Saturday, 21 February 2009

Let me do, and I understand

I've been tied up for the past week (guess why!) so I've not had the time to post - and next week isn't going to be much better.

When I last described the process, the project team had finally begun to start work on their own areas. They were working in one's or twos with a specific consultant that was suppose to be a particular expert in that module. We were fortunate that we had been able to allocate a number of rooms for the project - 2 decent sized meeting rooms at the main site, another at a second site, a smaller interview room at each site plus, the video conference suites. In addition, we had occasional use of smaller rooms in the particular areas for the project.

I had arranged with the site maintenance people to put in some extra electrical outlets and we bought some cheap video projectors which were semi-permananetly mounted in most of these rooms. This allowed the consultants to do what they did best - PowerPoint presentations. However, we got a lot more use out of the projectors later, so I won't complain too much.

The initial meetings did start to show some of the actual transactions within the software (think applications) and we began to start assigning the various transactions to user roles so that the project team could work out which of the staff needed what transaction to do their job. Now this sounds like quite a simple task, but unfortunately it isn't. In many cases, the project team didn't fully appreciate the amount of work that they would be involved in - I know that some of them thought it would be a matter of a few training sessions and then they would know all that they needed to know (boy were they shocked!).

In most cases, they found that they needed to allocate several days just to run though the process, refining it down to the various steps, then they would be told to use a specific transaction. Then they would start on this, only to find that they didn't understand the next step at various points for the different variations, so would have to go back to the consultant. Later, most of the project team were doing at least an hours work a day over many months.

Anyway, after about 3 months work, it was decided to start the process of training end users - remember that this was in preparation for the original go live date last year. It was assumed that the end users would need 1 or 2 training sessions (what is it that they say about "assume"? it makes an ass out of u & me) and about 5 -6 weeks were put aside to cover all end users. In fact, we found that most end users needed a good 6 - 8 sessions plus some extra time to work on things on their own. The meeting rooms with the video projectors really paid off at this point - the project team persons would act as the trainer with 4 - 5 people at a time and demonstrate what they had to do. Some older PCs had been installed in one room to allow the end users to practice what they had seen and we also got hold of some older laptops which proved a godsend for this purpose.

Now I have a simple criterion for measuring the quality of the training. A person should be able to do a given task twice in succession without making a mistake or needing to refer to any training material. When you reach that stage, you can say that the person is ready to start using the product. Now this doesn't mean that they won't make mistakes - far from it. However, it usually means that they can be productive.

Our consultant just couldn't seem to understand this view - they seemed to work on the basis that "I've shown you, so you are fully trained". I'm sorry but that has just got to be a completely dumb ass way of looking at it. We don't let people read a manual on driving and then let them lose in a $50,000 car on the freeway - or allow people that have used Microsoft Flight Simulator, fly a jumbo jet.

At this stage, I would say only about 25% of the end user staff are in a position where they are ready - I wouldn't yet say that they are confidant. Many of them did do some training, but that was months ago and they haven't touched it since. I suspect that they have forgotten most of what they learned and will have to go through it again. I have tried to encourage many of them to do work on their own - but without the cooperation of their section leaders, it probably won't happen.

The consultants insisted that the project team had to produce their own training material - I'd heard this before and I do kind of understand part of the reason behind it. But I still feel that they could provide better stuff that they do - it seems a huge waste of time to constantly re-invent the wheel. Some one out there must have come up with good stuff that could save us having to put so much work into just producing simple user guides.

We tried a couple of different ideas, but decided that our training material should be done as PowerPoint presentations; these were set-up, then modified during the training session to make them more accurate and relevant. They were then saved to a SharePoint Server so that they would be available to the end users for reference. If we could persuade the users to actually make use of the material, I might even say that it's a good idea. Hopefully, they will eventually realise that unlike SAP, I'm not going to charge them for downloading the material!

Enough for today - I'll try to post more when I get time.

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