Surviving the Chaos of I.T. Training
I recently worked with a client to help them with training for an IT system being custom-built for their organization. The training team had a tight deadline, an unstable system with no test data, a new license of Captivate, and an internal team who had never developed anything in the tool. After I trained them on Captivate and helped them put together a schedule, the lead developer looked at me and said, “Thanks for helping us. Are we normal?” My answer? “You mean the chaos? Yes, of course!”
For those of us who aren’t new to IT training, we know that often “normal” for the project is:
- Training isn’t involved at the beginning of the IT project.
- The training development needs to start before the system is finished.
- The system isn’t stable when we are told.
- There is either no test data, or it is “real” data we have to change or remove once we capture the procedures.
- Changes are made to the system without the training team being notified, often as late as the morning of the training.
- They training system isn’t refreshed when new changes are made.
- The training system is taken down, passwords are reset, or test data cleared without warning.
- The project owner doesn’t understand what is needed to get the training completed.
This Training Team did some things, however, that took them a bit out of the “norm” – and ultimately made their project a success. Here are the success strategies they used for surviving the chaos:
- Allow for enough time. The training team didn’t make a schedule promise they couldn’t keep. They built enough time into the schedule to call someone to help, add people to the team, get training, etc.
- Involve the Project Owner. The project owner was intimately involved with the whole process, from outlining what she wanted for the end product, to learning what was possible with Captivate, to finding out what kind of time, resources, and information the training team needed.
- Build Strong Relationships Before You Need Them. The training team had a great relationship with the IT department. When we realized the system wasn’t stable and the test data was missing, the training manager picked up the phone, called the technical lead, exchanged some niceties, and explained the situation. Within five minutes, the technical lead was in the room with us FIXING the problems. Really? No waiting game – no “I’ll see what I can do.”
Here are a few other tips that we’ve helped other clients with.
- Talk to developers early in the process about the little things that might make your job easier. For example, ask them to use realistic names with their test data, rather than test 1 and test 2 as the name of customers, or Mickey Mouse and Darth Vader for names of employees.
- Expect changes to come at the last minute. Even though the developers swear that the last update won’t have any changes to the interface, just assume there will be. A simple change from a Submit button to an OK button can cause major rework. If possible, have your whole team “on call” for the last few days before go-live to help deal with last-minute issues.
- Don’t start too early. While you may want to be “proactive” and start early on the training materials, you’ll just end up re-doing it all if you start too early. You can understand capabilities, create objectives and outlines, and create project plans early, but you may not want to capture until the last possible minute.
What challenges have you faced on IT training? What have you tried that helps with the chaos?