Last month’s article introduced the performance support spectrum. The intent of the spectrum is to show the range of performance support (PS) solutions that organizations are producing today and to make the point that business benefit varies depending upon where a solution fits along that spectrum.

A reader of that article, Spence, left a comment and suggested that there might be a “further dimension” within the spectrum where a PS solution “can be more than Just In Time and Just Enough, it can seem like and feel like it's engineered ‘Just for Me.’”

Performance support that pays off—by design

Spence … that’s exactly what “smart” performance support does—it observes performers’ behaviors, generalizes to best practices, and automatically adjusts to individual needs. Although this is an emerging capability in the realm of performance support, it is a proven practice in the world of Internet marketing.

If you want to learn how a performance support solution can be “Just for Me”-smart, look at how Amazon helps you buy a book. Suppose you had a specific book you wanted to purchase. You find the book on the website, click on it, and there on the screen along with the picture, price, book specs, and book reviews is “Frequently Bought Together” and “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought.” Behind the scenes, the Amazon sales engine is “smartly” observing the buying patterns of others and offering up purchasing recommendations.

Amazon becomes even smarter if you have an account and a history of purchasing items from them. Then it observes your specific buying behaviors, finds others who have similar purchasing patterns, and recommends additional products based upon those comparisons. It also takes into consideration the product satisfaction ratings from similar buyers.

The “smartness” of Amazon doesn’t end in the book section. When you access Amazon’s homepage, it tailors its entire product offering to you. Amazon would use the knowledge it’s gained from your book purchases and create a personalized purchasing dashboard. The entire screen would be filled with all things for you. “Items Related to What You’ve Viewed,” “Items Inspired by Your Browsing History,” “New for You,” and of course “Give Yourself a Little Something.” The more you shop, the more tailored and focused the site becomes for you!

Amazon has even figured out how to continue to market to you when you’re not on the site (through targeted product emails, social media, and search engine ads, etc.). Your Amazon homepage constantly adapts based upon what you and others like you are doing.

Welcome to the transformational level (5) of the spectrum! Amazon’s sales help isn’t just deeply embedded, it’s also broadly embedded. It’s contextual in the sense that it is observing and evolving. And even though a person may not be seeking support, the system is tracking behavior and actions to be proactive and anticipate moments of need (possibly in places where peers have needed such support).

This capacity to offer relevant, related, and potentially helpful information based upon its observation of individual and collective performance patterns is at the heart of what makes a performance support solution smart.

I once ate at a restaurant where the chef actually visited my table, asked me some questions about where I was from, the kinds of food I enjoyed eating, and how I liked it prepared. She recommended a dinner menu tailored specifically for me and promised me a few surprises based upon what other customers had enjoyed. The meal was wonderful. I became a loyal customer.

Not every restaurant can afford to send a chef to the table to provide a tailored menu offering; it’s a pricey model. The same is true with the current costs for developing the level of “smart” performance support described here. Hence this “smartness” isn’t as pervasive today as it needs to be. However, this is a critical emerging capacity that we need to pursue.

Fortunately, we’re seeing these capabilities on the development roadmaps of leading EPSS authoring software systems. This bodes well for the future. It means the entry fee for developing and maintaining smart performance-support solutions is going to drop dramatically. As this happens, organizations will more readily move up the performance support spectrum to develop transformational performance support that’s “smart” in the way it enables immediate, consistently effective performance without wasted effort or expense. And it will do this in a way that “can seem like and feel like it's engineered ‘Just for Me.’”

Join us at the Performance Support Symposium!

Discover how you can optimize investments in training, eLearning, and mLearning by integrating performance support across your organization!

The Performance Support Symposium: September 9 & 10, 2013 in Boston, MA