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  • Jim Thomas

User Guides: Driving Sisense User Engagement

Updated: Jan 29, 2019

Now that your Sisense application is live or about to go live, how do you engage and educate your Users on how to use your BI system? What reference materials will you provide to keep your phone and email from blowing up every day with issues and questions because the Users don't understand how to use the system? Or worse, not blowing up because no one is using it. Sure, you are going to handhold the first few Users to get them onboarded and using your dashboards. What then? How are you going to get your next wave of Users onboard and effectively using Sisense?

We all know that Sisense is incredibly easy to use and that Sisense has good online videos and documentation available on the system. I think you would agree that most of this information is focused on system and dashboard designers, not end Users (see the end of this post for information on a new very good Sisense Dashboard user video). In general, User information that is specific to your dashboards, metrics and used Sisense features will be much more valuable and effective for your Users than generic information.

Two complementary approaches that have worked well for me are:

Users Guide:

A searchable online reference guide that documents the features and functions that are available in your system. This covers topics such as what analysis are presented and how to find what you are looking for, the types of widgets, how to use dashboard filters, the differences between dependent and independent filters (if applicable), how drill downs work, how widget affects dashboard filters functions, how to export data to CSV/Excel and how to export dashboards to PDF. I also have found it valuable to provide an overview of the dashboards and their organization. If specific terms and metrics are in use that are not well understood it is generally worthwhile to include a section on them and their value.

Of course we have all been producing these kinds of Guides for years using MS Word or possibly PowerPoint. We write instructions, take screenshots and annotate and insert them. When we have a complete document we export them to PDF or HTML and post them on our site.

On a major Sisense implementation in a past life, I took this approach one step further. Our Sisense implementation was embedded in a SharePoint portal. This made it relatively straight forward to implement a SharePoint blog and create Users Guide topics as blog posts. The same instruction writing, screenshot annotating process was followed, but instead of MS Word the posts were created and managed using Microsoft OneNote. OneNote does a much better job of allowing you to arrange text and images than working in Word. With OneNote, each topic was a page in a OneNote Notebook organized by Sections.

The completed topics were exported to MS Word and published to SharePoint using the Word blog publishing feature. Once exported to the blog, draft posts were organized to match the OneNote structure and then published. This approach made it very easy to edit existing and add new topics as needed without having to republish an entire document. Since SharePoint has powerful Google type search built in, no effort was required to make the content readily searchable.

I know that a number of folks are likely WordPress Users. WordPress is a great tool to do something like this and there are many available blog authoring tools for it. MS Word also publishes to WordPress. In addition, there are specific User Guide authoring tools that will publish to WordPress. Recently, I worked with a customer who was using their online trouble ticket service to post User Guide topics. This product had a built in web based authoring tool to create the Content and a configurable menu system to organize topics. Regardless of how you might choose to go forward, my point is that searchable online User Guides are a valuable tool for your Users. They keep your Users from getting too frustrated because they can't remember how do something and just need a quick way to find out how to do it.

Screen Capture Videos:

On the recent major implementation mentioned above we also produced a series of 2 to 4 minute screen capture videos that describe the system, its value and demonstrate features. The Users liked the Users Guide. However, they really liked the videos. The number of positive comments on the videos was off the charts compared the written guide (which I also think is needed). The videos were designed to support both Marketing and User Guide goals.

My past life firm posted a number of these videos on a YouTube public channel. The one we made when we introduced Sisense (ORAP Analytics Portal) three years ago is shown below:

ORAP Analytics Portal Intro Video

It is focused on value and showing features. It is not a User’s Guide per se, but gives you the idea. This video is a little long and is slowly paced. It was one of the first ones we did. We got a lot better with subsequent videos.

This one was narrated by internal staff. We also did some where we had a narrator in a sound studio do the narration. This was very well done, but expensive. We then used Using, we were able to buy a professional narration for a two to three minute video at a very reasonable price. There are also typically local freelancers with reasonable pricing. You do have to audition the voice talent to find the right mixture of a good voice and someone who is comfortable with your script. You may also have a person on staff with a pleasing voice that can do it.

Based on what I learned from this experience, I recommend both a posted searchable Users Guide and complementary Videos. These can start small. Once a plan/pattern is established incremental content can be added. Developing a vision/scope/plan/design concept for how to go forward is critical. Once that is done, a table of contents for the written material and an outline for the first video can be developed. Then the Users Guide content and the first video's script are created.

I believe the first video most organizations should produce is an introduction video that describes the value of your Sisense dashboards and provides Users a quick overview of the basics of using them. The initial video should support both Marketing (if your Users are external or help drive internal adoption if your Users are internal) and User Guide goals. This focus helps ensure the most bang for the initial buck. Typically, these goals can be accomplished with a 2 to 4 minute walk through video that describes the system, its value and demonstrates features. The core message is: this system has great value to you and is really easy to use. Marketing uses it to promote the system and it is used as part of the onboarding process for new Users.

I recently was made aware of a Sisense produced Dashboard Interaction for Business Users video.

Sisense Dashboard Interaction for Business Users

It is a little long at roughly 6-1/2 minutes, but does a good job of covering the basics. The topics covered here and the script are a good resource for developing a table of contents and script for the basics portion of your custom video.

This may seem like a lot to take on. Again, the secret is to start small and grow incrementally. Listen to your Users feedback on what to do next. I'm very interested in hearing your experiences with Sisense Users Guides creation and results that you would like to share.

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