The ART of delivering software education

susan_merriman.jpgBy Susan Merriman, WW Leader of Emerging Technologies, HPSW Education

 

After starting her career in higher education administration, Susan has devoted the last 15 years to software education.  Ranging from ERP to IT, Susan has designed and provided learning programs to organizations of all sizes and industries.  In her current role at HP Software, Susan is responsible for creating solutions that help customers maximize their use of software in order to meet their business objectives.

 

Eighty per cent of IT managers believe effective training is critical to the success of IT, according to IDC research. But a lack of effective education is still a leading cause of software failing to deliver its expected value. Statistics like that have made us at HP wonder what’s causing this gap between the perception of education’s importance and how it is delivered.

 

The education disconnect

With enterprise software underpinning every facet of business, ensuring it delivers the intended value is essential to efficient operations.

 

But technology can be complex to deploy, and if things don’t go to plan, business performance can suffer. We are often called in to look at failing projects, to see what’s gone wrong. Usually the deployment has progressed according to plan. So, if there are no obvious problems with the software, what’s causing the problems? In a significant number of cases, the answer is: education.

 

While many businesses acknowledge that education is essential – delivering effective education is challenging. So much so, that HP research found that 38 percent of software is underused or not used at all, with a lack of training a root cause of this ‘shelfware.’ According to the IDC MarketScape report Worldwide IT Education and Training 2012 Vendor Analysis, “The skill of the team is considered more important than the technology, clear objectives, or even the availability of project budget,”

 

So why is a belief in education failing to result in effective enablement programmes?

 

The challenge of delivering effective enablement

Wesee three main reasons as to why training can be ineffective:

  • Business support: Managers are often reluctant to free up schedules so that employees can attend training. There’s also a growing complacency around the need for training: As workers continue to become more IT-literate, there’s an assumption that they will learn on the job. Consequently, if budgets come under pressure, training is often cut. However, enterprise software is not the same as consumer applications. And while great strides are being made to make software more intuitive, training is still imperative if people are to get the most from it.
  • Up-front training: Typically companies invest in training at the start of projects. Unfortunately, people often quickly forget what they learn in one-off training and issues arise when they start using the software. In addition, one-off training tends to be generic. But people’s interaction with the software varies according to their job and enablement needs to be tailored to end users’ specific roles. Furthermore, organizations are dynamic. There’s a continuous flow of new employees, while others move to new roles or leave the business. Consequently, over time, even with the best up-front training programmes, competency in the software dilutes. In turn, its value is compromised.
  • Single-format training: Where companiesdo offer a continuously available training resource – usually a learning portal with a range of content – it’s often not updated as software changes. In addition it can fail to support the wide range of learning styles that exist within a typical team. If enablement is not relevant or fails to engage people its impact will be severely negated.

 

There’s another important issue at play which explains many of the above problems. To date, companies have lacked a simple, cost-effective solution to develop effective enablement programmes. In short, delivering enablement is far easier said than done.

 

New thinking is needed

Creating engaging IT training courses is demanding for several reasons:

  • Diverse training needs: Training materials must be easy to access by all staff and be tailored to support the different ways in which people learn.
  • Limited resources: Creating training manuals, courses and tutorials requires people who are expert in the software. These experts are more often than not among the best IT resource that the business has, so they often get pulled elsewhere, which can delay the preparation of enablement programmes.
  • Complex software: Enterprise software can have thousands of features – all of which need to be captured and simply articulated by the training materials.
  • Keeping up: As new software releases are deployed or workflow processes are modified, all training content and documentation and support needs to be altered too.  

 

Developing training materials can be time-consuming and expensive. This is even more so the case with multinational organizations that must train large numbers of users in multiple languages. For some time we’ve been looking at how to help companies more easily create effective enablement programmes. Our answer is HP’s Adoption Readiness Tool (HP ART).”

 

What to look for in a software training tool

“An enablement programme that can be launched immediately will save you a huge amount of time. And competent users require less support.  

 At HP we put together something called the HP Adoption Readiness Tool (ART) to help enterprises create better training programs and more quickly help employees become competent. In doing so, we thought hard about what enterprises need from a tool like this and came up with a list of capabilities you should be looking for in a software training tool:

 

  • Simulation based training that piques your users’ interest and engages them in a highly interactive experience.
  • Hands-on practice and competency quizzing ensure information retention.
  • Context-based training “fills in the blanks,” giving users an understanding of where each task fits into the bigger picture.
  • Flexible training lets users move through the courses in a linear fashion, or jump quickly to an area of particular interest. 

 

Overcoming training hurdles

The fact is, your software is only as good as the people using it. By delivering effective enablement programmes, your people will gain competency up to four times faster, your project risk will be reduced, and you will be more likely to achieve the business outcomes that first motivated your software deployments.   

To learn more, please visit the HP ART website.

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