the restraints to performance, and clearly assess whether or not those approaches deliver on the expected results. Then you can reapply and iterate tactics and strategies often, armed with the confidence and insights accurate analytics and reporting can provide.

Choose the Right SharePoint Analytics Solution for You

With each new version of SharePoint, Microsoft has steadily adapted its native analytics to focus less on user behavior and more on search effectiveness and popularity trends. While these metrics can deliver some insight into how a SharePoint environment is being used, it doesn’t fully express the value an organization is getting and can get out of SharePoint. For that, deeper and more precise metrics that can drill down to the individual user level or scale to departments and larger groupings within an organization are required.

Below are some important things to keep in mind when selecting an analytics solution:

  • Choose an analytics solution built specifically for SharePoint. It will be much more able to capture the SharePoint user behaviors that matter to your stakeholders. While some have tried to reconfigure standard web analytics solutions to fit SharePoint, the metrics that apply in each environment do not apply to the other – SharePoint is not about selling something or measuring financial transactions – and thus, a standard web analytics solution requires constant reconfiguration to measure what matters in SharePoint.
  • Don’t limit yourself with arbitrary data caps, inaccurate reporting or interpretation. The more complete and accurate the data, the greater your ability to confidently deliver dynamic and engaging SharePoint environments. Armed with an unbiased engagement metrics, you can use measurement to improve SharePoint, justify additional investments and enhancements, and show indisputable proof of ROI.
  • Continuously measure for success. As your organization changes over time and Microsoft releases newer versions of SharePoint, your needs and expectations from SharePoint will also evolve. Especially when measuring for user experience, optimized site design, and employee engagement, assessment is not a one-time activity but a continuous process.
  • Keep in mind that as SharePoint enables your organization to become more collaborative, more dynamic, and more productive, measurement and accountability matter. The confidence an organization has that it is doing all it can to ensure employee, customer, partner and community engagement matter. Ownership of sites, content, and initiatives matter. That’s why it’s important to put the systems put in place to ensure success. It is with analytics that you have the ability to prove it and improve it.

Topic: Strategy and Adoption

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