In any good agile software development process the business user is a key to successful development. By including business users in iterations of the software, and getting feedback from them early and often, development teams avoid costly rework in both time and effort if they initially miss the mark. That same loop of inclusion and feedback needs to be part of the process post-delivery as well.
Awareness & Promotion - The loop starts with proper awareness that new features are available. At Coras, we do that with an automatic announcement that can be acknowledged (which makes it go away) or snoozed for later review. Sometimes the little things pay huge dividends. Knowing “what’s new” gets the features into the hands of the users faster, and gets the feedback loop started earlier. This is a good supplement to launch parties, emails, or other forms of promotion outside the software. It’s a good idea to have Marketing & Communications included in your agile process – a team that’s usually an afterthought. Not including them can delay a launch, or cause them to completely miss the launch.
Education - The best software is intuitive and requires very little education; however, changes in related business policy, process, or practice, may require some type of formal education (e.g. classroom, online, or lunch-and-learn). In-person events are the best way to get direct user feedback from those with a fresh perspective. Education should not be a singular event, but an ongoing activity to support new users and those in need of a “refresher.” Product Managers should participate and listen closely during training events and interact with students for valuable feedback.
Feedback – A feedback mechanism integrated into, or tied to, the software makes it easy for users to provide thoughts, ideas, frustrations, or general comments related to usability, feature needs/enhancements, and more. Such information is invaluable to Product Managers and Support staff to get first-hand input from users who are actively in the system. At Coras, we have a feedback button integrated into our applications. Addressing such feedback not only helps to ensure user adoption, but promotes greater efficiency and business outcomes.
Communication – Any form of feedback should be acknowledged. Users want to know they are being heard. An autoreply is the lowest form of acknowledgment. A personalized email, phone call, or even a face-to-face meeting are all better forms of communication. The rapid pace of business today often overlooks the importance of human, interactive communication in the form of active conversations – good questioning and confirmation can avoid the miscommunication of taking feedback at face value. Enabling end users to see the status of their feedback via a system, or more formal process, will support getting such feedback on an ongoing basis.
Keep your business users engaged, and you’ll produce better software today and tomorrow.