Performance Support : Teaching Your End Users to Fish

According to the ancient Chinese proverb: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” In today’s business world the updated version may well be “Give a man an answer to an ERP system question and you help him do his job for a day.  Teach a man how to find answers tailored to his needs and you help him do his job for a lifetime.”

ERP systems are extremely complex.  There are 150,000 plus SAP transaction codes, for instance, and that number grows every day.  With user exits and custom coding, even seasoned users can forget the best practices your business has developed over the course of your project.  Subject matter experts can’t be everywhere at the same time, and even if they could be, answering the same question ten times in a day is not the best use of their time.

So how do you ensure that your users have the most up-to-date instructions, hints and time saving steps?  Developing a Performance Support approach reduces training costs, increases productivity, and minimizes mistakes by delivering specific training when and where it is needed.

Exactly what is “Performance Support”? The simple answer is that Performance Support is a well planned and executed approach to providing users with the right information at the right time to successfully complete their assigned tasks.  A well designed Performance Support system incorporates these six qualities:

  1. Provides ROI to the business
  2. Is accessible to users when and where needed
  3. Delivers contextual information specific to a task
  4. Contains the appropriate amount of information without information overload
  5. Can be trusted by users to be accurate, and consistent in delivery methodology
  6. Supports on-going process improvement and changes

Performance support systems are an important part of a project from the early planning stages and continue through the entire life cycle of the supported business processes.  They differ from a training strategy in that it is not a one-time effort, but instead is an integral part of an overall sustained approach to your business as a whole.

What information should be included in a Performance Support system?     Anything that adds value and facilitates the efficient completion of tasks can be used, including documents, tutorials, animations, business process diagrams, or images.

How does your organization use Performance Support?  What type of information have you found to be the most effective in helping users in every phase of your project?