The future of true context sensitive help is here…today…

I strongly believe that most context sensitive help solutions around today are lacking in context, which would be funny if it wasn’t so annoying.


We see various definitions out there in the public domain like…Context-sensitive Help provides information about the user interface of an application relative to the task a user performs. Which completely ignores the user’s real context, as it seems to mean that the only context is where the user is in the app!


Wikipedia states: “Context-sensitive is an adjective meaning “depending on context” or “depending on circumstances”. It may refer to: Context-sensitive grammar. Context-sensitive language. Context-sensitive help.” Which covers a lot more scenarios closer to the real world.


So when we think about all of the above variations…to get true context sensitive help we really need to consider the following:

  • Who is the person and what is their Role?
  • How experienced are they?
  • How do they like to digest information (Video, text, be shown something or listen for example)
  • What is their preferred language?
  • What area of the application are they currently in?
  • We need to know where they need help and the data from the current record they are looking at should also provide context.
  • What content they are engaging with and if it was useful!
  • Is the person happy? Did they get what they needed, when they needed it? 


All of these questions relate to the user as the focus of context, the context in this case being the user’s experience, preferences, learning style, their actions, their history, their behaviour and any issues they may be having.



So without this depth of knowledge, context sensitive help that only addresses some of these elements or provides just field or application level help are barely any use and offer very limited value to your business or your users.

It needs to go way above this to get things right…


Once we have the above contextual awareness in our applications, we can start to really think about what’s in it for the users, which falls down to a content discussion and then becomes your ultimate goal to get right. Without decent content, even the best context aware applications will struggle to deliver any value to our end users, in their specific situation.


It’s obvious, our users need:

  • Ease and speed of access
  • Close proximity of information and the correct answer
  • Multi-channel (The same content, experience via web or mobile)
  • Always up to date 
  • Easy to Consume
  • Relevant and therefore useful
  • Understandable (Last but not least as this is critical)


So getting the context and content right results in:

  • Less pressure for our users to know everything!
  • Less errors which increases confidence 
  • More consistent experience for your Customer facing staff
  • Higher productivity with far less wasting ‘others’ time


The right information, at the right place at the right time, provides a feel good factor for our people!


So why is it more important to get this right now, than ever before?


Well providing learning at the speed of business today is a challenge and our people are expected to know more and more…they are also having to keep changing how they do things on a more regular basis, quite often without knowing why.


McKinsey wrote a great article in May this year called “Learning at the speed of business” and a small extract from that article says “Now a new phase is unfolding at these organizations, which must grapple with tools and platforms that facilitate knowledge sharing and employee interactions on an almost limitless scale, challenging—and sometimes appearing to sweep away—the old brick-and-mortar model.”


Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends For 2017 see’s “trend No. 2: Intelligent Apps, which include technologies like virtual personal assistants (VPAs), have the potential to transform the workplace by making everyday tasks easier (prioritizing emails) and its users more effective (highlighting important content and interactions).” Read more here.

Improved Apps customers already have what we call an ‘in-app coach’ for their users, so it’s great to see Gartner identifying this ‘personal assistant’ strategic need.


I visited this years Learning Technologies Conference (London, Olympia) and gleamed these interesting facts…

  • 43% of employees work from home
  • 51% say time is a barrier
  • 47% of learning is done out of hours
  • 80% use search engines to try and solve problems
  • 50% of Learning & Development (L&D) practitioners still think course-ware is the only answer!
  • 70% of people prefer using mobile devices for learning


Working from home means more and more our people are on their own, with no one to turn to and help them. If learning was easier to access, users would not need to do so much out of hours and definitely would not need to try and remember so much! Course-ware is still key, however users need easy access to bite size content to help in their moment of need, with a path to learn more.


It’s not that difficult because we have already thought this through…there is a solution today…


The bottom line is that our people struggle with timely access to relevant content, where and when they need it. Worse still our younger generation of staff have even less appetite for old clunky applications that simply don’t work for them, or rather don’t help them when they need help.


This calls for your applications (that your users are told they have to use), to be able to offer true context sensitive help that delivers valuable Information at the Point Of Need (IPON).


The ability to deliver the right information, at the right place at the right time is here. Salesforce Customers can evaluate the solutions from Improved Apps, to start making a difference and move your users into a ‘Continuous Learning’ environment, where they can dip in and out of help whenever they need it.

The results of getting this right will:

  • Increase your Sales revenue
  • Decrease your on-boarding time & costs
  • Speed up content authoring and maintenance
  • Decrease your help desk/support calls and costs
  • Reduce your training costs


Most importantly ensure all your Customer facing staff are compliant and consistent with information they provide about your products or services and treat your customers fairly.


Thank you for reading… Simon Thompson (SVP Customer Success)