Online help aids NASA transition


When NASA rolled out the core component of its financial management system, approximately 7,000 end users had to adjust to a different way of doing business. As a result, the space agency needed a help program for the system that was easy to learn and easy to use.

Enter RoboHelp from eHelp Corp., a product NASA has used to create the On-Line Quick Reference, a Web-based tool that delivers step-by-step instructions for user procedures, job aids and other help content.

Accenture, the contractor that implemented SAP AG's Industry Solution-Public Sector software for the core module, recommended RoboHelp. NASA officials have since realized several benefits of the system: It is easily accessed via a help tab on the core module, and it provides a quick reference by running in a window next to the SAP screen.

However, the program's primary benefit is making help information available to users, said NASA's Kathey Nabors, change management leader for the core financial module.

"It's help that's available right on their computer, and they can access information on their own at the point that they need it," Nabors said. "We found that it would be easy to use as we were creating the tool."

Another attractive feature of the online reference is that it fits within NASA's goal of consolidating the financial operations of the agency's 10 field centers into one system. The system is maintained at a central location — the Integrated Financial Management Program Competency Center in Huntsville, Ala. — and is equally accessible by core module users nationwide, each of whom has the same real-time access to updated information.

"The thing that we were really trying to accomplish was to standardize," Nabors said. "Our goal is to use the same system nationwide. The whole point of our [financial management] project is to get away from separate systems of doing business."

"People underestimate the power of a help system with a Web application, but with this, there are multiple aspects to provide information to the customer," according to Michael Hamilton, RoboHelp product manager at eHelp.

He said one of the system's strengths is that it can be customized based on an employee's job function. This will allow NASA to take a more roles-based approach to the system.

The online help reference was incorporated into classes in which NASA employees learned how to use the core financial module. Users had to learn to access the online reference to complete training exercises.

As a result, Nabors noted, the transition has gone fairly smoothly, even though many employees have had to make considerable adjustments in their job processes when using the core financial module.

NASA also has the ability to update the reference tool quickly.

"It's electronic, so users don't have to have manuals or hard-copy instructions that might become outdated," Nabors said. "When we update the information, it's immediately available for all users across the nation."

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