I was hired by Axio, a cybersecurity tech start-up, and the American Public Power Association (APPA) to gather user feedback and suggestions for improvement on their Scorecard app. The Scorecard is a diagnostic tool, commissioned by the Department of Energy, to help assess cyber attack preparedness among public power utilities. Hundreds of independent, non-private utility companies provide water and power to communities throughout the nation.

I devised a questionnaire, then called up scores of utilities across the US, speaking to engineers and IT folks from Navajo Tribal Lands to the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest. I recorded their detailed responses into a giant spreadsheet.


The beauty of phone surveys is that you gain so much rich data! I learned so much about the culture and needs of each specific region. Beyond specific survey questions, the public utility workers volunteered tons of insight into what they faced in their day-to-day. I gathered much more feedback than what an online survey would have allowed.

I created and refined two surveys for Axio and the APPA, with differing degrees of complexity. The goal was to create concise, open-ended questions that didn’t feel awkward or solicitous. Axio’s CTO, legal team and others had many answers they wanted to get at. Synthesizing their needs into a clean call script took work, but the results paid off.


After gathering all the feedback came the interesting part. How to synthesize all the qualitative responses into something useful? Pouring over the responses, I looked for patterns and emergences, as well as specific things Axio could enact. I structured the feedback, authored a 15-page report and presented findings to Axio’s CEO, CTO, CMO and Sales team, as well as the two main app authors. This was the first time they were receiving feedback on their app’s reach, function and application in the real world. It took them two years to develop their app.

I think it’s rare when we have an accurate assessment of how we’re perceived by others. Digital products are the same. We create them with assumptions about user-friendliness and audience needs. The team seemed delighted and surprised by the findings. Most importantly, they seemed clear on what changes to introduce in the next version of the app.