Pathways: June, 2000 Volume 12, Issue One


I recently attended the Spring Internet World 2000 Conference at Los Angeles Convention Center.  It was an exciting event.  The energy from the presenters, participants, and the exhibitors was almost overwhelming.

One quick conclusion was that the Web has evolved significantly beyond mere delivery of content.  Many of us remember when the Web was good for document delivery.  It still is, but that was certainly the minority “application” in evidence at the conference.

There was:

        Business-to-Business (B2B) marketing efforts

        Business-to-Consumer (B2C) marketing efforts

        Web site integration

        Push marketing

        Demographic/psychographic targeting

        Continuity/relationship marketing

        Pre-populated order forms

        Brand extension

        …etc., etc., etc.

The message to me was the need to get more focused on how we might help our clients meet the challenges of using this dynamic medium to support their human resources.  Using the Web to deliver training is certainly one avenue, but alone it represents just one more training delivery mode.  If an integrated set of “performance system components” could be designed and developed that use the Web’s power and accessibility, then we might make a real impact.

These performance support components might include:

        Wizards to support job performance

        Applications to support job tasks

        Sources of up-to-date information to support customer interactions

        Tools to optimize the time with a customer by helping gain interest, handling obstacles, answering questions, proposing solutions, gaining commitment, supporting customer service, and ensuring customer satisfaction

…and you can probably think of many other possibilities.

The Web is offering companies the opportunity to create integrated solutions to employee and customer interactions.  It represents a potential revolution in the way we will all work, individually and collectively, in the future.

There is no easy way to get started with this type of new thinking.  In fact, I believe that assessing the value and designing solutions for Web delivery requires an integrated team approach that entails a variety of skills.  In the At Issue column of this Pathways issue, I have taken a first cut at some of the areas that need to be addressed to achieve this type of integrated, human performance support solution.  This is an ever-evolving area; so let me know what you think.

John C. Wills


At Issue Human Performance Support Solutions on the Web

Up to now, the use of the Web to support employee, marketing channel, and customer performance has been aimed primarily at content.  Our clients have made significant investments in the design and development of Web sites that support a variety of objectives, for example:

        Knowledge Management sites that capture the intellectual capital the organization considers valuable and makes it broadly available, thus encouraging reuse and eliminating redundant effort.

        Marketing Information sites that deliver the organization’s marketing collaterals to employees and customers.

        Training sites that deliver education and training programs using the Web as a distribution/delivery medium.  These include programs that can be taken on-line and those that can be downloaded for local consumption.

        Portal sites that tie the various, disparate sites the organization has produced together so that the targeted employee and/or customer can benefit from all of the information that the organization is delivering over the Web.

At this point in our maturity of using the Web, we are finding that significant opportunity exists to extend the use and subsequent value of “applications” that are used to support our client’s employees, marketing channels, and customers.  But, improved use implies a need for better methods of analyzing, designing, and developing these future Web sites if they are to deliver on the promise of integrated, human performance support.

The approach needed to accomplish this involves a team effort of “specialists” focused on maximizing the use of this medium.  The team must include people competent in the areas of:

1.     Human performance support process design and development

2.     Technical design and development

3.     Marketing design and development

4.     Content design and development

5.     Project management/solution integration

I will explore each of these skill areas in turn.

1.     Human performance support process design and development

This involves identifying and creating the human performance support process elements of your site.  This competency will determine the functionality that will be included in your site.  It is critical to the eventual use and effectiveness of the site as seen by your users and sponsors.  This includes the integration of the required site functionality to support user activity (such as registering, security, performing work, and feedback), administration, help, etc.   In addition, this effort may need to include the design and development of a reward system to encourage users to use the system fully so that both the users and the organization can realize the benefits of their investment in the solution.  The outcome of this effort also includes guidance to the technical design and development team members on how to design and develop the functionality of the technical solution.

2.     Technical design and development

The building of Web site infrastructure and functionality requires significant experience, skill, and resources.  This competency represents a major component of the effort for your project and produces the most visible elements of the project.  A key decision about tools selection must be made early on to ensure quick development and on-going ease of maintenance.

3.     Marketing design and development

The development of a marketing implementation strategy for promotional approaches to encourage the use of the site is critical.  This competency will establish the communication vehicles to promote the site with employees, marketing channels, and customers.  The promotion of the site is an important component in achieving the ultimate penetration desired.

4.     Content design and development

The creation of the content elements for your site.   This competency creates frameworks for the various types of on-line information and performance support components that will be available on the site.  In this area it is valuable to create tools that will assist your content groups in creating and maintaining their “information” in an automated way.  It will also be helpful to produce tools that will assist and encourage users to select and use Web site functionality that enhances their performance and connects them to whatever reward system you are using to promote the site.

5.     System integration and project management

The integration and coordination of the development team’s activities requires special effort and skills.  These competencies help ensure the success of the project and the eventual success of the site.  They help develop the team cohesiveness necessary to allow the diverse skill sets involved to work together effectively and efficiently.

Needless to say, projects of this type are complex, but are now being developed and implemented in record time.  First, long-term functionality is determined (that is the 12- to 18-month goal).  Then, immediate functionality is committed (that is what can we have in three-months).  The team begins working together and the first iteration of the human performance support solution is piloted before you know it.

We will be seeing dramatic changes in the years ahead in the way people work and in the human performance support tools they will have available.  The questions remain:  “Will we be the ones setting the direction and leading this new effort?”  … or … “Will we be the ones that are wondering what happened?”

John C. Wills



“The Worldwide Web has evolved significantly beyond mere delivery of print content.”



Interested in more information on the new economy?

A significant body of information is being published on issues related to the new economy.  If you are looking for a more complete understanding of how the issue discussed in this newletter might impact your organization, you can read one or more of the following books:

1.     New Rules for the New Economy — 10 Radical Strategies for a Connected World by Kevin Kelly

Kevin Kelly is the Editor-at-Large for Wired magazine.  He presents a compelling description of how the networked economy is turning old economics upside down.

2. — How to Create a Profitable Business Strategy for the Internet and Beyond by Patricia B. Seybold with Ronni T. Marshak

Patricia Seybold is CEO of Patricia Seybold Group, a business and technology consulting firm.  She identifies an approach to successfully developing an e-commerce business that makes it easy for customers to do business with you.

3.      Blueprint to the Digital Economy — Wealth Creation in the Era of e-Business by Don Tapscott, Alex Lowy, and David Ticoll (Editors)

This book captures the insights of many of the leaders of the digital revolution and provides a vision for converting the promise of digital technology into an operational reality.

This selection obviously represents a small cross-section of the vast number of books being published daily.  They are suggested only as a possible place to start your on-going explorations.  Also, if you would like to discuss you specific situation with us, we would be delighted to provide our perspectives.


Volume 11, Number 1 - 1999  |  Volume 11, Number 2 - 1999
Volume 11, Number 3 - 1999  |  Volume 12, Number 1 - 2000

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