IT transformations have been a feature in the public and private sector for many years now, yet organisations still neglect one of the most important factors in a successful project, training.

We’ve all been on the end of IT transformations at work, with varying levels of success in these projects. There have been some horror stories, particularly in public sector organisations, and very few stories where the whole process has been flawless. That is the nature of change, but there are some things you can do to make your projects go more smoothly. One of those is to plan training ahead of time and make it part of your overall change approach.

Here are five reasons why training should be considered at the earliest stages of a project.

A change plan should be done at the beginning

Any project that involves change should be subject to a change impact assessment and a change plan. This is the only way that the organisation can properly assess how the new software will be received, and ultimately looks at how each audience can be guided through the change and trained effectively. Out of the change plan comes the communications and training plans. Doing the analysis too late will lead to opportunities being missed for engaging people in the organisation at the right time. So often projects are delivered from the IT perspective, and training is an after-thought or not thought about at all. This is a mistake. You can roll out systems as much as you like and make them technically perfect, but unless people know why things are changing and how to use the new system, the project is doomed to fail.

Good training takes time to design and develop

The quality of the training will directly impact the success of the project overall. This is a fact that you cannot get away from. If the training is not up to scratch then learners won’t learn and they won’t be able to use the new system, or indeed have any desire to use it. The training, therefore, has to be of a sufficient quality to support the overall objectives of the project from a change perspective. Involve your learning team or learning supplier early on and keep them informed of what’s happening with the system, particularly any changes. Good training takes time to design and develop so the trainers have to be involved early.

You should involve your learners in the early stages

The change team should be going out and completing change impact assessments in the early stages of the project, particularly looking at the impacts on different audiences and what sort of training should be provided to mitigate any risks. The training resources should be involved as early as possible with the learners so that they can properly assess what is needed and also what is feasible. It’s all very well for the change team to say that everyone has to be trained in the classroom but if you have 20,000 people impacted and only four weeks to train them, then classroom isn’t happening. You should also consider the timing of the training, as knowledge disappears if the training happens too far in advance of the system being live. In this instance a ‘sandbox’ environment is critical so that people can practice on the system and their knowledge doesn’t vanish into thin air.

Time for testing should be built into the plan

Testing is non-negotiable, particularly with an eLearning approach. Going live with training to a big audience without any testing should be avoided at all costs. If eLearning is the medium of choice, then it should be uploaded to the live LMS and thoroughly tested by people who are NOT involved with the project, well before the actual go live date for the training. You may think that you can shortcut this part, but you can’t. Project plans invariably get squeezed as you move towards go live and training is one of the things that is particularly at risk, especially if there are changes to the system late on. The thing to remember is that the training will often be one of the first things that people see in relation to the new system. If it looks rushed and cobbled together, people will assume the whole project has been like that and this will reflect on the new system itself. Don’t shortcut the testing of training.

You may have to go externally for the right resources

If you have a training team internally, then you may have the resources available already to deliver the training aspects of the project. There are typically two problems with this though. One is that internal training teams are generally oversubscribed already, and dropping a large change project on them may push them over capacity and affect the ‘run-rate’ training that they also have to deliver. The second issue is that systems training needs specific knowledge of that system. You could take one of your full-time resources out of the loop for a few months so that they can learn the system and then deliver the training, but realistically this is not a smart way to save money. It will cost you money in the long run as other work will suffer and once the system is live, they don’t necessarily need the knowledge they have built up for the new system. As the business starts to use the system, the collective knowledge grows and massively outweighs the knowledge of one person in the training team. This is where user generated content should be used, for ongoing training and ‘hint and tips’ tutorials by the people who are using the system day to day. Use an external specialist for a period of time so your internal resources can concentrate on their normal work.

About Lawford Knight

Lawford Knight is a training company with expertise in eLearning, classroom and blended learning. We understand how to design, develop and deliver training programmes that achieve real behavioural change. Having worked on major transformation programmes with tens of thousands of people, we are skilled at working in wider teams where we appreciate that training must be developed in context, rather than being a standalone, ‘sticking-plaster’ solution to a problem. If you’re ready to work with a company that really understands how training works, please get in contact to discuss your next training requirement.

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