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Xplan Discussion

Enhancing the
help and learning
experience (cont.)


Help and training generally aren’t exciting features, but until the ultimate user interface is developed, that by virtue of its great design conveys all possible information and eliminates any and all user questions – they will continue to form part of the overall user experience.

At the same time as practices and licensees are striving to get the most out of xplan and expand usage and adoption levels, the need for help, guidance and training increases. The tools in xplan and the solutions being built with them are easier than ever to use, but users still have plenty questions about them and may not be making best use of the tools, even if they are getting a result at the end.

So the ability for users to quickly find information about individual components, context and be guided in achieving tasks, therefore remains a consideration to maximising  efficiency and implementing best practices.


Now that we’ve recapped the importance of help and training, let’s continue exploring the topic that we started discussing in the last article.  While, the approach demo’d in that article cannot replace many of the other types of help and training, the instantaneous, then and there nature of it, paints an interesting contrast.  It perhaps provides an opportune time to look at ways the existing sources could be improved to maximise utilisation in the future. 

Ultimately, the end goal is to empower users to do more, make better use of the system and get the most out of it – we all move forward when this happens.

We already have plenty of help and training resources

There is certainly an ever growing amount of help and training materials out there.

Users might have access to the help menu, workshop videos, eLearning platforms, business manuals, FAQ’s, support desks and other custom solutions. Each of them not only works through different mediums (text/video/images/interaction/combination) but achieves varying outcomes for the user and the business:

eLearning Platforms
These are comprehensive help and training solutions that provide detailed resources on custom solutions, business processes, and large parts of the system. 
They often utilise a range of mediums including: help, videos, simulations, recorded webinars and testing materials.  They generally also perform other functions such as metrics, scheduling and reporting, that are particularly valuable for licensee size businesses;

Workshop / Case Study video Training
These provide an overview of an entire tool or process, presenting a holistic case to demonstrate how all the components are used to produce a result.  By virtue of providing an overview across the entire tool or process, they far outstrip the reach of help systems providing help on individual elements alone;

Standard Help Menu
Contains a variety of information including specific help on individual components.  Whilst some of this information may be supplanted by alternative help types, it still contains significant quantity of data about configuring Xplan.  It would be difficult and potentially at the determinant of the UI to incorporate that level of information into the system.

From the above we can see that each of those core training resources has their own unique benefits that will continue to be needed.  Although, in contrast to other approaches, such as the one we looked at here, all of the solutions above suffer from the same two challenges: 

All external systems
All of the above and most help and training resources available to users, are external to the system. Which often means they take the user out of their current tasks – leading to a loss of focus –  to go on a quest to find information;

They make users work, just to access the information
Users are busy on their work.  It’s hard enough getting users to take the time to learn (or want to learn sometimes), let alone when artificial obstacles discourage the process.  We’ll look at some of these obstacles below for each help type;

Let’s go through a quick example, showing some of the steps or challenges with those standard help and training approaches.  We’ve also included some of the common custom solutions.

The Curious case of the Implement button in Risk Researcher

If you read the first article, you know that the ‘Record/Implement’ button, is a favourite of ours to pick on; its a great feature that can easily go overlooked by users and has a duality to it. 

In Risk Researcher we can make our Risk recommendations and get a result out without touching this implement button. Yet… if a user doesn’t understand it and doesn’t utilise it, they potentially miss out on several efficiencies and good data. On the other hand, if they don’t understand it and use it at the wrong time, they’ve just caused themselves all sorts of data and document problems.

So our user is in Risk Researcher, they want to know what exactly this button does (as sometimes a couple of words and an icon don’t convey enough meaning to make users comfortable to guess) what are the users options:

  • eLearning:  Has to open up a new tab or new window – focus and task orientation lost – log in, search, find and maybe get a quick explanation.  Worst case, may have to click and seek through video and simulations;
  • Workshop Video:  Has to know or find where these are to begin with, again external and away from current task, then seek through and around the video just to find where the component is discussed;
  • Help Menu:  New window away from our task and we either navigate the menu structure looking for our section or roll the dice with the search option – if you try to be quick about it, just searching ‘Implement’ is the 27th result on the 2nd page results (which reminded us of this).  Now depending on your search term you might get anything between no results to the exact result.
  • FAQ: Generally an external source, stored in a variety of places and may not contain the actual information you want;

In terms of giving an overview or explaining an entire tool, some of these resources are unmatched and great.  Things like opening up new windows and tabs are not an issue in those cases – where you are trying to learn the entire tool. 

Remember, we just wanted information on one component of a tool, should that information be more than a click away and where a user needs it?

An opportunity: Integration

All those sources of help above, are compelling resources and contain a cornucopia of knowledge.

The problem is, by virtue of those flaws, they are underutilised in their function, by the providers and the users. It’s in everyone’s interest for their use to be maximised and we can do that by integrating them into Xplan.

Integration doesn’t just mean finding information on single components is easier, it encourages all sorts of learning because we’re making it more accessible.  This is 2015, it’s entirely possible for these to be integrated in ways which make them vastly more utilised:

eLearning Platforms
Imagine, you’re in an Advice wizard, you’ve got a question or problem on the scope of advice page.  You click an ‘eLearning’ icon, near instantly a menu pops up returning a list (from the server) of videos, simulations, FAQ responses and individual help resources, just for that very page you are on.  So now all that contextually aware information  – as well as letting you search the rest of the elearning platform  – is just a click away, right at the users fingertips, when and where they need it and within Xplan.

This could easily also apply to the tools and so many others things; supercharging the utilisation and access for users.

Workshop Videos
The IRESS training team appears to have put in a lot of work expanding the video series and keeping them updated.  So these are good – and free – resources for every user.  Yet, at the moment they are based on the user knowing they are there, tucked away in the help menu or through other links.

What about direct links with the tools or modules, taking the users directly to the video.  So in Risk Researcher there’s a button that opens up the Risk Researcher workshop instantly for the user.  As we’ve covered off above, this might not give them instant information, but will certainly see those training resources more utilised and more contextually prioritised.

As an example we’ve started utilising the top bar on the screen (we’ve found users notice changes in this space) so that when they are in Risk Researcher pages, there’s a direct link to the IRESS workshop on Risk Researcher.  Similar setup for IPS, Supersolver, Service Benchmarks etc.  You can see the Risk Researcher example in these videos.

Help Menu
Context awareness.  The simplest improvement we could make here to increase effectiveness of this source would be making it context aware or building in a separate context based function.  If a user is in Supersolver and clicks ‘Help’  there’s a reasonable chance we can infer what they want help on.  Alternatively what about just building in direct links into the tools.

Even though the above doesn’t facilitate instant information, again, would certainty increase the utilisation and effectiveness of this source.


Let’s be clear, we aren’t suggesting any of the current help and training resources are not of value.  We’ve covered off their direct value and occasions where they shine, above.  We want to see them get more use, better use. 

All we’re suggesting, is when you have a basic solution that can instantly provide users with direct information on components, benefits, context and highlight common support issues, in contrast to that, maybe the existing materials can be better utilised and integrated to give users the same quick ease of knowledge.

We’ve put some ideas forward for how that integration could work, they are by no means definitive or the only approaches.  But they are possible and we believe they would increase utilization by users, aiding them in getting help – making use of that implement button for efficiency, not just ignoring it because they don’t quite get what it does.

Whether you’re a user, a business owner, a customisation provider, a learning provider or IRESS.  We all move forward when users can do more with the system and get the most out of it. 

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