Electronic performance support systems(EPSS) gained a huge traction when companies began focusing on user productivity and performance.
The term sounds complex for sure. But, unknowingly, you already must have used an electronic performance system to get your tasks done.
Just imagine this, you take up a challenge to prepare a hazelnut cheesecake all by yourself. And you have absolutely no clue of how to go ahead with it.
What do you do then? You simply search for an authentic cookery site and find its recipe. Then you read through the instructions and get started. In this case, the cookery website functions just like an electronic performance support system- it provides relevant knowledge right at the moment of need.
Thus, simply put, an EPPS can be defined as a software that caters to user needs by presenting information that is sufficient enough and just in time to complete a particular task at hand.
The ability of an EPSS to provide information at the right time has found its use in a variety of organizational domains. By using an EPSS:
– organizations claimed to receive around 30% lesser customer support queries.
– employees could accept new software and work effectively on it right from day 1.
– companies could ensure a seamless user onboarding experience for new customers.
– lengthy in-product help manuals became easier to refer.
The last article on performance support highlighted how performance support systems accelerate user performance. So, if you are now tempted to use it for yourself, this article is for you. It brings to you a self-sufficient checklist of all the best practices that you need to follow, to create an effective electronic performance support system. Or even if you purchase an EPSS, from a third party, you should definitely check that it is capable of doing everything mentioned in this list.
Before creating any system, you make a lot of careful considerations about all the characteristic it should possess. Right from its minutest details to its complex functionalities, everything is well thought of, in advance.
Similarly, if you creating an electronic performance support system or simply buy it from a third party, you will need to think of multiple touch points. So, to give a right direction to your thinking here’s a ready-made framework of all the characteristic you need to incorporate in a system to make it a full-fledged EPSS.
The sole function of an EPSS is to provide information to its users. So the first thing to decide on is – the kind of information that an EPSS would provide.
Depending on the context in which it is used, information provided could be of three types.
Data: Data may be textual, or audio-visual. It is best suited to display information in an audio-visual form when the user needs training right from the scratch. While displaying data in textual form works best when the user already has some prerequisite knowledge on the topic and wants to brush it up.
Instruction: It is best to provide step-by-step instructions in procedure-oriented tasks. For example, if the user wants to learn “how to send an email through Gmail?” he might be shown a series of instructions to carry out.
Advice: This one is pretty interesting. It acts as an expert system and asks the user what he wants and then presents the most appropriate procedure to do so. For example, if a user wants to know which route should he take to a destination X, starting from Y. There could be many routes for the same, but the expert system picks out the best route for the user considering time, traffic and convenience constraints.
An ideal electronic performance support system should have the ability to display information in all the above formats, both simultaneously, as well as individually.
Decide in advance on what information would be the most relevant to a user when he decides to seek help from an EPSS and allow it to display only that information.
This is because, when a user resorts to an electronic performance support system, he just wants to get his current task completed. So, while using it, he would not want to wade through loads of irrelevant information to find the few details needed. This sifting through large docs slows the user down and results in confusion.
With this experience, the user might end up not using the EPSS ever again. And you surely don’t want this to happen.
The EPSS should be able to easily access and retrieve the information it is supposed to display.
Because the user wants to access the needed information quickly. Otherwise, the electronic performance support system is no better than a set of manuals, which probably contain the information, but the information is difficult to find when needed.
You can distribute the information over a number of functional areas. The EPSS would then extract relevant knowledge from the information repositories and provide it to the user in a much shorter time compared to that taken by conventional means to extract it.
This is analogous to reviewing each piece of information separately and connecting the relevant information in a human brain. The focus is on performance rather than learning or training.
An EPSS caters to a wide range of users. The user might be an experienced manager or a new joiner who has absolutely no clue of what needs to be done.
An electronic performance support system should present information to a user based on his job profile and prerequisite knowledge. For example, a manager can just get an overview of the information, and the rest of things he can manage on his own. While a new joiner should be provided with detailed information to complete the same task.
But, in this scenario, access control needs to be monitored from a security point of view. The information that is meant for a manager might also contain sensitive data that should not be accessible for the new joiner.
The computerized nature of an electronic performance support system makes updating faster and easier in some ways than in other media, such as print, video, or audio.
A user might seek help from an EPSS to perform some specific task on a certain software. So, when the software changes, the change in the EPSS should be in accordance with it.
This would avoid user confusion and allow him to adapt to the new changes, without any struggle.
This is essential from security and privacy point of view.
Somebody using an EPSS should not be required to know where the information is located and how is it retrieved – sequentially by a single process or concurrently by multiple processes.
Also, he shouldn’t know if he’s the only one using the system or, there are others doing the same along with him.
Based on all the points mentioned above, the following image summarizes all the considerations you need to make on the information that an EPSS provides.
An EPSS is meant to reduce the need for much (but probably not all) prior training to accomplish a task.
But, if an EPSS itself is difficult to use, the user will first need to learn how to operate the EPSS and only then will be able to use it. This would consume both, time and efforts.
One user might just want to learn enough to complete the job at hand. While the other might want to dig deeper into the concepts and grasp them from scratch.
So, an EPSS should provide minimal information for those who do not want details. And at the same time, there should be a provision that, if a user wants details, he can click on appropriate links and learn more(after exiting from the EPSS).
An individual’s learning style is the preferential way in which he absorbs, processes, and retains information. There are mainly four learning styles: visual, auditory, digital, and kinesthetic learning. An EPPS is potent enough to make learning easy for the first three types of learning styles. And statistically speaking 65% of the population comprises of visual learners.
Through multimedia, an EPSS should be able to accommodate users with varied learning styles. The same information should be capable of being presented in visual, textual, and audio formats, with the user selecting the format.
A user needs an electronic performance support system just in time to perform a task. Therefore, it definitely needs to be fault tolerant. In the case of breakage of communication, information should not be lost.
Also, It should provide alternatives to guard against the possibility of non-availability of a machine that contains the stored information.
The last four points summarize four important characteristics of an EPSS, as the image shows
No matter for what purpose you want to deploy an electronic performance support system whether it’s for employee training, customer support or change management, its basic design would remain the same. You would need resources that store information, and a system that extracts it quickly and allows it to be displayed when needed.
You might be worried about how effectively would users adopt to it. But if it is designed with the characteristics(functionalities) mentioned in the article, it would be easy to use and would be welcomed with open arms.
This is our second article of the series of articles on performance support. The next article would talk about how you actually deploy an EPSS in phases after making careful considerations on its functionalities.