When adopting or creating new software, training helps users adapt to changes in their roles, the addition of new team members, or vendors, while support helps end-users prevent issues from the get-go. Support enables the evolution of the platform to better meet the needs of the organization from spotting new enhancements to finding bugs that could hamper the workday. In this Insight article, we look at why training and support are important and how to get resources to address this need.
Why Adopting Software Necessitates Training and Support Efforts
No matter how user friendly or intuitive a software is, training is still required for an organization to realize the technology’s full capabilities. This is because software often patterns a number of approaches to using its features, but is never tailored specifically for one organization unless the approach of custom software development is taken.
Technology adoption leads to a number of changes related to:
- Job responsibilities
- Department headcount
- Application licensing costs
- Business processes
- Technology devices utilized
- Technology vendors interacted with
- Onboarding processes
Given the varied facets of change because of new software, the need for training is significant, and if left unaddressed could mean a number of serious and debilitating outcomes.
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Consequences of Not Including Training and Support
Not including training is a recipe for a project challenge, seasoned project leaders usually include these components as part of any project definition work. Project issues that may arise if adequate training and support are not provided include:
- Project delays
- Lowered effectiveness of software/technology
- Reduced return on investment
- Increased project costs
- Resistance to change and sometimes complete software abandonment
- Increase in manual process
- Lowered job satisfaction due to frustration
- Loss of ability to maintain software
The importance of training and support should not be underestimated. An IDC report cited that “training represents one concrete step IT managers can take to assure project teams possess the skills necessary to reduce failure risk, decrease costs, and increase project effectiveness.”. Training has been proven time and again to better enablement of resources to fulfill their responsibilities and successfully adopt new paradigms to improve how things are done today. Despite the many consequences of not having training and support, here are ways to implement effective robust support and training mechanisms.
What is Training and the Different Modes of Delivery
Training the process of developing skills and competencies for team members, in the context of technology it is often related to honing the skills required to: operate, enhance, maintain, and decommission a technology platform. The objective of the training is to move participants from novice skillset to an enhanced capability level and sometimes creating eventual trainers or super users.
Modes of Training
Here are the key channels or ways software training is provided, from least expensive to the most costly
- Self-study: often times this is the least effective but most cost effective way to provide training (Effectiveness: Low)
- eLearning: delivering interactive training that simulates software operation is an economic training method, particularly for elearning in corporate training (Effectiveness: Medium)
- Face to face: this method requires a facilitator or trainer to teach a class of participants and has its draw backs for distributed teams ( Effectiveness: High)
- Coaching: this type of training enables a software expert to coach and support an apprentice until they are proficient (Effectiveness: High)
For a majority of software projects, the most common modes of training include face to face and eLearning for end-user training, while coaching is reserved for technical knowledge transfer between technical resources. It’s important to consider the learning style and the level of complexity required for each software to determine which method to use. After identifying which modes of training are most pertinent to the user population, leaders should consider how to resource and find skillset to train their team members.
Getting Resources for Training and Support Depending on Stage of Project
Depending on the phase of your implementation or extent to which technology has been deployed, the following guides are offered:
If your technology project is still in initial stages, request training resources, or budget time for software vendors to train your end-users, and creating documentation. This is often more palatable if a business case can be shown i.e. based on scenarios where users are trained or not given training, a savings of $20,000 could be realized – this often has a much better impact on decision making. For more guidance leverage our IT Business Case resource.
Configuration and build commence in the development phase, which may require a dial back of schedule, or necessitate working with end-user departments to fund and share training costs. Being at this stage also allows for the introduction of quick wins, where new requirements from these prospective user departments can be incorporated with little or limited impact to overall project schedules. Though project leaders should be cautioned to help potential users to on-board to existing system conventions before introducing new requirements.
If it hasn’t been done already, it is crucial to secure time and resources for training end-users, look for ways to have users be part of the initial testing process before going live, to get their feedback, and gain familiarity with the system. This also allows them to be more forgiving of initial breakages since it is a “pilot”. The other key resourcing conversation will be with their managers, this is where the system benefits have to be clearly articulated along with cost or time savings for a team.
It happens, sometimes the hustle and the rush of getting a project completed has over taken other key priorities. Including the need to train and provide adequate support for end-users, or support team transition. The approach in this stage will be to manage the visibility and access of the system, particularly when moving from a manual process to an automated one. Get feedback by requesting a limited number of user testers and refine the system based on their needs, or prepare training/support materials in areas that are most problematic. Having influential users participate and getting their buy-in is also helpful, often times they will have their own perspective on how technology should function. Onboarding clients can also be an opportune time to train new users versus launching an application without support.
Common Mistakes Made with Training
Looking back on the numerous projects we’ve been part of here, are some common pitfalls and mistakes in terms of training planning and delivery
- Assuming people have foundational skills: oftentimes training assumes a level of competency, overlooking the baseline skillset of team members is often a crucial error that leads to increased costs and time, instead if project executives knew upfront , they could have hired or released resources early on
- Failing to groom an in house trainer: it is advised to identify high potential team resources to train, as the future trainer. Failing to identify the trainer and investing in them early on in the project often lead to issues when attempting to ramp up a user on boarding
- Falsely assuming there won’t be staff changes: team members transition even during projects, we’ve seen how trainer was groomed but later left their roles, have contingency plans in place, and consider some mechanism for cross-training to guard against this scenario
- Over reliance with face to face training: with some organizations that need to train hundreds if not more employees across geographies, face to face training can occur significant costs, it is key that projects leaders consider using technology to aid in scaling training delivery
What is Support and Common Modes of Helping End-Users
Support is the task of providing timely response to user issues encountered, while users are operating software. It can range from having someone walk through the installation process of a software, to checking and verifying whether the software is offline. For advanced issues, there is often a tier-ed system were more complicated issues are escalated and queued for resolution by a support engineer or developer resource.
Support is crucial as new scenarios and issues may be encountered that weren’t considered during development and training, it is also part of a natural way to ensure software evolution to better support an organizations’s needs.
Strategies to Supporting Software
Software support is often lost in the midst of excitement and dismay of creating software that solves challenging and complex problems. Here are some common approaches to getting resourcing for technical support of a software:
- Having developers/engineers do support: one of the most efficient ways to support software is to have the creators look after it. This will include needing to prioritize and identify changing in role to balance new software development and on-going support
- Paying for vendor support: Purchased software often comes with vendor support options. The caveat here is that organizations will need to proactively manage support costs as pricing models change.
- Outsourcing application support: another approach for more extensive support requirements could be hiring a dedicated support team that helps create cost savings by hiring for services instead of a full department
- Creating a new support team: the most intensive approach would be to create a dedicated team to support end-users or during initial go-live periods
Similar to the training modes discussed earlier, support can be provided either in-person, over the phone, remotely, or a blend of these approaches. Despite the numerous approaches the transition is often the most difficult process of software support handoff. Particularly if development and end-user support center are in scope. Resourcing for support for software should be determined immediately particularly for the first 3-6 months of software deployment.
Common Mistakes Made with Including Support for Software Launches
- Not planning for after-hours support: knowing upfront if business users need extended support is important in staffing and ensuring a smooth talent experience, in general, no surprise weekend and overnight hours is always ideal
- No escalation matrix for mission-critical support: an application could support a mission-critical process and without a proper order of escalation executive or valuable team members could be left hanging
- Insufficient knowledge from support resources: be sure to provide coaching or advanced level support in the training curriculum
- Limited definition of support metrics: clarify upfront what are the end-user expectations and determine if there is resourcing capability and knowledge to support the ask
- Over-reliance on project team to support: a common challenge to adequate support is resourcing, expecting developers to pick up the slack without consulting or planning for contingencies is a sure-fire way to botch the concluding phases of a project
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Safe Landing with Mindfield’s Go-Live Support
Despite the many challenges that come with new technologies being introduced within an organization and outside of it, each organization and its people are given the choice to lead or follow in their industry in how they serve customers. Organizations that seek to stay ahead of the technological waves should focus not only on selecting the technology but careful planning on the adoption and support of software. This allows teams to realize the technology investment and its full potential.
Mindfield Consulting has helped organization achieve bold visions with technology while operationalizing mission-critical teams to break best practices. Our team has successfully helped organizations become industry leading and to develop leading practices enabled by custom software, eLearning at Scale, and Worfklow Optimization.