Axio, a cybersecurity tech start-up, and the American Public Power Association (APPA) hired me to gather user feedback and suggestions on their Scorecard app. Commissioned by the Department of Energy, the Scorecard helps assess cyber attack preparedness among public power utilities. Hundreds of independent, non-private utility companies provide water and power to communities across the US.

After devising a questionnaire, I called up scores of utilities across the US. I spoke to engineers and IT folks from Navajo Tribal Lands to the Pacific Northwest to the Midwest. I detailed their responses into a massive spreadsheet.


One very positive aspect of phone canvassing is access to rich data. I learned so much about the culture and needs of each region. The public utility workers volunteered tons of insight into what they faced in their day-to-day. Compared to an online survey, I was able to capture far more interesting data.

I created two surveys with differing degrees of complexity. The goal was to create concise, open-ended questions that didn’t feel solicitous. Axio’s CTO, legal team and Sales 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 feedback came the interesting part. How to synthesize qualitative data into something useful? Pouring over the responses, I looked for patterns and emergences, as well as things Axio could enact. I structured the feedback, authored a 15-page report and presented findings to Axio’s CEO, CTO, CMO, Sales team and the app’s two main authors. This was the first time they received feedback on their app’s reach and function in the real world. It took them two years to develop the 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 what audiences want and need. But the true success of a product lives in how well it addresses the user’s unmet needs. The team seemed delighted by the findings. It gave them clarity on what changes to enact in the next version.