Those survey requests can come in a multitude of formats: an Outlook email asking for attendance at the company town hall event, complete with a voting button; an email asking for opinions on training, with no structure around it; even links to surveys to external sites, taking you outside of the intranet to the wide-open web. Outlook emails as surveys are absolutely terrible – not necessarily for the people filling them out, but nightmarish for whoever is responsible for compiling responses, analyzing data, even getting team members to answer. External surveys are great for anonymity but terrible for ownership and control. It’s so inefficient. The good news (and no surprise to anyone who has been reading my blog posts for a while now) is that SharePoint has a solution! Yes, in addition to all of its other excellent features, SharePoint also has survey options.
Surveys can be set up for everything from sign-up sheets, acknowledgement forms, feedback, evaluations, group decisions like potluck luncheons, training ideas, etc. Surveys are created by the site administrator. Surveys can contain a wide variety of question types, from yes/no to multiple choice, to free-form text, over any topic the site administrator defines. That said, a survey is useless if it doesn’t actually provide relevant, actionable data, so prior to creation, set goals for the survey so you don’t ask random, arbitrary questions. Be sure to include questions about specific, observable data (not vague, subjective “do we communicate well?” questions), and send the survey to the right people at the right time. Consider explaining how the responses will be used to improve the company or services. Avoid terms that have strong language associations or biases. Also, to combat response bias, word about one-third of the questions to the desired answer is negative. Don’t link topics into one question – keep them separate (so no “does your manager listen and respond” style queries).
To create a survey within your SharePoint site, select “Add an app” and search for Survey. Select the survey option that appears and establish the name, description, and survey options such as whether users' names will appear in survey results and whether users can respond to the same survey multiple times. Select Next, and begin adding questions to the survey. Survey questions can have a multitude of answer styles, ranging from free-form text to metadata. Additionally, detailed options can be selected, such as whether the question is required, allows fill-in options, or has branching logic (which allows users to skip to a specific question, based on their responses). All questions impacted by branching logic must be created before branching logic can be enabled.
Additional questions can be added via the “Next Question” button until the administrator has completed the survey, at which time “Finish” should be selected. Selecting Finish will open the survey settings screen, which allows the administrator to change general settings, permissions, existing questions, the order of the questions, and even delete the survey. Surveys can be made anonymous (to everyone but the site collection administrator, to whom nothing is hidden), with invisible responses, integrated with Excel, even set as a template for future use. The survey settings screen is also where branching logic can be set up; to do so, click the question you want to branch and under Branching Logic, select the question that you want to branch to.
Once the survey is set up, the link can be sent to the masses and anyone with Contribute permission or higher can respond. All the end user has to do is click Respond to this Survey at the survey page, answer the questions, and press Finish. Made a mistake, or clicked Finish before all of the questions have been answered? They can click Show all responses, select the response they want to edit, and click Edit Response.
Once you have a survey and answers, you can see the responses by clicking on “show a graphical summary” on the survey dashboard or by exporting to Excel. Now you can dazzle the teams with data analysis and prove that you’re the cure to the bad survey epidemic!