One of the risks you may or may not be tracking within your GRC program is the data quality within your online Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) tool. The reports and metrics within your GRC system hinge on the data provided by your end users. Mediocre, or worse, inaccurate data can have far reaching impacts across the enterprise. If you prioritize tasks and make risk and compliance decisions based off the data within your tool, you need to have plans and strategies in place for vetting and reviewing that data.
The most common control for data quality is to simply have an extra set of eyes – a second, or even third, stage of review the result must pass through. However, an additional and often overlooked control is enhancing the help text information offered directly on your online forms. Many data quality issues are rooted in either user ignorance or carelessness – things we as GRC system administrators and process owners can work to minimize and reduce. Providing additional, on-screen context and information can enhance the quality of data you will receive. This control is relatively simple to implement and when partnered with one or more review stages, provides added assurance that your data is accurate and valid. To better understand how to use the common on-screen help options, review the following sections for some quick strategies.
The simplest and most common form of on-screen help is hover help. This text appears when the user holds the cursor over a field or when an icon (such as a question mark) is clicked. For areas on your page that need more of a “nudge” in the right direction instead of a detailed definition, hover help text offers your best bet. Using this format, brief supporting details can be shown to users when called on, as shown below.
When compared with other forms of page help, hover text is great when you need the following:
- Inconspicuous Assistance: Hover help doesn’t consume any screen real estate.
- Subtle Guidance: If all you need is clarification, hover text is a great fit.
- Curious Users: Hover text encourages your users to begin exploring the form on their own, but still offers a safety net if there is confusion.
For pages and fields that are frequently used, hover text is an excellent choice. Experienced users won’t have the information cluttering their view, while new users can call upon it when needed. Remember, though, that hover text often only displays for a short time. Don’t attempt to cram more than a single sentence into the area. If more text is needed, consider one of the other help formats.
Always present, always there, inline help provides a constant reminder of the system’s expectations. This help text is not asked for or optional; the user will view the information throughout his/her time with the page. Inline help reduces the ambiguity around unfamiliar processes and complex terminology and helps the user provide the best information possible.
For example, many screens within your GRC system may be rarely used by your staff. Systems supporting tasks such as an internal whistle-blowing process or forms that capture the details of an on-the-job injury, while essential, are not part of your users’ daily routines. However, when these pages are used, it’s essential that accurate information be captured on the first pass. For these types of processes, the best approach is to make the help for these items always visible, as shown below.
When a field needs precise information from the user, your best bet is to provide a clear, descriptive statement directly next to the field.
Display areas that can expand and collapse with a mouse click – also referred to as a twistie – allow you greater flexibility in the content you can display. This option is a great fit if you need to provide background information or supporting context to your process, as shown below.
Here are a few examples of content that would fit well into an accordion help section:
- Goals and objectives of the process
- Brief snapshots of the stages within the workflow
- Background details on the department administering the process
- Contact details for technical support and questions
Unlike the other options discussed in this post, accordion help doesn’t force you to be brief. Collapsing help only takes up screen real estate when called on, so it does not interfere with the overall usability of the page. In many GRC tools, you can even include HTML formatting and images in these areas to add some visual flare to the page.
While picking the best format is important, don’t neglect the actual content of the help text. Just like with your GRC data, have additional team members review and provide feedback on the content. When possible, ask a potential user of the process to offer his/her insights as well. Adding the right help text in the right way, can go a long way in ensuring your GRC system gets the best possible information from its end users.
–Jonathan Kitchin, OrangePoint