Monday, 21 November 2011

Back to the training board

I've not posted anything for some weeks - mainly because I've not really had anything to add. Work continues as normal, but there has not a great deal happening with our SAP project.

The go-live date for our overseas site was put back to January of next year. This should have given us time to get some of the data load done, but very little has been added so far. We still have time, but we are still waiting for much of the data, which is still to be cleaned up. However, the staff at the overseas site have actually been doing some training, and they have also been testing what data has been added, as well as manually adding some data of their own. I think that this will be very useful as it means that they will be more comfortable once they start using the system for real.

One thing that has been discussed in some depth is an old favorite of mine - training. I've said a number of times that I feel we should be enhancing our internal skills by getting our project team members and perhaps even some of our end users to attend formal SAP training. To me, it makes sense to invest the money in our staff, and retain knowledge within the business, rather than pay consultants who will be here today, gone tomorrow.

The costs are pretty straight forward - pay a consultant $1500 per day, or get staff on a 2 day training course for about the same money. I'm not sure how many times I've discussed this with people - probably to the point where I get boring. But I've been on some courses, as have some of my staff, and we know the value of the training, and can demonstrate the benefits.

To me, it is so simple - and yet our project team haven't seen it that way. I believe that part of the issue is that I am used to the idea of continuous training - anyone in IT will know the value of this and the need for constantly renewing skills. On top of that, I am also used to the requirement of managing my own training - but clearly, this is not how others see it.

However - it seems that my message is slowly starting to sink in. I've recently had a number of members of the team speak to me about organising training, and it seems likely that they will now carry this thru. The only problem is what courses will be of the most benefit and how to make sure that they get the most from the courses.

I am aware that if they attend a course and it doesn't meet their expectations, they will be less likely to want to go on another. I'm therefore trying to make sure that we have a very clear roadmap of the appropriate modules for each individual. I'm not so sure about the need for some of the certfication tracks - I don't consider it necessary that we need to get people qualified, but we should try to make sure that the plans follow a pattern that will provide appropriate knowledge in each area.

One thing that has been noted - the project team members are a bit more vocal in the way that they describe the lack of knowledge transfer from the consultants. They also seem a bit more prepared to criticize the quality of work carried out, and several of them have highlighted key areas that they want to cover in training that have been those where the consultants did not achieve what was required. I'm not sure that we can do this straight off, but I don't want to put them down too quickly - I'd rather try and keep their new enthusiasm high for as long as possible.

I suppose that once one of them goes on a course and then comes back and can confirm to the others the value of what they have learnt, we will then see a sudden rush of the others - well, that's OK as far as I am concerned. We have a decent sized budget now for the training as long as we can continue to justify it, so I want to see it used to best effect.

Hopefully, I'll have some feedback from at least one of them soon.