User Engagement with Application Insights

Posted 2 August 2016 12:00 AM by Faizan Shaikh, User Engagement Analyst @ ClearPeople

Intranet Behavior Analytics

Last month we presented an article on Intranet performance and usage analytics as a means to make your users more engaged with your workplace community (you can read that article here.) 

This month we’re telling you about much the same thing, except we’re focusing on increasing that engagement by investigating user behaviour rather than system performance. Both of these are imperative to understanding and improving Intranet usage rates, but both have distinctly different conclusions that can be drawn from them.

We still maintain that there is no perfect “analyse-everything” mcguffin that gives you everything you want with a cherry on top, but for this investigation we used a pretty cool web analytics tool that comes close, Microsoft’s ‘Application Insights’.   

Applications Insight is a tool of many uses but commonly leveraged for detecting and diagnosing issues with web apps and services. It’s versatility in configuration allows it to be used for a lot more complex analytical purposes, which is what we ended up using it for.

Tracking Custom Events in Application Insights

‘Custom Events’ in Application Insights are data points that, with a little bit of IT wizardry, can track certain user actions on your Intranet. These can be (but aren’t limited to) tracking how often users click a button, use a particular feature on the page, how often they achieve a certain goal or even make some sort of error. This is possible by placing a bit of Javascript into the front end of your Intranet or website.

The telemetry from your tracked device/client/app is then sent to super secure Microsoft Azure servers where they can be accessed via an online web portal, analysed or exported for further data manipulation. 




Another cool feature of Applications Insights user interface is how it’s designed for Intranet super sleuths to get up to some detective work. It’s incredibly useful for drilling down into specific areas of interest due to its ‘blade’ interface, where every click through of data drills further down into the specifics of the metric you are interested in. Being able to see data at its most granular level allows for a greater level of intelligence on user behaviour.

Investigating User Behaviour on the Intranet

Having newly launched our redesigned, link heavy Intranet homepage, we were curious to see how people were using it. We were already capturing useful metrics like page views and the devices they were using to do so, but taking advantage of Applications Insight’s Custom Event tracker we took an extra close look at click-through on the following:

  • Navigation bar- Each time an item is clicked on the top navigation
  • Carousel- Each individual item clicked on the carousel 
  • Quick Links- Each individual click on a quick link
  • Search- Each item searched for in the search bar

And here’s what we learned…

  • Click-through Rate on the Carousel was Poor

Our first discovery was around the interaction users were having with the carousel. We found it was peaking around 6 clicks over a 7-day period, initially leading us to believe that the interest on the articles was not high.


After further consideration we realised that the articles within each carousel slide had been advertised internally in many places on numerous occasions, including internal emails and our organisations social network, making the carousel content old and therefore not an agent of engagement.

Action/Insight: Since finding out about our poor readership we have streamlined our internal content strategy to focus carousel slides on content that has not been (and has no reason to be) saturated on other channels we use to communicate internally.

  • Adoption Higher for users with roles critically related the Intranet Tools

Applications Insights logged every user landing on our Intranet homepage. From this list we were able to map back individuals to departments which in turn gave us an indication of what business areas of the business visited the intranet the most.

From our data we found that users with the highest visitation rates were those that had either ownership or responsibility over certain content or were users that had to use business critical tools available only through our Intranet (i.e. PMO for time tracking and resourcing, Office administration for maintenance etc.).

Action/Insight: Due to the nature of our intranet being a business tool, document management system and communications platform, the most frequent users were expected. The insight aided us in understanding business departments that were utilising the system the least (especially in terms of document management) and allowed us to ask questions on how to make the intranet relevant for those that may have felt they had no purpose to be on it.

  • Users were searching for help 

While we’re experts at what we do, there are times when we need our memories refreshed on certain subjects. Over the weeks’ data we found users were searching the intranet for help in day to day or administrative activities, more specifically we found there was a significant gap in knowledge over internal HR processes. We also identified that these searches were carried out by different users and therefore we could say the issue was prevalent across the business.




Actions/Insights: Being granted insight into users search habits allowed us to react to current issues users were having based on their search history. Since user adoption of a system can sometimes be forced, engaging users should largely hinge on making things as easy to use as possible for the end user. It was encouraging to see our users trusted our Intranet to help them in finding the answers they were looking for, and as such we;

  • Pushed Self Help/FAQ content more prominently to users
  • Organise Lunchtime ‘Masterclass’ sessions to educate users on system use 
  • Users habits indicated a less than pleasant user experience

By tracking our Quick Links toolbar we attained a unique and unexpected view of user behaviour in relation to our time tracking process. Since it is a business critical tool we had no issues with its adoption but we did notice that some users, acting contrary to internal process, preferred to log their entire weeks’ time at once on a Friday evening, rather than at the end of every day. 



Actions/Insights: The discovery was a tell-tale sign to us that users were unhappy using this tool, or found it unfriendly enough that they’d consider navigating it a chore. This explained why they may prefer only visiting it once at the end of every week to get it over with at once.

Without seeing how our time tracking was being used, we would have had no idea that users were developing bad habits to avoid a bad intranet experiences, and this allowed us to immediately begin discovering what users were finding frustrating or a pain when logging time so we could build with them a better tool.

The Investigation comes to an end…

So what does all this talk over the last 2 months about user engagement mean to you, the intranet managers and administrators of the world? You saw what we learned about ourselves, but what can you take away from this?

From this month’s article, I hope I’ve been able to round off the twin headed dragon that is user engagement. Organisations will often begin initiatives to increase user engagement by focusing on the system performance, which by all means is not a bad thing …but it doesn’t provide the same holistic overview as looking in depth at both how the system is performing as well as how the users are interacting with the system.

On that note, get to know your users. Engagement is first and foremost dependent on how well you know your people and this is a philosophy that spans across IT, and even industries. Your Intranet may indeed use the biggest and best technology but becoming “in-the-know” about your users experience dictates how engaged they’ll become over time.

Since conducting our investigations we’ve continued to monitor our intranet so we can provide improvements that gradually engage users over time. Feel free to get in touch with us to find out more about the technologies we’ve used and how we can help you monitor and increase engagement on your own Intranet.


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