Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Learning from Surveys

We're all busy and we're probably all inundated with opportunities to take an online survey. You know: Please give us five minutes of your life to tell us how we're doing.

Like most people, my response rate is directly related to my mood at the moment I am asked.

Lately I've been doing a lot of feedback surveys for companies that are doing some pretty cool things. In addition, I had a quite a spate of Microsoft surveys at their year end.

I do almost any survey from Microsoft because I have a lot invested in their business. I also fill out any reasonable-length survey from companies that appear to really be looking to the future.

You can learn a lot from the questions being asked.

Sometimes the questions reveal a way of thinking about technology that I had not considered before. Like, "Is there ever a need for a console on a server, or should you always be able to do what you want with Integrated Lights Out and RDP?" Hmmm. Good question.

I think about it because it's an interesting question. Someone else is thinking about it because they're designing a new server.

Or not.

Maybe the response will be an overwhelming "No."

Either way, what is that someone trying to accomplish with the new server? With luck there will be follow-up questions about users, applications, and other possible features.

If they ask enough questions, I can tell myself that I'm getting a vision of what they're up to.

Other surveys are just purely informative. For example, when I get a survey from Robert Half, I get asked about a series of job descriptions and salary ranges. Then I do a survey for Taylor Business Groups and get a different set of descriptions and salary ranges.

In both cases, I notice that "God-Like Mutant Engineer" has suggested ranges that start very high and go way up. But Service Managers have middle-of-the-road salaries and they top out way below some of the engineers.


So when I look at what small consultants are doing, I see something very different. We tend to take the most technically skilled person and make him the service manager. We pay him the salary of a God-like mutant engineer, but he spends 10-20 hours a week doing HR and traffic control.

Maybe we have to because we only have three staff. Nonetheless, it's worth thinking about.

And that gets me thinking about how I might reorganize my team.

Think about that the next time a survey rolls into your inbox . . .

In addition to giving someone else some good information, you might get your own gears turning.


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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the great post Karl. It was a good wake up call that learning comes in unexpected directions and sources.


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