5 ways to fail at IT training

Lousy training, change management, and documentation are among the top failure-inducing mistakes that IT implementation teams perpetrate against their projects. As I've said in the past:To be successful, users must understand the project’s goals, status, and impact on their jobs. Many projects pay too little attention to training and documentation, especially when the project starts to run over-budget. This oversight makes reduces productivity and can negatively impact the project ROI. In extreme cases, users simply don’t use the new software, bringing the effective ROI to zero.Here's a list of five IT training failures guaranteed to damage any otherwise-healthy project.

5 ways to fail at IT training

Lousy training, change management, and documentation are among the top failure-inducing mistakes that IT implementation teams perpetrate against their projects. As I've said in the past:

To be successful, users must understand the project’s goals, status, and impact on their jobs. Many projects pay too little attention to training and documentation, especially when the project starts to run over-budget. This oversight makes reduces productivity and can negatively impact the project ROI. In extreme cases, users simply don’t use the new software, bringing the effective ROI to zero.

Here's a list of five IT training failures guaranteed to damage any otherwise-healthy project. Thanks to Computer World for assembling this list of common mistakes:

  1. You didn't plan for training upfront. IT budgets have been under close scrutiny for years, and the dollars earmarked for training have been among the hardest hit.... As a result, many companies don't factor end-user training into the total cost of their systems' rollouts and are left scrambling for funding and resources at the tail end of the deployment. Consensus in the industry dictates that a good training program should account for 10% to 13% of the total spend [of an enterprise software rollout]....
  2. You're out of tune with your audience. For training of any sort to be effective, it's not enough for the instructor to have mastery of the material. The trainer also needs to be able to connect with the audience and present information in an interactive and engaging manner. Problem is, IT professionals aren't famous for their stellar communication and soft management skills.
  3. You didn't follow standards training models. Training a user community on a major business system like ERP or on a new operating system like Windows Vista involves a lot more than showing employees how to navigate a new desktop or run a specific report. Major system upgrades mean major upheaval to the way users work, and technology training should help users embrace those changes.
  4. You're training out of business context. IT is quite comfortable with instruction on the particulars of how to use a particular CRM package or how to securely configure a laptop or wireless network, but the training often stops there. What's missing is teaching users how to use that new business system to augment traditional work patterns. To do so, IT trainers need an understanding of how a particular business function like marketing or procurement works, knowledge they don't always have.
  5. You forgot to forge business partnerships. Given that so much of what constitutes good training goes beyond the purview of IT, it's critical that the IT department reaches out. Human resource departments and dedicated in-house training groups...are obvious candidates for partnerships that can help IT bring the requisite business context and formal learning methodologies to its curriculum.

Research suggests that "22% of purchased ERP licenses are not being used, in U.S.-based companies." I believe a significant percentage of this shelfware problem could be avoided if organizations implementing enterprise software were to take training more seriously.

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