04/01/2008 by Dietmar Wettach
The introduction of a new IT solution entails a large deal of different changes. New roles and responsibilities must be defined, supported by additional new software. An early integration of the future users is of great importance, but very often, there is not enough attention paid to it.
A typical example from a “normal” project: Shortly before the new solution goes live, there is – in most cases – still one pending issue on the to-do-list of the project which has already been postponed several times: the user training. The budget, including several amendments, is already stressed at that time, and the last days before going live are busy with remedial actions.
Neither client nor project manager and project team have so far attached value to the training of the users, although insufficient training of future users can easily turn into an unexpected obstacle in the project workflow.
The results are as follows:
- Instead of a user training, the project team is pursuing “a learning on the job” strategy
- The users are forced to use the new system without or with insufficient training.
- The project team supports the users after project finish, so that there are no resources for new projects left.
- As applying the software is a gradual process, nobody really knows the exact time when change management starts to have an effect.
The enormous damage for the enterprise is obvious:
- There are additional expenses, meaning real costs, by the parallel use of the old and the new solution, which involves additional work for coordination and mutual arrangements.
- The absence of a user training and the delayed transfer of know-how result in further costs, since the new solution cannot be used as scheduled. The planned benefit fails to arise.
- The users are frustrated and do not come to terms with the new tool. There is an atmosphere of discontent, and the new system runs the risk of not being accepted.
This suggests the conclusion that the planning and realizing of user trainings ranks among the most important success factors for the introduction of a new system. Also with respect to the implementation of an internal “support structure” and “support culture”, considering the aspect of knowledge transfer from the project team to those who use the solution is imperative.
This means that the issue of user training must be communicated in the project team at an early stage and be actively promoted. This results in users who are fit for using the new tool when it is going live.
This target can be achieved by the following measures:
- From the very beginning, one of the users participates in the project meetings as user representative. He will get familiar with the introduction of the new tool and assume responsibility for the planning and realization of the training. This enables him to have a say in the development of the tool from a user´s perspective and to co-determine the structure and the procedural methods of the training.
- Fixed dates as those for software updates or data migration, as well as downtimes caused by technical failure and holidays, must be observed when planning the training. Training sessions take place only if all training participants have time not only for taking part in the training, but also for familiarizing themselves with the new solution afterwards.
- A concept to support the users is figured out: Who is in charge of answering general user questions concerning the application? Who will help the user with the practical use of the solution?
- The individual roles such as key users, administrators, first and second level support, as well as persons responsible for operation or test execution are clearly defined. The employees assume these roles at an early stage of the project and are trained respectively.
- The users are informed in time about the introduction of the new software and the training involved with it. An effectively flowing communication within the project, usually referred to as project marketing, is actively supported by all participants and responsible persons.
- All relevant requirements for a successful training are planned in time, and meeting these requirements is secured by the time the training starts.
- The training classroom is booked (and well aired :-))
- The training documents are printed
- The computers are set up and started, the software is installed
- The system is ready to get started, training documents are handed ou
- The users are not disturbed during training times
- There are breaks for the participants to exchange experiences
- A printer is available to allow the participants to make screen-shots
- The trainer is well prepared
- Feedback by the participants allows for the training to be improved and optimized in future
- Immediately after the training, the users should be able to use the new solution. The direct transition is important to take advantage of the positive momentum gained from the training. Now the systems along with an uncomplicated support environment must be available.
For the successful introduction of a new software solution, not only the technical requirements must be fulfilled. In addition to consistency, availability and user-friendliness of the solution, it is important that the users are well-informed, personally engaged, highly motivated and well trained. The users should be involved in the project at an early stage of the project, the training must be planned in time, including the means required, and carried out in a professional way. Least not last, the new software must be made available right after the training and be used. The option to use the old system must be abandoned. If these clear principles are observed, the successful application of the new solution – and thus the success of the project – will be secured.