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  1. #1
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    User capability and knowledge - studies (All)

    Does anyone know of any studies that have been done to determine, for an average office worker/knowledge worker that use MS Word and/or Excel, how much use of the full capabilities they use <img src=/S/compute.gif border=0 alt=compute width=40 height=20>. For example, if you asked around your office (assuming you work in an office) or your company, how many people use a reasonable set of the full capabilities of these products.

    For example, for Word, how many users would be able to change an existing style, create a new one, create a template update an existing template etc? <img src=/S/compute.gif border=0 alt=compute width=40 height=20>

    For Excel, how many users know how to produce Pivot Tables, use advanced functions, lookups etc? <img src=/S/confused.gif border=0 alt=confused width=15 height=20>

    For both products, how many users know how to record and perhaps modify a macro?

    My feeling from my experience in the last few years as a consultant is that in any one company probably no more than 10% use more than 25% of either applications full capabilities.

    Any insight that anyone can provide is greatly appreciated. Thanks

    Ron M <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15> <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15> <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15>

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    Re: User capability and knowledge - studies (All)

    My experience is much the same, except your percentages are probably on the generous side. The applications features and capabilities have far oustripped the ability of the typical user to employ them since the days when Office Automation was touted to send the pulp mills into oblivion and save so much time that every weekend would be a long weekend.

    The typical user has little interest in the software they have, as long as they can get their work done without problems. And even if interested it's unlikely they will have the time to learn additional features on the job. Most offices tend to end up with a local "guru" who knows how to handle minor everyday problems and remembers how to perform the special tasks at the end of the quarter (for example).

    More specialised users tend to develop more expertise with the applications they use, but even then as needed for their purposes. Such "expertise" is often still limited to a subset of the features available.

    Even Help Desk staff in large organisations would rarely be confident more than 50% of the features available in most common applications. But that's sufficient to resolve the majority of problems typical users have.

    Typical of my experience is a (very successful) financial services organisation I worked at a few years ago. They employed around 400 staff at the head office, with a similar number around the country. Around 90% were university educated, aged in their mid-twenties, and confident of their computer literacy. Outside the IT area, there were maybe a dozen who were able to perform one, or more of the "advanced" functions you listed. Even within IT, less than 25% were capable of more than a few of those functions. Pivot tables were a well kept secret, until I used them in a small performance tracking and reporting system. As were functional buttons on a spreadsheet, automatically validating user input, etc.

    I hope others can contribute more confidence inspiring experiences.
    <font face="Comic Sans MS" color="blue">TimOz</font>
    <img src=/S/flags/Finland.gif border=0 alt=Finland width=30 height=18> <img src=/S/flags/Australia.gif border=0 alt=Australia width=30 height=18>

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    Re: User capability and knowledge - studies (All)

    A big shortcoming is how few realize the productiviy gains that can be achieved by using macros.

    In a company of 8000 employees, what if macros saved each employee only, say 1hour per year.
    So is it worth spending $500, $1000, $10000, or whatever, to save 8000 person hours per year, which is very easy to do with macros.

    Heck, I'm in the midst of an Excel project for which I got the code modified it with additions and improvements. So far the run time is down about 99.2%.

    Companies just do not realize the benefit of using macros.
    Not to mention, much of the code I've seen is pretty poor, so the level of programming experience is low.

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    Re: User capability and knowledge - studies (All)

    <hr>much of the code I've seen is pretty poor, so the level of programming experience is low.<hr>
    Which one are you suggesting is the cuase, and which the effect?
    Charlotte

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    Re: User capability and knowledge - studies (All)

    Thanks to all who replied. <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15> <img src=/S/thankyou.gif border=0 alt=thankyou width=40 height=15>

    Tim I was interested in your comment that my numbers were generous. One of the reasons I started this discussion was that the company that I am currently consulting with is considering redeveloping their intranet and have asked me to develop a business plan for this endeavour. One of the things I am suggesting is that there is significant benefits from putting not only training modules for Office (Word Excel, etc.), but their is also a benefit in having an FAQ forum for each of the products, so I can check with the forum before I phone the help desk. This company has about 1000 employees. If we could decrease the number of "basic" calls to the help desk by, say 10 percent, then, think of the benefit. <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15> <img src=/S/joy.gif border=0 alt=joy width=23 height=23>

    Howard your point is well taken. It doesn't even have to be macros, if I could teach someone to use some of the basic functions -- how often have you received spreadsheet with a total arrrived at by someone typing A1+A2+A3+A4+A5... If they knew about Sum and a few other functions then wow think of the benefits. How often have you received a word document where someone has constructed a "table" using tabs, or created a list using tabbed spacings instead of a style. I recently opened a corporate memo "template" and to my (lack of) surprise <img src=/S/doh.gif border=0 alt=doh width=15 height=15> it was obvious that the person knew nothing about styles or templates <img src=/S/shocked.gif border=0 alt=shocked width=15 height=15> <img src=/S/compute.gif border=0 alt=compute width=40 height=20> -- not their fault ?? Anyway time to <img src=/S/rantoff.gif border=0 alt=rantoff width=66 height=37>

    Cheers and thanks...

    Ron M <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15> <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15> <img src=/S/smile.gif border=0 alt=smile width=15 height=15>

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    Re: User capability and knowledge - studies (All)

    Hi Ron:
    Let me add a couple of observations. I worked in a government office where the secretaries lamented not using Word Perfect 5.0 for DOS. You know something? They were right. For many of them, all they needed was a typewriter that was better than using erasable bond paper & a spell check. I saw it from both sides. Knowing Word, I knew the benefit that it could bring. However, because I was also management, I knew the pressure that everyone was under day to day. Having a couple of secretaries go to a training session for two days meant not getting the work done during that time.

    And the training sessions, in my opinion, were poorly organized. Everyone had to go to a central location to learn because that was easiest for the teachers. Computer training was mandatory. I spent days in training...learning virtually nothing useful. Two people didn't know how to use the mouse & we spent 2 hours talking about it. Sure, it's harder to go out to the offices & give individual attention to each person. But the only way to convince management that the time is well spent is to do just that. Having central training for people with diverse abilities & needs is wasteful.

    Part of the blame goes to the IT departments. They have to sell their service...& part of that is convincing management that it's worthwhile. And they need to mold it to needs of the company. Of course, there are some people who shouldn't be let near a battery, let alone a computer. <img src=/S/grin.gif border=0 alt=grin width=15 height=15>

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    Re: User capability and knowledge - studies (All)

    I work in an IT department. I am the DB dev, and VB programmer, and I support most of the company with that skill set. However, I get to wear a lot of hats, one of which is Help Desk type support. This is what I have found from my experience:

    First, and foremost, a users knowledge is usually going to be based upon what they have been required to do, and thus they have only figured out the products they needed to use for those tasks, and within those products they have only figured out the capabilities they actually needed. In a lot of cases, people tend to use capabilities they already know about, and over extend them to new tasks, where another option would be more viable. But people, in general, tend to stick with what they know.

    Next, most computer training is WAY off the mark. It is usually to complex for the average user, assuming base knowledge that most users don't have, or it is too simple to be useful at all, it may explain the basics, but doesn't go far enough for most people to use in their daily tasks. Also, in both cases, a lot of things are taught by example, instead of by understanding. When a concept is learned, it can be applied over and over again, when learning new concepts (I like to call it relational thinking, relating concepts from one piece of knowledge to another). Teaching by example only works for an unchanging process, or a simple process which requires little thinking. If you teach the concepts, then a new process can be applied from the concepts, instead of trying to rearrange specific steps.

    Finally, since conceptual learning is rarely used, a lot of users end up with GCE's. (Gross Conceptual Errors). This is due to users seeing a cause and effect, and then forcing untested assumptions onto them. The root problem with this is the lack of lower/more basic concepts.

    Here's a good example that involves these issues. A few years ago, I had a request come into our system, that said that a person had lost all of their excel files. Odd request, but here's what really happened:

    This user was in Word, and clicked the File Open dialog. Naturally defaulted to showing only Word documents. The user had a folder that they wanted to wipe out all of the Word Docs in, so they assumed that since they only saw word docs, that if they deleted a folder from within this dialog, that it would only delete the word docs in that folder. If you think about it, it would be a nifty feature.....unfortunately, that's not how it really works, as we all should know. The folder was deleted, along with everything in it. That's how the 'excel' files were missing, because the user thought they would be left alone. This problem occurred because the user had little concept of how a computer's file structure actually worked. They also saw a cause and effect (opening a file dialog box within Word showed only word items), which they incorrectly made an assumption on. If they understood how a file system worked, they would have realized that what they were seeing was simply a filter, a view filter, not a 'query'. <img src=/S/grin.gif border=0 alt=grin width=15 height=15>

    I can't tell you how many times I have had people ask for help, and when I ask them where the file is, they have no clue what I am talking about. This is an EXTREMELY common occurance. Most people have no concept of a file/network structure, in fact, if the file disappears from their history, or Recent Files, or it doesn't come to them from Email, they don't know how to get to it. The number of times that people claim to not be able to open an email attachment is astronomical. It's not that they can't open it, it's because they get a save dialog , don't realize it, they click the default okay, and it's now saved, but they think it's supposed to be opening. The real fun is trying to explain that they saved it to their local machine...and then you find out that you get to explain computers 101! <img src=/S/evilgrin.gif border=0 alt=evilgrin width=15 height=15>

    Oh well, this really wasn't a rant, trust me, I could really turn a subject like this into a rant <img src=/S/grin.gif border=0 alt=grin width=15 height=15>, I would say that about 5% of the users I have know about 15% of the softwares capability. The other 95% are at the <1% level. Heck, I'm a developer, and I can honestly say that I probably know about 70% of Access 97, and about 40% of VB 6.0. I use them both extensively, but there are tons of features with both that I never use...thus never bothered to learn anything about. (Now I know VB/VBA code pretty well, very litle I haven't delved into, but the GUI's themselves have all sorts of tools and utils that I just don't use.)

    Just my two cents.... <img src=/S/sailing.gif border=0 alt=sailing width=25 height=25>

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    Re: User capability and knowledge - studies (All)

    Arf! Arf!

    That was this old dog barking!

    It is very easy to overlook some of the simple time savers.

    For example, a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon my copy of an elementary VBA book that I had not looked at in 5 years, if even then.

    I decided to read the book.
    Wow! Was I astonished to find simple tricks that I could have been using the past 5 years.

    So an old dog can learn new tricks.

    Signing off.

    Bow wow!

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    Re: User capability and knowledge - studies (All)

    IMHO, training courses are worthless for most people.

    Most peoplle are better using a book or two and a mentoring service, such as the one I started in August 2001.
    Reading book(s) with one on one email/telephone contact with a mentor is very cost effective.
    One needs a mentor to follow along what one is doing.

  10. #10
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    Re: User capability and knowledge - studies (All)

    Good heavens! <img src=/S/shocked.gif border=0 alt=shocked width=15 height=15> I've apparently wasted all these years digging into manuals and help files and teaching myself applications when I should have had a mentor to tell me what I was doing! <img src=/S/laugh.gif border=0 alt=laugh width=15 height=15>
    Charlotte

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    Re: User capability and knowledge - studies (All)

    You started a very interesting thread...

    I was a corporate trainer for 8 years. I know that we used to quote a figure that 90% of users only used 10% of the features. I have no idea whether this is actually true <img src=/S/shrug.gif border=0 alt=shrug width=39 height=15>.

    Most people's application knowledge is pitiful, regardless of their job function. I still remember the day I wowed a class of Help Desk staff by showing them Shift Clicking <img src=/S/dizzy.gif border=0 alt=dizzy width=15 height=15>, that was an extreme occurence - but similar things happened every day. I guess those experiences are part of the 'thrill' of teaching.

    A big part of the problem is that application software is not 'sexy'. There are very few rewards for being good with applications. Most IT depts are focused on Networking and Security. Apps come in way down on their list of priorities. Help Desk functions are usually considered entry level, as soon as a person gains enough experience to move on, they do so. This is usually reflected in compensation schemes as well, so there is a strong monetary incentive to stay away from application support. Drew must work for an exceptional company, typically someone with his experience would never be available to the end user.*

    The same bias exists in the training world. I've mentioned before how MS dropped all their technical application courses, because they couldn't make any money on them. Application trainers, no matter how good/knowledgeable or experienced will never make as much as a MSCE/Novell trainer etc. because the customers don't see the value in high level application knowledge. *

    Most organizations have no concept about what application skills are necessary/useful/nice to have, so they can't set reasonable goals for acquiring those skills. So Phil's comments about training come as no surprise. The latest training fad,CD ROM based training, is doomed to failure. You can imagine tossing a training CD on a busy secretary's desk while telling them them its' there to help them when they have time. CD ROM based learning works for a very small group of people, and typically you have to teach those people how to use the teaching software first <img src=/S/headthrob.gif border=0 alt=headthrob width=15 height=15>.

    Things that do work? Mentoring, classes, website support, help desk support and most importantly giving the end user time and incentive to learn. You need a combination of all of those things and then we are talking more money than most organizations are willing to spend. Especially when they don't understand what it is they'll be buying. No wonder Howard, that its so hard to convince people that macros are worth spending the money on. They don't even know that stuff is out there.

    Anyhow - I too can go on for too long on this topic <img src=/S/yep.gif border=0 alt=yep width=15 height=15>.

    --------------------------
    * This has been my experience in Canada, perhaps things are different elsewhere in the world. If so, I'd like to hear about it.
    [b]Catharine Richardson (WebGenii)
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    Moderator: Spreadsheets, Other MS Apps, Presentation Apps, Visual Basic for Apps, Windows Mobile

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    Re: User capability and knowledge - studies (All)

    I wouldn't say it is an exceptional company. They just lucked out. <img src=/S/grin.gif border=0 alt=grin width=15 height=15> Up until 2000, I was in the mechanical field. (A nuclear mechanic in the navy, until 1997, then I had various mechanical jobs here and there). I was unemployed in the beginning of 2000, and decided to move into the computer field. I was already getting max pay for a mechanic (unless I stayed with someone for a long time.....with cost of living increases) in my fields, however, I had a big obstacle. I had no computer job experience, and I had little to no actual 'schooling'. Not the greatest credentials to break into the computer industry. I did land a job at a contract tech support company. On my first night of training, I received an email from my current employer, asking if I was still available. They needed an Access fella, and everyone they had interviewed was asking for way too much.

    So I got suckered into it! <img src=/S/grin.gif border=0 alt=grin width=15 height=15>

    However, when I started working here, we had an IS manager, a Network Admin, a guy working on his MSCE, a computer tech, a contract programmer (who wrote stuff in a DOS based language), and then myself. The guy working on his MSCE left for another job (cause he couldn't stand the network admin), we got the network admin fired a few years ago, because he was a rock, and the contract programmer is now down to a few hours a week (which is still too much....) which leave the computer tech, myself, and our boss. The computer tech is a very smart fellow, who picked up the network admin tasks. He and I are a perfect team, because our strengths and weaknesses compliment each other. Since our company went from 400 to 900 and now is down to 200 people, the three of us have had to handle all aspects of an IT/IS department. Our boss does have a few specialties, but they are very few, so that leaves my co-worker and I to do a LOT of the work.

    In a way, it's an ideal situation. I am able to do whatever I need to do on the network, and my co-worker and I can pretty much do what needs to get done, though from time to time, we do have management to deal with. From a company perspective, these folks don't realize (sometimes) how lucky they are. I have been on the other side of an IS/IT department, so I know how a lot of companies handle things. It is extremely aggrevating to have to deal with a Help Desk person that doesn't have a clue, or a Network Admin that doesn't have a grip on reality.

    But if anyone is looking to hire a jack of all trades, or better yet, a really good two man team, give me a holler! <img src=/S/grin.gif border=0 alt=grin width=15 height=15>

  13. #13
    Super Moderator jscher2000's Avatar
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    Re: User capability and knowledge - studies (All)

    Some people want to know every cool thing about their technology tools. Others want to dedicate the fewest possible brain cells so they can remember what's happening in all their favorite TV shows. It takes all kinds to make a business work.

    In my limited experience, people only try new features if they run into a wall with what they know. Even then, they might keep banging their heads if I don't saunter by and spot them with that "look" - you know the one. If I can pull off a 30-second miracle, they are grateful and dedicate themselves to learning it on the spot. These moments might only occur twice per year per application. It's unpredictable, and I can't always be in the neighborhood when needed.

    I believe in decentralizing knowledge (even if I can't seem to persuade my partners). My goal is to have a power user in every "quad" (an informal spatial unit consisting roughly of a corner of a floor where support staff are clustered). This user is someone who is motivated to read, experiment, and learn, and who can be imposed upon for a quick "how to" question without anyone feeling bad: the power user like to help, and her or his colleagues like the help she or he gives.

    Hope this helps.

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    Re: User capability and knowledge - studies (All)

    An effective approach if you have the good fortune to find suitable staff. Unfortunately, the centralised approach is usually preferred by management, especially in larger organisations. Probably because it gives them something to measure and control.

    We trialled a "Tiger team" approach at one place I worked. The idea was that the (two) team members (or half of the existing Help Desk staff) would go to the user, rather than attempt to solve problems over the phone. While with the user they were given the autonomy to prompt for, and take on any small task/project to help the user, as long as it could be done in less than a day (they could spend up to half of each day on these "quickies").

    The idea was to improve IS presence and reputation, as well as reduce the load on regular development staff. The users were happy and impressed. The team was having a ball - lots of results and lots of pats on the back. And the development guys, after a while, noticed a drop off in requests for smaller projects.

    The idea was canned after 6 months because it was too hard to measure its effectiveness
    <font face="Comic Sans MS" color="blue">TimOz</font>
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    Re: User capability and knowledge - studies (All)

    Then there was the time that the users knew more that the IT staff. But since the IT staff was GOD, it was their way or no way. Before retirement, I was in the forefront of the users of PC's. Most of the IT staff that we had were, former Mac people and had no place to put them. We got rid of the Mac's, but kept the users. Managements thoughts, a computer is a computer regardless who made it. Well to make a long storey short, we PC user ended up training the IT staff in using PC's on a NT network.

    Now running HP Pavilion a6528p, with Win7 64 Bit OS.

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