Go With The Flow

The Dawn of Workflow eLearning

Disclosure: Internet Time Group publishes Sam Adkins' research reports.

If analyst Sam Adkins is right, and I believe he is, eLearning in large organizations is morphing into something entirely different from what has gone before.

In a free white paper, Adkins writes that the era of real-time enterprise systems is upon us. Half of the companies in a recent survey reported using real-time data feeds in decision-making. Nearly a third update their analytic databases at least hourly. Open standards enable enterprise silos of ERP, CRM, and SCM to hook together into a single real-time model of work flowing through the value chain.

    The enterprise customer demand for integration, optimization, real-time collaboration and embedded business alignment has created an emergent technology and business process methodology.
This integration takes all the slack out of the system. Remember "training at the desktop." It was supposed to take place during that slack time. Besides, half of America's workers don't work at their desks; they're in the field or on the facotry floor. First-generation eLearning is giving way to what Adkins calls workflow eLearning.
    Employees in the field and on the job do not have the time, the place or the inclination to 'take' conventional elearning. Conventional elearning formats are inappropriate for their needs. New, highly innovative, and effective augmented reality and mobile performance products are emerging that map directly to their contextual performance needs.

    Wireless technology is being used to extend the enterprise beyond BackOffice and FrontOffice to employees in the field. Workers across vertical industries who do not sit at computers all day are now being connected to enterprise applications via wireless handheld technology.

Adkins maintains that when content is flowing in real time, there's little point in halting work to take a course. Just in time is not soon enough. What's the alternative? Context-specific performance support.

    Vendors are marketing tools that generate highly contextual content directly in the workflow of the user. Content management firms are developing products that automatically generate context and expertise maps. Compelling innovations that focus on workflow are also coming from the Business Process Management (BPM) and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) industries.

    Virtual embedded coaches, wizards, bots and agents are now being used in the real-time workflow. Lombardi's TeamWorks product embeds contextual process coaches inside workflow. PeopleSoft's Intelligent Context Manager functions in a very similar way by proactively prompting workers with task-related information in the context of specific tasks.

    Ultimus products contain Flobots that automate task compliance and are embedded directly in Microsoft applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel. Other companies like Teamplate and Nobilis also embed process wizards in productivity applications.

Will business leaders buy into this? Probably so. The case for workflow tools is more compelling than the traditional eLearning package of LMS, objects, courses, etc.

    These new products measure performance skills and provide remediation in real time, on the job, and in the context of an employee's workflow. The 'bottom line' business result is the direct physical connection between business needs (via hard-coded business rules) and performance. They meet the buyer's need for integration, optimization and cost cutting and the user's need for embedded workflow support.

What do you think about this? Elliott Masie recently called Adkins "one of the top learning researchers in the country." Drop me a note or leave a comment telling me how you feel.

Source of quotations:
White paper, ""The Dawn of Workflow-based eLearning"

Source of the research:
The Gravity of the Situation: The Assimilation of eLearning by Enterprise Applications

Posted by Jay Cross at April 12, 2003 08:07 PM | TrackBack

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