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The Power of Giving Users a Sense of Ownership

There is little that makes someone feel more valued than feeling that their opinion matters. It’s a good feeling and we have seen how that positivity and a resulting sense of ownership can help spread awareness during the rollout of a new enterprise wide intranet platform.

User engagement is so effective and so vital to a digital platform’s (in this case a new collaborative intranet) success and is more powerful than just relying on traditional push communications.

The thinking goes something like this:

  • I contributed
  • I was listened to
  • I find the end product useful
  • I will tell my friends and colleagues about it

A vote of confidence from a colleague is much more powerful and believable than a crafted push communication message from a professional communications team.

So how do you go about giving users a sense of ownership around the outcome of a digital platform, especially one with around 7000 users?

Ask a small group first then a large group

For our new Intranet platform, we created what we called our “Check & Test Group” made up of around 30 representative users.  This was crucial for the success of the project’s communications. This small group was always on hand to answer questions that the digital team wanted to seek user feedback on. This allowed the team to reach a number of options to consult a wider group of employees more effectively but less frequently. This allowed fewer options to go to the wider group and created a greater feeling of consensus and provided valuable data.

A diagram of which engagement methods are suitable for large and small groups

Respond to all requests and suggestions

During the “beta” phase we encouraged requests and suggestions via the platform itself and aimed to respond to everyone the same day.  The benefits of this are two-fold, not only does this encourage more user feedback to help refine your outcome but it also means more people feel like they have had an impact on the platform.

Respond to requests that have been taken on board publicly and do your best to help users understand why their suggestions have not been implemented. The intranet beta launched with a ‘Help Forum’ which allowed people to give feedback and was visible to the whole organisation. This provided an important level of transparency showing how we were meeting user’s requests and acting on feedback.

Don’t be afraid to change your plans

Not all user feedback will come when you are expecting it. Having the Check & Test Group and encouraging two-way communications throughout the development of the platform is incredibly useful. Inevitably this means you will have to make changes at short notice.

It’s always better to spend a little longer reworking your solution than launching something that you’re not 100% sure is correct. User feedback based on real-world usage will always trump any predictions and assumptions so don’t be afraid to change, even at a late stage.

There is always place for traditional communications

None of this means that traditional communications are not useful. Users should be engaged as widely as possible and traditional communications are your way of doing this. For both the information architecture exercise and the requirements survey we ran, the whole organisation was consulted and organisation wide communications were put out. Around a quarter of the organisation took part in these activities.

These communications should be phrased slightly differently to normal communications, with a focus on a call to action. “Tell us what you think!”. People are much more receptive to being asked what they want to see than being told what will happen to them.

More targeted traditional communications were also used to ensure representative participants in focus groups, Check & Test Groups and card sorting workshops.

All of the above has allowed our new intranet to launch with a groundswell of confidence and enthusiasm.  We had minimal issues at full launch and with over half of our users in the system before it had become the organisation’s primary intranet platform having run the old platform in parallel during the beta phase.

Find out more about our new Intranet.


We are the team behind Digital Services at Avon and Somerset Constabulary.  If you found this article interesting please share it with someone else who would too.  You can also follow us on Twitter.