Excerpt taken from:
Job Aids & Performance Support by Allison Rossett & Lisa Schafer. Pfeiffer.
© 2007 by John Wiley & Sons. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.

NOTE: The Interactive Coach has been renamed QuickSuccess for Salesforce.

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Customer relationship management (CRM) and its associated software are hot topics in the sales and marketing arena as more companies adopt customer-centric strategies to maintain or improve their competitive advantage. CRM technology, such as, has brought on-demand hosted software to even the smallest of companies eager for comprehensive customer information and the sales opportunities and marketing effectiveness created by data-informed decisions. Companies turn to CRM tools, such as, to help salespeople handle customer information and close more deals while devoting less time to administrative duties.

            Hal Christensen, partner of Christensen/Roberts Solutions, explained how hosted CRM solutions help organizations be more competitive. Although sold on the benefits of hosted CRM solutions, Christensen admitted that there are some sticky problems associated with CRM implementation. The Interactive Coach, developed by Christensen/Roberts Solutions, addressed those concerns. Christensen described the purpose of the Interactive Coach in their entry for the 2005 PCD (Performance-Centered Design) Awards: “Misalignment between the process and the application and the inefficiency of poorly prepared users have been the major reasons why well over half of all CRM implementations have failed to achieve the anticipated results” (Christensen/Roberts Solutions, 2005).

   Interactive Coach won that 2005 PCD Award, presented each year by EPSSCentral ( The Interactive Coach won in the category of embedded/intrinsic solutions, applications “embedded in the task context and focus on task completionnot learningwithout breaking the task context or flow.” The essence of performance-centered design (PCD) is to create tools and systems that have knowledge of the task and workflow baked in. Wrap it all up in an intuitive interface and you’ve enabled users to proceed with little or no prior training. The Interactive Coach provides an integrated example of Sidekick performance support.

Highlights of Embedded Support

The Coach works right along with the user in real time. It is a Sidekick. As the user goes about a task, context-sensitive information guides, prompts, informs, corrects, or hastens. Procedures are inside the software, definitions pop up, business rules actually rule. No training required.

No Training Required

Christensen described how one of the challenges of CRM implementation is user adoption. Salespeople, the primary users of CRM, frequently ask, “Why do I have to do this?” They’d rather be out selling, in the field, with customers, not entering data or planning efforts in a CRM system. One of the ways to combat this resistance, Christensen said, “Is to get them immediately up and running.” Make the system so easy to use that they can get in, do their thing, and get back to selling.

            The Coach, like its human counterpart, senses what the user needs and acts as a guide throughout the task. Support is delivered via an ActiveGuide Toolbar, which serves up menus of options based on the user’s location in the sales process. As users choose a task, they may even select their desired level of assistance—general information about a screen, step-by-step coaching through the task, or no assistance at all (see Figure 6.8).

Figure 6.8: Users Select a Preferred Level of Support

Christensen/Roberts Solutions. Used by permission.

Figure 6.9 shows how the Coach begins to walk a user through creation of a new selling opportunity with a pop-up informational box and red outlining around the menu item to highlight location.

Figure 6.9: The Coach Points to Action to Take

Christensen/Roberts Solutions. Used by permission.

As the Coach and user move forward, the system, shown in Figure 6.10, also informs the user why this information is required.

Figure 6.10: The Coach Providing Task Guidance and Context.

Christensen/Roberts Solutions. Used by permission.

            Figure 6.11 demonstrates how the Interactive Coach helps users avoid entering an incorrect account name. The Coach enables the user to follow the sequence without having previously studied the field definitions or learned the steps. Christensen reflected, “[The Coach provides] the ability for someone who has not worked with the software to work right away, the right way, without prior training.”

Figure 6.11: The Coach Endeavors to Reduce the Chance of Error

Christensen/Roberts Solutions. Used by permission.

Tailoring the Off-the-Shelf Solution

As is typical in many hosted applications, is challenged by being “all things to all people,” while also allowing for customization. To companies with limited capacity for such tailoring, the software provides what feels like too many options. The Coach steps in here. The support offered by the Coach enables users to ignore options they don’t need by providing access to just what they do need.

            Let’s consider an example. The Coach makes it easy to change the default names of sales opportunity stages to new names tailored to the company’s unique sales process. Figure 6.12 shows how the Coach nudges the manager to set up with opportunity stage names for typical sales processes so sales reps within the company will see terminology familiar to them.

Figure 6.12 The Coach Helps Users Tailor the Application

Christensen/Roberts Solutions. Used by permission.

Automation of Tasks

The Coach takes over to complete what is a multi-screen, time-consuming process within, reducing over seventy-five steps to five. Christensen estimated that changing the opportunity stages to match the company’s sales process could take three to six hours, including training and trial-and-error, without the Coach. With the Coach, this same task would require approximately fifteen to thirty minutes.

Creating the Sidekick Support

The Interactive Coach was developed using Rocket Software’s ActiveGuide Web Studio (see ActiveGuide enabled the developers to create the JavaScript file, which controls the support interface. Christensen/Roberts Solutions (2005) described the structure of the support. The JavaScript file acts as a “layer of intelligent support between the user and the application. This layer . . . manipulates and monitors all of the application’s controls, as well as all of the user’s actions within that application.” The scripts can be modified from a central server, which is transparent to users. In addition, the support runs independently from Thus, no changes are required to the application for the support to run.

            Compare this Sidekick to the Library of Congress’ demonstrations. While the library’s program provides support, the Coach is even more integrated into tasks confronting a user. The Coach actually creates interactions between the user and the applicationguiding input, catching errors, and prodding the performer forward in real time.

            Like the Library of Congress’ Captivate developer, Christensen said users of the ActiveGuide tool “don’t have to know programming,” but added they would be more efficient if they knew a little html or JavaScript. The “small team” for development of the Interactive Coach included Christensen, one staff member, and assistance from ActiveGuide. He spoke of the easy-to-use drag-and-drop and toolbar features within the software, but acknowledged that there was some learning curve associated with the product. Christensen added that it would be most effective to separate the storyboarding from actual development in ActiveGuide. (This would be a more similar process to the one described for the Library of Congress, in which designers worked on the script and a developer worked with the software tool.) He advises designers to really “think it through, map it out, plot it out.” We will discuss that in Chapter 7.

A New Mindset

While there may be some challenges when learning new software tools or techniques for performance support, Christensen emphasized that the biggest obstacle to Sidekick solutions such as the Interactive Coach is the mindset of individuals in traditional training and development roles. He described it simply as a “different way of thinking.” Their traditional mindset focuses on content—what do learners need to know to do this task. The goal of embedded performance support, as Christensen described it, is to “create a user experience.” Designers should be asking, “How can I augment the interface to make it easier to complete the task with the skills they already have?” Performance support is about the task. Christensen emphasized, “We’re trying to make someone immediately competent.

            The beauty of effective Sidekicks is the power to support performers in real time as they go about their business. They navigate new tasks or complex software without blinking. That leads to lower training costs and fewer errors. The Interactive Coach is a nifty example. For another, visit ThinkSmart Performance Systems at