Digital Performance Support (DPS) represents an evolution of what we’ve known as Electronic Performance Support (EPS) and the technology that provides it, Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS). So…what has evolved about EPS making it worthy of calling it something else? Is DPS just lipstick on EPS? Definitely not! Here’s a link to a recent blog post by Mike Graham, CEO of Epilogue Systems that describes DPS in a little more detail. Cloud-based DPS opens a whole set of doors for driving sustained workforce capability at the Point of Work.When we see DPS technology moving to a cloud-based environment and offered as Software as a Service (SaaS) the game changes dramatically. Now an organization with a workforce of only 50 users can affordably gain the same benefits as an organization of 50,000. The question that begs an answer is simple – “How do we know if it’s a good fit for us?” This post offers some thoughts on how to effectively answer that question.
That said, today’s post will not drill into the details of DPS technology nor any of the vendors in this space; rather, my intent is to shine the light on recommended steps to take for any organization choosing to investigate DPS as a viable technology solution.
WHERE & WHEN IS DPS A SOLUTION?
A common misconception is treating DPS as a technology solution and finding some application(s) where to apply it. Finding a “fit” is important, but DPS is only the enabling technology to a cultural shift and mindset that ground zero for building and sustaining performance is found at the Point of Work. What must come first is establishing a “human infrastructure” capable of wielding several key components:
- Evolved Discovery Skills – Performance Consulting skills rank top-of-list in my experience
- Evolved Design & Development Methods – Intentional Design tops my list
- Evolved Content Management Protocols – I’ve heard that content is king, I agree partially, BUT in a DPS environment context should have at least co-kingship status, and that throne is located with the Point of Work
- Evolved Delivery Skills – Classroom training changes and different facilitation skills using DPS technology are critical
- Evolved Measurement – DPS unlocks analytical data previously not considered as accessible
Why do I say these things are “evolved”? Primarily because integrating DPS into a L&D strategy does not promote throwing out the baby with the bath water. Existing skills remain, but they expand…or evolve…building upon base knowledge. Integrating is not a threat to L&D it is a bridge to partnership with operational business partners.
Over the years, I’ve had numerous opportunities to engage in the integration of a variety of new or upgraded business applications from organization-wide Enterprise Resource Programs (ERP) to Electronic Medical/Health Record Systems (EMR/EHR), and Call Management Systems (CMS), as well as smaller specialty applications. My perspective has always been from the Learning & Development (L&D) point of view and have endured the unique challenges related to equipping the workforce to be effective when GoLive is reached…and chaos is unleashed on end-users.
Those experiences confirm there are essential steps or phases that must be addressed effectively to ensure there is life beyond GoLive for all concerned. To me they represent the anatomy of a successful integration…and have implications for evolving existing skills and acquiring new ones…and they include:
Typically, L&D is involved to an extent in the first two phases. I say “to an extent” because the Assess phase is typically limited to a Training Needs assessment. That’s okay if L&D’s role is limited to training, but from my experiences training cannot drive consistent performance at the Point of Work where end-users are hands-on with systems and application workflows…and don’t overlook they are working without a net and exposing the business to errors, delays, mistakes, liability, material waste, reduced customer satisfaction, churn due to employee frustration…etc.
If sustained workforce performance is desired, traditional training will not deliver the mail because providing support to end-users in their workflows at the moment of need in the workflows at Point of Work are out of scope for L&D…and…most existing Learning Technology. The LMS is simply not agile enough to integrate into the Point of Work or the business systems-based applications used there. That’s where DPS shines!
It is important to note that DPS is not limited to systems-based applications. If a process exists and there is a workflow required to execute at task level, there is DPS as a potential solution. MY point is, as you will see below, requires an intimate knowledge and understanding of what is going on…or not…or should…at the Point of Work. Gaining that knowledge requires performance consulting skills to accomplish discovery at the Point of Work through a thorough Performance Assessment.
I’ve written on several occasions about not confusing “Ready” with “Readiness” and that is so very critical in need to evolve scope and assessment to leverage the benefits afforded by learning and performance solutions and the potential for integrating new DPS technology. The critical nature of completing a Performance Readiness Assessment is defined by the expanded scope of what is being assessed above and beyond both traditional training approaches, the addition of performance support assets without overlooking the “tech” part of a DPS solution. While the technology is an obvious part of the assessment, the operational work environments, the business learning requirements, and a few other factors come into play including:
- PEOPLE– Who is doing the work? Who supports that effort? Who harvests the results? Who cares about the results and is charged to take action? Who are internal AND external to the business function(s) involved?
- PROCESS– What is the primary work? What are task-centric, role-specific attributes at the Point-of-Work? What are current state processes for supporting the workforce at Point of Work? What are the processes for and tactics for training, supporting content currency, and curation?
- CONTENT– What content assets are consumed to accomplish the work? Where are they? Are they accessible? Are all “7 Right Things” accounted for and sustainable?
- TECHNOLOGY– What enterprise systems, business applications, and end-user devices are used to accomplish the work? How does mobility and bandwidth factor in to a solution? What does the technology migration road map include in the future?
- METRICS & MEASURES– What are the measurable data that reveal evidence of business impact from accomplishing the work…or not? Are there data not being tracked that should be specific to tangible business impact? Are all the relevant data available tracked and reported in a timely, accessible, actionable format? Are dashboards being used? Do the right people have access to them and do they know what to do and when? Is xAPI being exploited appropriately?
This evolution of a front-end performance assessment represents a mission-critical investment before any decisions are made toward choosing a learning and performance solution path…and even more important for conditions for DPS integration exist, and ultimately choosing the right DPS vendor. I say “right DPS vendor” because each vendor possesses a “sweet spot” in how they operate and what they best support in terms of business processes and functions. Not identifying your organization’s current and future state “sweet spot(s)” can easily lead to a bad decision sooner than later.
PREPARE should be rather intuitive from a Training perspective – end-users need to be trained and training solutions must be designed, developed & delivered. What’s not intuitive is how DPS integration opens a door specific to how, when and where these “training solutions” take place and how they can serve a dual role as “moment of need reinforcement” at the Point of Work. In addition, the PREPARE phase is enhanced dramatically by reducing the time for content development by over half via some of the DPS authoring and single-source documentation enhancements.
DPS enables learning at Point of Work as well as exposing new, onboarding workforce to both workflow-centric training and hands-on experience with the DPS technology in safe, formal learning venues. This evolution typically reduces training time by half over traditional methods because knowledge retention loss is handled at the moment of need and at the Point of Work.
Another point of intersection involves Help Desk resources as they have direct visibility with the same content used to train end-users both in formal training as well as supporting live incoming requests from the Point of Work. I’ve witnessed Help Desk volumes reduced by as much as 40% when earlier EPS technology was integrated…and see no reason DPS should be any different…possibly better through enhanced DPS authoring and content management capabilities.
Implementation is where L&D often fails because implementation is not “in scope”. Implementation happens post-training and downstream at the Point of Work…and the job traditionally falls into the lap of Help Desk and SMEs to usher end-users toward a state of utilization and adoption. DPS technology provides reinforcement and task-level support at a user’s moment of need directly within the application workflow on demand. User frustration is significantly reduced because answers to procedural questions are only a couple of clicks away. I must add that the concept of “couple of clicks away” is a direct outcome of a thorough performance assessment and integration of intentional design methodology.
Full adoption is the state we desire for our workforce and speed to competency is optimized. Adoption is that state of utilization where actions take place nearly unconsciously…like sending an email. Who really stops to think about how to send an email… unless they’ve never used email before?
And that brings up another point…
First time users of any supported application receive the benefit of DPS integration because they experience it day one…during onboarding and during subsequent deeper dive training on every business application they will use.
Every business application?
Every business application that the front-end performance assessment reveals as being necessary to run the business and maintain performance across the workforce. With application tuning during deployment, DPS becomes system agnostic, and the initial investment can scale across the inventory of systems and applications utilized without re-purchasing another DPS to handle scalability. Plus, being cloud-based geography is no longer an impediment.
DPS technology enhances capabilities without question…which leads to something that is often overlooked…the opportunities for new roles and business protocols that result from the availability of these new capabilities and efficiencies. For example, does your organization have a content curator role? Content management workload can become overwhelming if handled as an after-thought.
Content creation, curation & maintenance needs to be as intentional as content design because the efficiencies DPS affords…operational sustainability does not just happen by magic.
What is your current state of content management? Again…this is revealed in the front-end performance assessment.
Earlier premises-based EPS integrations were challenged by content management loads when task-level transactions and complexity began to scale. The tail began to wag the dog. Here again, the migration road map from the front-end performance assessment plots a path that accurately shows future scalability implications as new applications and associated content are migrated under the DPS. This migration road map in turn informs DPS vendor evaluation using Use Case methods to confirm which vendor’s platform has the ability to accommodate projected growth and related content management scale.
You may recall reading study data that shows over half of LMS owners are either not happy with their investment or actively seeking a change. Consider why that’s the case…consider the potential that those decisions were made when purchasers were “READY” for buying into LMS technology rather than being at state of “READINESS” to make an informed decision. True, many outgrew capacity, but was that because they never projected scale, or a new content mix surfaced that was critical to the business…but was not SCORM compliant.
Certainly, technology is going to change and something better is going to surface, but…being at a state of readiness to make an informed decision may have saved several those dissatisfied LMS owners.
DPS decisions are no less important…and I would say significantly more impactful to the business because this technology changes the game completely. DPS is directly targeting performance at the Point of Work…not just training. DPS, if assets designed intentionally can and should be inclusive of Training.
DPS is not just a technology purchase; it is a commitment to CHANGE…commitment to adoption of a new performance paradigm…commitment to a cultural shift to addressing Point of Work as ground zero.
Why such a commitment? Because the impact from DPS extends into the Point of Work where real business value is either generated…or lost.
DPS is hard-wired to business impact. That’s not something any LMS technology can tout. You see, we’re not just talking about SCORM course completions and butts-in-seats anymore. DPS is evolving the game beyond L&D and into the operational side of the business. This evolution is huge and requires a commitment to change.
The magnitude of this CHANGE journey may be transformational for some organizations while only require fine-tuning in others. Where does your organization fall along this spectrum?
Whether your organization has a workforce of 50 or 50,000 a road map will help inform decisions about integrating DPS. How can an organization of only 50 afford DPS? Remember, DPS is cloud-based and offered as a SaaS option that translates to no longer making investments in additional, expensive IT hardware…and in many cases…IT resources are only minimally involved…if at all.
Considering a purchase of a new LMS or a sexy new Learning Experience System (LES)? Would moving beyond a training paradigm make more sense by positioning a DPS solution up front with the LMS doing the tracking of SCORM courses like it was scoped to do?
What I’ve just described in this post is a snapshot of what I will begin pursuing this February. The Performance Assessment process is a skill set I believe should be in every L&D organization. I make the case for this in another recent post – “It’s Time To Go Ninja!”
Whether your organization integrates DPS or not…building Performance Ninja discovery skills has benefits too impactful to ignore. Driving sustained workforce capability should now be in scope for L&D. If it’s not, maybe you should check out the Ninja thing…
Drop me a call. I’m always up for kicking around ideas and sharing thoughts!