Five steps towards your education business case

Investing in software education was once a ‘no brainer’. However, the days of ‘scrutiny-free’ investments are long gone; every line item now needs a business case. With IDC suggesting that the training industry could do more to show how investments can be evaluated, calling out the topic of the training industry and approaches to justify investments, I ask: How can you build the argument to secure training budget to prepare your people to get the most from software?

 

IDC’s recent Marketscape: Worldwide IT Education and Training 2013 Vendor Analysis, provides a positive view on training offerings. That said, a warning light clicked on for me when the report suggested that vendors lack a clear understanding of how to: “..effectively describe the opportunity cost of spending a dollar on training as opposed to some other essential need.”

 

I’ve seen many good tools to assess the value of training. So I’m not sure I share all aspects of IDC’s view. However, I do agree that more needs to be done to explain how return on investment can be projected. But most of all I’m uneasy that if, as an industry, we’re failing to help customers build a strong business case for training, budgets could end up being lost. And a lack of enablement can derail projects.

 

So what can be done to help senior teams see the importance of education? These five steps will help build your case.

 

1 - The ace in the pack: In the midst of a project, it can be easy to forget the bigger picture. So take a step back and look afresh at why the business is backing the project. The likelihood is that serious money is being spent and critical outcomes are expected that will drive the organization forward. But with education playing such an important role in project success, your job in this process will be to emphasize that the small incremental investment that training requires is vital if projected outcomes are to materialize into real value.

 

2 - Identify the high level outcomes (and benchmark with metrics): What are the headline objectives of your project? For example, a new CRM tool will collate better customer data; better customer data that leads to better targeting and thus more sales.  Your organization has a number in mind of how many more sales per quarter they expect to drive with the new system – they went through this justification process prior to making a decision to invest.  Your job in this step is to understand the metrics that have been defined for the overall project so that you can then put that into perspective with your analysis.

 

3 - Define your metrics:Now you are ready to identify specific metrics that show how training will help deliver the headline objectives. Think about building the picture of how training will get your people ready to make the most of the tool. For instance, if they know how, your sales people can drill down and find the nuggets that might lead to a sale. Compile your list of quantifiable benefits that training your project team and end users will provide.  Be specific and back it up with numbers where you can.  And then lay out your simple equation: the expected benefits minus cost of education investment equals return on investment.

 

4 - Don’t forget the bad … or the good: I’m all for being positive in business. But don’t neglect the outcomes of not doing training. Generally they’re not pretty. For instance, if we roll out a new customer care tool without properly training our team, can we maintain or improve existing levels of service? Worse still, with a security suite, if our project team does not know the full capabilities of the software could the business be exposed? Again, you can easily build a picture of possible negative outcomes such as downtime, more calls to support, slower product development, delayed projects, and more. These stats generally make people sit up and take notice.

 

Now balance with the good.  Your analysis of not doing training will have created a series of risk factors. Training programmes – both for the team deploying the software, and for users – can mitigate specific risks. Showing how risks decline as competencies rise creates a strong argument for investment.  Add this to your equation.

 

5 - Ask your vendor: You don’t have to start from scratch with this analysis or go it alone.  At HP we’ve a clear model that allows you to plug in data and predict the outcomes of training programmes. Other companies have similar tools so be sure you get to try them. The tools will make your life a lot easier when it comes to creating your business case.

 

Are you seeing leaders scrutinize requests for training budgets? What hints and tips can you share to help your peers make the case for training?

 

Related Links:

-       Software Education Webpage - www.hp.com/go/softwareeducation

 

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