When project budgets are developed, training is a secondary consideration. Sometimes it's not considered at all. When you're working with end-users and department decision-makers, helping them determine what kinds of training and how much they need, the first thing should be to identify your objectives. Afterward, qualifying the most affected stakeholder (the end-users) comes to the forefront.
Training might be the last thing on your mind, but should it be?
The answer to that question may differ between the project sponsor vs. the End User management team vs. the End Users themselves. Your 'objectives' often transcend the simple task of selecting classes. Clarify with all your stakeholders, including:
• Team leads
• IT support (desktop, server, help desk, etc.)
• Application support
• Change management owner
• Project sponsor
Another big question is budgetary constraints. Within your project budget, you may have a line item for training or even a separate line item for training for different project phases. This is the money initially allocated in the budget approval phase. How that money is spent may be rigidly defined, or it may be a number to be used at your discretion.
With a bit of probing, you may determine that 'other' money is available from different budget codes or cost centers (unrelated to the project) that the department managers can use in a discretionary manner. In those cases, a well-thought-out justification could pool that money with the original amount allocated to the project to increase your available funding for training.
If you have line items for training for different project phases, close examination and analysis may reveal an imbalance in the amounts allocated for some areas. Understanding that demographic need and the spread can help you level the available funds in other areas or phases of the project where you are deficient in the amount of money needed to support those particular initiatives.
Alongside the budget, you may have logistical and operational constraints. The traditional training model involves taking them out of their work environment, putting them into a classroom, and running them through a curriculum.
This training might be taking people away from their jobs which directly impacts your ability to do business. How do you compensate for that from an operations perspective? When implementing training in large organizations, these challenges become even more daunting, especially if you're in a time crunch.
Lastly, check your timeline. You can develop the most comprehensive training plan possible, taking into consideration every possible need. Then you start to consider the functional dependencies required to pull that off, the personnel logistics, and the human factor, and you might begin to realize that you have created a monster.
How does this all play out in the context of your objectives?
You have to address all of them. You don't necessarily have to deliver to all of them. As quickly as possible, assess what their critical functional needs and requirements are concerning training. Be careful to note the difference between nice-to-haves and must-haves.
Make a shortlist of the ideal classes and training deliverables you would provide in a best-case scenario. Ballpark costs and compare it to your nice-to-have vs. 'must-have' lists from your stakeholders. Identify the gap if one exists. Prioritize the stakeholders in the context of functionally (and successfully) completing the project.
Logistics and Operational Constraints
Review your operational capability and capacity for delivering the training. Do you have the required classrooms, computing resources, and the application environment to support the number of people who need training? Even if all of those people can be spared from their jobs for the time it will take to train them, is it essential to pull all of them to accomplish your functional objectives?
Consider your overall project timelines after considering your stakeholders' requirements, budgetary constraints, logistics, and operational constraints. Will your systems be online and functional in the appropriate time frame to be used for training? Will tapping these systems for training impact other scheduled activities? Can training be combined with other planned project activities in ways that create synergy and efficiencies in overall project execution? How much time will elapse between training, and when will you count on users to participate in testing and take the system live?
Ideally, everyone will want training and as much as they can get. The reality is that you will rarely have the budget, available resources, or the time for that, even if you can tap those outside-of-the-project discretionary departmental budgets.
It's up to you to ascertain what is required to launch successfully. Typically, it's the end-users and some mix of application administration/desktop support.
This is where you engage the project sponsor to help set expectations with the various stakeholders on what will be delivered. This is also where change management comes in. Help the team understand the need that change management addresses. This team will keep the project's history and inevitably remind the organization why specific decisions and implementations choices were made. Suggest creative ways to help address the training of future hires and the additional training of people not included in the formal project training.
As an alternative to training everyone, consider 'organic approaches' that leverage departmental super users for propagating training within their departments. This approach can also yield a secondary benefit of producing 'product evangelists' within the department that will culturally promote the use of the system from within.
Computer-based training (CBTs) are an excellent and cost-effective alternative when largely repeatable tasks come into play. These can be delivered much more cost-effectively with current productivity tools and are available at any time and repetitively.
However you deliver your training, it will be more effective if given just before users are required to use the system. Typically, this should be just before the test, and then the test should be immediately followed by the launch so that users are using the system while the skills and concepts developed in training are still fresh in their minds.
Users need to be able to do their jobs. We want to deliver the best solution, but we have to remain focused on our core objectives. If informal training with 'Cheat Sheets' at the user's desktop is sufficient, go there. If it requires multiple language translations of End User Manuals and CBTs with customized voice-overs, go there. It's about the right solution in the right place for the right people at the right time.
Having a hard time figuring out what 'right' looks like for you? Here at ImageSource, we have been implementing and guiding projects for over 25 years. Check out our webinars or reach out to us directly.