Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Where did gStepOne come from?

We started with documentation and training, moved to Knowledge Management, Business Process Management, interactive wizards and thus to GStepOne.

Wordware began as a documentation and training company. Before long it became clear that documentation and training were part of a larger picture, about knowledge. We used these definitions to help clarify our thinking:

  1. Data: Facts out of context. eg, it will be 30 deg C today, or the train arrives in 5 minutes. (Data is thus of minimal value.)
  2. Information: Data organised in a way that has a potential for meaning. eg weather details recorded and organised by date, or a train timetable. (Information has potential value.)
  3. Knowledge: Data or information that enables the receiver to produce an outcome of value. eg knowing the weather to expect, I can plan a picnic, knowing when a train departs and arrives, I can catch the right one. (Knowledge has high value).
No matter how well organised it is, without a recipient, information is NOT Knowledge. A good working definition of knowledge is information that enables me to do something I couldn’t do before.

Google transforms information into knowledge every day. If I need to know something before I can act (eg what’s gStepOne’s web address?), I Google it. Google delivers the knowledge (the address) and I take the action. Before I asked for it, the web address was just data; for the time I needed it, it was knowledge.

These definitions gave us a clear understanding of what knowledge is, and led to the insight that: the fundamental objective of knowledge is action.

So we moved into Knowledge Management, where our objective was to manage and leverage our clients’ intellectual capital to increase their outcomes of value.

However, there was a challenge: we could only transform information into knowledge if we knew what information each recipient needed before they asked for it. How could we anticipate this?

The answer and our second insight was the business process. All staff are employed to add value by doing things. By performing known tasks within processes that deliver value to the business and its clients. If we know the processes people perform, we can provide the knowledge they need to perform them.

So we restructured our services to provide documentation and training in the context of Business Process Management (BPM). Since business processes are multi-path, with different actions required for variable circumstances, we moved from passive delivery to interactive delivery via electronic wizards created with our custom-built WorkScript wizard engine.

WorkScript wizards are like an electronic coach that actively helps people complete tasks. Unlike traditional support methods, they help people learn on the job, for less cost, and in a fraction of the time required using traditional documentation and training. They lift performance, and enhance consistency.

We created a standard structure for the documentation and training to support each step, which can include up to three elements:

  1. Advise Me –brief work instructions (typically 1-2 paragraphs) about how to do the step.
  2. Show Me –educational or training material (like presentations, videos, online tutorials) .that help users better understand the task.
  3. Inform Me –useful extra information, like an expanded description, a policy, guidelines, etc.
By their nature, our wizards present knowledge in a minimalist format, delivering just enough to do the work, so that it can be absorbed and understood and acted upon at a glance. Wizard design reverses the common misconception that job support information is a collection of all the available facts. Wizards are the result of a distillation of information and resources, so that they provide only what is needed to help people do each step in the shortest possible time.

The introduction of wizard technology had another major effect. Since wizards are used for actually doing the task, not just reading about it, we introduced the Do It button – initiates the tool or application needed to complete the step enabled with the appropriate functionality.

Our next logical step was to move to the web, to make wizards available to anyone, anywhere. So we developed gStepOne. The ideal platform for gStepOne was the Google search engine and its associated Applications and tools. Each wizard designer can tap into nearly a trillion pages of content, which forms the primary documentation and training base for the system. They can also add their own instructions, or information from their own sources, and use tools and services from Google, the web, Microsoft, etc.

gStepOne was launched in Jan 09 and already we have hundreds of users around the world. We want thousands. Once it reaches a critical mass, a tool like gStepOne can change the web from informer to enabler; from information server to Worldwide Wizard.

gStepOne Team

Monday, March 30, 2009

Let’s start a conversation!

Lots of our users have made suggestions for new features and changes, and we’re listening.

We’ve set up an idea sharing page at Share gStepOne Ideas, or click on the Share Ideas box on the gStepOne website. Tell us what you want us to do. We’re right into crowdsourcing! Suggest ideas, new functions, criticise, discuss and vote on your favourites.

Then check out the best ideas, implemented in the next release.

We are looking forward to hearing from you.

gStepOne Team

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Is gStepOne a Virtual Assistant?

More like a guide and a helper. gStepOne generates wizards. A wizard can be defined as an interactive procedure or process mediated by a computer. It is designed to guide users down preset paths, providing the knowledge and the tools needed for them to produce a specific outcome. It does not do the task for the user; it enables the user to complete a task in an expert fashion.

A true Virtual Assistant (VA) or Intelligent Software Assistant is designed to do the task or part of the task for the user. These systems, when they arrive, are expected to act as aides, actually doing simple jobs, like booking flights, making appointments, etc. (see MIT Tech Review for the current state of play). Most VAs are being developed using Artificial Intelligence (AI) software and are designed to mimic the self-awareness and mental abilities typically associated with the human mind.

Providing AI-based virtual support requires a significant effort in identifying and programming for all possible contexts. As a result, most AI-based VAs handle only a small set of tasks. Furthermore, increasing this number is limited by the availability of specialist programmers and the knowledge that they can develop and codify.

Our development approach is quite different. gStepOne is designed for people with no programming skills, who wish to share their expertise to create a wizard for any task. Collectively, the wizards become a resource that helps people produce tangible outcomes. Each can then be called as required by AI-based Virtual Assistants like Siri and Bot├ęgo, or by Google, an embedded link or any other method.

While the techniques for producing gStepOne wizards and Virtual Assistants are similar, gStepOne’s objectives are less ambitious: it enables people to do the task, it does not do it for them.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Version 2.1 Released!

With this release, gStepOne users can produce Wizards even faster! You can now:
  1. Copy tasks to new or existing wizards
  2. Google the web for supporting “How to” information, training, pictures, videos, maps, blogs, etc. as a high speed option for Advise Mes
  3. Filter Docs lists by folder.
For a full list of Version 2.1 enhancements, please go the the gStepOne forum (you can read all messages, but you have to register before you can post).

The release also includes updated documentation at the gStepOne website.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sample wizard released

We are constantly looking for ways to improve your gStepOne experience, especially in the early stages of use. Since many users have found that an example is a great way to get up to speed quickly, we have created a sample wizard: the Recruitment wizard.

For this wizard, we have defined the organisation structure, mapped the process, allocated conditions, created and linked resources and generated the wizard. A public version of the wizard is also available on the website homepage. Just click the Try the Wizard button on the page.

If you would like a copy of the Recruitment wizard, let us know at: support@gstepone.com and we will copy it to your account database. Please note however, that the structure of the gStepOne database is such that in loading the Recruitment sample, you will lose any wizards data you have entered into your current database. User, Business Unit, Group and Role details will remain unchanged.

All new accounts will receive the sample wizard automatically.

The gStepOne Team