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

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