The Importance Of End-User Training
End-user training is often one of the most neglected aspects of a new IT solution roll-out. However, it is the key to the successful adoption of any new system. One of the biggest problems is self-inflicted by management when insufficient funding is made available for end-user training purposes. The result is that end-users are poorly trained, or not at all, and the expected return on investment (ROI) takes longer to realise. Another consequence of insufficient training is that the new software solution will be shunned by the same group of users that it was supposed to help.
Companies of all sizes spend a significant amount of their IT budgets on software. Newer operating systems introduce better security and have the ability to run more task concurrently. This can automate tasks previously done manually or done on the older system, thus enhancing productivity.
An end-user training strategy must be implemented before the roll out of any new software package, making sure that the plan is scalable so that it can grow and adapt to the organisations changing business requirements. However, it is also important to address the common pitfalls encountered by the IT technician when conducting training sessions.
In this article, I will discuss some of the requirements of end-user training, and the major problems that the organisation must address to ensure that the users of new software receive the required training. All too often, training is lacking and this, in turn, has a negative effect on the expected return on investment(ROI).
End-User Training Requirements
Managers and IT departments often rush to deploy the latest and greatest software without considering the need to train end-users in its use. In her overview (Deb Shider, 2006) described the end-user training process as the 5 keys to a successful implementation. These steps are summarised below.
1. Setting Training Goals
The first objective of providing software training for end-users is to minimise any productivity losses associated with the software transition. Getting your users up to the skill level required to do their jobs at least as rapidly and accurately as they were doing with the old software solution is essential. This makes it possible to realise the expected ROI from the new solution.
2. Assessing end-user needs
An essential element in creating your training plan is to evaluate the technical skill level(s) of those who will use the software on a daily basis. This will ensure that the trainer presents new concepts at a level understood by the users in the training session.
3. Training delivery methods
For the purposes of this article, I have broken the key training delivery methods into four distinct groups.
• Individual hands-on instructor.
• Hands-on classroom style instructor-led training.
• Seminar style group demonstration.
• Computer Based Training (CBT).
• Book-based self-paced training.
4. Creating a training program
End-user training is more efficient and memorable if you tailor it to your own organisation’s use of the software, rather than generic lessons. This process helps the user to relate the new software to the business environment he is familiar with.
5. Make your training program scalable
A scalable training program is one that includes the flexibility to cope with small groups of users, for example, a group of new employees who require training on the software, or large numbers of users that need training, during an organisation-wide rollout of a new product.
IT’s relationship with end-users is an ambivalent one, and the pressure is now on to get all users comfortable and productive on new systems quickly. This haste is due to a corporate emphasis on information security, compliance and return on investment (ROI) to justify the costly hardware and software rollouts.
Investing in a well-structured training program can be classified as a competitive advantage, but management is seldom sold on the business benefits of effective end-user training. “Companies do not yet fully value training,” says David S. Murphy, founder of International Association of Information Technology Trainers. (Stockpole, 2008)
Training mistakes are seldom fatal, but corrective action is called for to prevent further strain on relationships between IT and the end-users. With targeted adjustments, IT managers and trainers can achieve success with their end-users.
Mistake Number 1: No Training Plan Before Implementation
Pressure on IT budgets over the past years have resulted in money earmarked for end-user training being allocated elsewhere. As a result, training has suffered leaving groups of frustrated users to cope with a new business solution that they do not understand.
The consensus in the industry dictates that a good training program should account for 10 percent to 13 percent of the total budget spend, yet most companies underestimate the cost and the resources that this requires, with the result that there is often insufficient funds available for a correctly planned training program. In some cases, the training budget is sacrificed at the negotiation, and the resources are re-allocated elsewhere.
Management is often accused of assuming that the IT team has the available capacity to add the training schedule to their daily tasks. However, this is often not possible due to ongoing project commitments and the daily tasks of the IT team.
Mistake No. 2: Being Out of Tune with Your Audience
Training is an art, and many of the best technicians seldom transition from a technical role into a training role comfortably. They often make the mistake of presenting training material from a technical perspective instead of an end-user standpoint. It is preferable to appoint people with expertise in education and adult learning into training positions and let your skilled technicians focus on the technical issues of the business.
Trainers possessing strong communication and interpersonal skills are better qualified to read their audience and present the training at the correct level. IT professionals are often so confident with the subject matter that they present material in a technical fashion, or conversely, oversimplify it.
Mistake No. 3: You Did Not Follow Standard Training Models
Training a user community to use a new business application involves a lot more than teaching employees how to navigate a new desktop. The introduction of massive system upgrades entails upheaval in the working routine of the users. All technology training must assist users to understand the new software solution.
“Users need to feel comfortable with change—they need to know what’s happening and how it affects their role,” a concept the training community refers to as “organisational readiness,” says Begley from the company RWD. Begley also mentioned that “IT does not typically consider organisational readiness as part of the training. What they look at is building competency.”
Standardisation in training materials is another area where IT often falls short. Users need multiple reference points for learning a system, notes Intelligo’s Kelley, be it step-by-step instructions, quick reference cards or Web-based training. That material should be delivered and maintained in a standardised way.
Mistake No. 4: Training Out of Business Context
IT is quite comfortable with instruction on the particulars of how to use a CRM package or how to securely configure a laptop, but the training often stops there. What is missing is the ability to teach users how to use the new business system to augment traditional work patterns. To do so, IT trainers need a clear understanding of how business departments function. Unfortunately, this is the knowledge they do not always have.
“The purpose of end-user training is to help an organisation improve their return on investment(ROI) for the expensive business application they purchased,” explains ITrain’s Murphy. “That means the trainer has to understand the business and organisational functions, and that is where very confident technicians often miss the boat. They are focused on the details of their equipment, rather than the whole purpose of having that equipment for a department to run more efficiently.”
Mistake No. 5: Forgetting to Forge Business Partnerships
Given that so much of what constitutes proper training goes beyond the purview of IT, it is important that the IT department makes use of the training skills available from the Human Resource department. They are obvious candidates for partnerships that can help IT bring the necessary business context and formal learning methodologies to its curriculum.
Whatever system is being rolled out, the message is clear: It is not just the end-user who has a lot to learn about technology, the IT technician needs to acquire the necessary business acumen and people skills enabling him to be a successful trainer. Additionally, management needs to allocate the right training budget and time for skill transfer to take place before the implementation of a new business solution. Only then can management consider training a core IT discipline.
If you would like to discuss your training needs with us, please fill in the form below and we will contact you.
Shinder, D. 2006 TechRepuplic. Available: Plan your end-user training strategy before software roll-out [2016, July 03]
Stockpole, B. 2008. CIO. Available: Five Mistakes IT Groups Make When Training End-Users [2016, July 2016]