User guides are instruction manuals on how to operate, use, and manage your ETO system. User guides illustrate data entry and operational procedures, outline instructions for running a report, or explain steps to navigating around ETO or a workflow. Every ETO configuration is different, so drafting user guides that are specific to your organisation is essential. Specifically, there are 5 main reasons why user guides are so important:
- They decrease the number of requests users make to your ETO administrator as staff are able to troubleshoot themselves, thereby decreasing your administrator’s reliance on the Social Solutions Help Centre.
- They make training new users easy by providing step-by-step instructions on organisational tasks.
- They eliminate any risks associated with staff who may leave your organisation with a lot of ETO knowledge in their head! With pre-drafted guides, a new administrator can easily transition into the role and get up to speed with your organisation’s unique ETO database
- They standardize recurring and repeatable processes which increases efficiency and decreases the amount of time spent on those processes in the long run.
- They document organisational knowledge so you can maintain and build upon that knowledge over time. User guides are scalable, accessible, and transferable across your organisation.
How to draft user guides
To ensure your user guides are most effective, they should outline step-by-step instructions for specific processes in your ETO software. They can target one or many audiences including end users, administrators, report writers, volunteers, executives, and managers.
A user guide should be detailed enough that a user with no formal ETO training can complete a task just by following the instructions in the guide.
You should draft your user guides in a word processor like Microsoft Word or Google Docs, and then add screen capture images of your ETO database for each step in a process using a tool like Skitch or SnagIt.
Three useful tips to ensure you draft great User Guides include:
- Use bullet points to break up each guide into discrete steps that are small enough to be completed one at a time (one to three sentences for each bullet).
- Insert screen capture images where a written description doesn’t provide enough detail, but only where images are helpful (not every step needs an image).
- Annotate screen capture images with text, arrows or highlights when a specific action needs additional clarification.
Once you have drafted your User Guides, they should be quickly and easily accessible to staff. You can manually print user guides and place them in binders for easy access around the office. However, it is easy for printed manuals to become out of date, so the best way is to make them accessible online using Google Drive, Dropbox or Evernote. In particular, Evernote is a note-taking tool that categorizes and indexes knowledge in a variety of formats (e.g., text and images).
Notes stored in Evernote are accessible through the Evernote app, which is available on all mobile devices and through a standard web browser. Evernote notes can be shared with your entire team so that they can access them in the one place. Evernote has one additional benefit that makes it a better option than Dropbox or Google Drive – it has a search function where you can search for information through all of your notes, guides, and documented knowledge.
12 Topics for your ETO User Guides
Every organisation is different, with different processes and procedures, however, to get you started, below are twelve topics you might want to consider including in your ETO User Guides.
- How to complete a participant intake, noting any specific data entry requirements for users
- How to follow a specific program workflow after entering a participant intake, which may include enrolment, service delivery, and assessments among other steps
- How a case manager or other user that works directly with clients can manage their active caseload including upcoming tasks and events
- How to set up entities and create new entities for referral agencies, employers, and community partners
- How to exit and dismiss participants from a program to track any exit data as well as keep your active participant rosters accurate
- How to share or refer participants across programs if your agency offers multiple programs and services that connect with each other
- How to run recurring data quality reports and how to cleanup inaccurate or incomplete data, including how to merge duplicate participants
- How to create and update households or families when multiple participants from a single family unit participate in your programs or services
- How to set up and work with collections including how to streamline data entry tasks with collections
- How and when to run board, management, or program specific reports
- How to add new users to the database and assign them correct access and restrictions based on their role
- How to complete a recurring import into ETO software with data from another external software or database
Developing ETO User Guides can seem like a daunting task, so rather than starting big and producing a large-scale user guide on everything that you do in ETO, you might like to start by documenting your knowledge of specific recurring, repeatable processes that your ETO administrator or end users complete frequently.
These can be “Articles” that you might draft in the course of your daily work. These “Articles” might be small and include one or two sentences on how to do something, or provide a tip, trick or best practice advice, might answer a frequently asked question, might provide a definition of a key term, or might provide more detail in a step-by-step fashion. As you build a collection of “Articles”, you can begin to organise, categorise, and index them into a library of “Articles” which can essentially make up your user guide or at least the structure of your guide which you can pad out later!