Back to Blog

User Training - When should it happen?

We all understand the importance of user training right? And we all agree that introducing users to new systems early and getting their buy in through involvement, training and positive messages is critical to a project’s success. Right? Okay. Hold that thought.

It’s a fact that, as they near completion, most projects end up under intense time pressure to deliver on time and to budget. Unfortunately with all the wiggle room used up and the once sensible budget running dry many project managers and steering boards see user training as an area that can be squeezed without affecting the quality of the overall delivery.

But user training is too important to be treated as something that can be dropped in order to hit a key delivery point. We all agreed that at the start of this post.

Relying on an easy to use and intuitive interface is not going to ensure your project’s success. Similarly just because the new system is faster or has new features will not deliver project success. The reasons for this are easy to understand but easily forgotten. Implementing and training a new application or system is not just about “how” to use it, in fact the how might only be half of the activity - super important is “why”.

Fact : Well thought out and delivered implementation and end user training can help deliver more productive employees who are aligned and fully contributing to business strategy.

Let’s consider a couple of scenarios.

First, reduced or dropped user training. This common scenario can leave many employees frustrated and anxious. They have a new application that they likely find difficult to use and have little or no concept of the business benefits. If your project introduces new or changed workflows then it is likely people will attempt to user your application with the old flows in mind. Now imagine if your application supports compliance or regulatory or security procedures. Eeek.

Finally let’s consider a scenario where implementation and end user training are considered first class project citizens. In this scenario it is much more likely that your end users will be engaged and open to changes in workflows, giving your project a fighting chance at being successful.

Okay, so let’s think a little about how we protect allocated budgets and training time from the rush to the finish “cull”. You should remind business stakeholders that if the application is not a success then likely neither will their strategy be a success. Remind marketing and communications teams that they will need to find alternative avenues to communicate key business messages. Remind HR teams that if implementation and training is not delivered then employee satisfaction KPI’s may be compromised. Remind technical stakeholders that if training is not completed then their teams and helpdesks are likely to be impacted with increased support call numbers. This might sound all machiavellian. It is not. The point is that these groups know all this. Sometimes they need a little reminding.

Given just a little time and a sprinkling of creativity it can be surprising how many options you can generate that will help ensure a considered and valuable training element remains a key element of your project. Here at Rex we have many years experience managing and delivering successful projects to exciting companies. Our combination of experience and training ensures that our project plans are realistic, pragmatic and achievable. Read more here.

Remember : A measure of project success is not managing a project to correct or replace a previous project

Here are our top tips that we recommend

  • Before the End User Training phase:
    • Engage with your end users early - long before they see the actual system. Seek out and engage with key communicators within your business, they can help spread positive messages
    • Be open and honest about future changes. Acknowledge and address any issues of user resistance or anxiety. They may have valid concerns and reservations about the system which you should allay well in advance. Ensure that they do not feel that the system is being foisted on them despite their concerns.
    • Reinforce the benefits of the new application by highlighting how their roles might directly benefit and how the business will benefit as a whole.
    • When the time is right, give them a good overview of how the new system will function and how the proposed user interface might look like. Ask for volunteers for usability testing and possible help with creating materials. Beware: do not raise users' expectations to unreasonable levels
    • Collaborate and communicate with your internal communications team and your marketing team.
  • During the End User Training phase:
    • Maybe consider a Train-the-Trainer program as a method of cascading training through our your business. In situations where your end users are spread across many locations having a “local” expert can pay dividends when resolving user questions in a timely manner.
    • There may be some cost cutting measures that you can take to help reduce budget and time cuts. Can training be delivered via video conference? This simple change can drastically reduce travel and refreshments costs. An added benefit of video based training is that time poor people are more likely to find the time to attend if they can do so from their desk.
  • After the formal end of the project:
    • Don’t think that training ends when the project is closed. Ensure that you have provided easy-to-reference training materials for those who have already been trained, and standard courses available for new colleagues or for those who are new to the system because they have changed roles.
    • Consider providing refresher/update training courses whenever significant improvements are made to the delivered system.