In this paper we describe two projects relevant for automating user tasks. The first one, EUROHELP was aimed at tools and methods for developing Intelligent Help Systems (IHS). Experiences and accomplishments in this project shed light on understanding and monitoring task performance of users. The major bottleneck appears the lack of understanding of the content of user tasks, calling for research in ontologies rather than trying to come to grips with the common sense semantics of the workplace. A major part of the paper describes the CommonKADS projects in which a methodology and tools were developed for building KBS. CommonKADS has a long (10 years) and extensive history, and it is argued that it has survived several shifts in attention in problems about knowledge acquisition (KA), because it has focused on well defined, coherent specification languages. The need for such a core is signalled for current approaches in KA which provide operational components ((configurations of) mechanisms) to domain perts to develop small, but practical knowledge based systems.