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Outsourced Training: The Key to High-Impact High Tech

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To meet the challenge of accomplishing more with less, many school and university systems are adopting the "best practices" of successful businesses. At the heart of this initiative is a technology infrastructure that promises to streamline administrative tasks and give educators and administrators more time to focus on the business of educating students.

To meet the challenge of accomplishing more with less, many school and university systems are adopting the "best practices" of successful businesses. At the heart of this initiative is a technology infrastructure that promises to streamline administrative tasks and give educators and administrators more time to focus on the business of educating students.

These enterprise-wide systems, most notably from companies like SAP, Oracle, J.D. Edwards and PeopleSoft, have the capability to simplify everything from ordering pencils and tracking grant funds to issuing payroll checks. But as the business world has discovered, the key to unlocking the benefits of these powerful systems is people who know how to use them.

For many reasons, learning these systems is easier said than done. Highly complex business software demands rigorous change from the workforce of the school district or university that installs it. To be effective in the new technology environment, everyone from a technophobic office clerk to a tenured professor (reluctant to ask for computer help) must be able to operate comfortably and proficiently in what is fundamentally a new paperless administrative world.

With public dollars at stake, the pressure to deliver long-promised efficiencies is intense. John J. Donovan, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founder of Cambridge Executive Enterprises, addressed this issue recently in a speech to key government and education executives in Washington, D.C: "Public sector organizations are continually being asked to be more like the private sector," explained Donovan. "But what everyone forgets is that they are asking you to be like the best of the best in the private sector, not like private sector start-ups that fail."

One way to help ensure a successful transition to new business technology is through effective employee training. Considering that most training department budgets in the public sector are lean, with small or non-existent staffing, many educational organizations opt to outsource training of the new business software, often identifying a training partner in addition to an implementation partner.

Training Issues To Consider

The benefits to outsourcing software training are many. With a qualified software training provider, a school or university can "stick to its knitting," rather than attempt to find the staff resources, wrestle for budget dollars, get up to speed on complicated software, and teach it to a large and diverse population. In addition, an experienced training provider can help an organization sidestep common pitfalls and compress an already steep learning curve.

Plus, an organization that teaches technology "for a living" can offer a unique perspective on some of the varied and complex issues surrounding training. Here are some to consider:

Educators are a tough bunch to teach. Training should be built around up-to-date adult learning techniques and incorporate technology by offering a mix of computer-based and reference-based approaches. Referenced-based training should be designed modularly for a combination of Web-based and instructor-led delivery modes to ensure that participants can be scheduled for relevant training at convenient times.

Course content should be customized to your audience. Relevance is everything. As an added incentive, credential the training with CEUs.

Beware of the "fire hose" approach. That’s where you allocate four weeks for training, make everyone go, and dump an overwhelming amount of information on the group. A good training partner will identify exactly who needs to learn what and offer a solution that balances resources, infrastructure and requirements.

Communicate early and often about what is going to take place. Too often employees have no idea what to expect from the new technology, are not prepared for how the change will affect them on a day-to-day basis, or do not know the benefits that implementation of the new software will provide to them and to the organization. Lack of knowledge about the new technology and changes to the business environment causes anxiety and often resistance to the change. Effective communication can meet this challenge head-on. Look for a training partner who can put in place a communications strategy to better manage change.

Recognize that training is ongoing and budget appropriately. There will be upgrades to the software, new hires, ongoing documentation needs, departmental transfers — you name it. Plan to spend around 40 to 60 percent of your initial training budget every year for continuous learning needs.

Installing and maintaining complex business software can be overwhelming. By focusing on effective training from the onset, and recognizing the need for continuous learning, educational organizations can more realistically expect "best of the best" results.

 

 

Five Things to Look for in a Software Training Partner

  • Experience counts. Looking at cost alone, the "mom and pop" training outfit that low-balls the RFP may look like the best deal, but consider the hidden costs. Do they have the expertise? You need several kinds of specialized knowledge to train professionals in work settings effectively: knowledge of the education industry, software, business processes, adult learning, and the latest education technology are crucial.
  • Are they certified partners with the major business software vendors? Partner relationships can prove helpful in both obvious and subtle ways. For example, because of an existing partnership with SAP, your training partner will have early access to software updates and may be involved in training development projects with SAP. This is added expertise they can bring to your project.
  • You shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Look for a training partner with experience from which you can realize direct benefits, yet with an approach that can be customized to your specific needs.
  • Can they go the distance? Can your training provider keep current with upgrades and provide support after go-live? What about continuous learning needs? Documentation requirements?
  • Can they offer training on a variety of business software? Let’s say you first install SAP accounting software, then later add PeopleSoft HR functions, and later still, add a satellite campus’ operations to the system. Can your training partner keep pace? 

 

To meet the challenge of accomplishing more with less, many school and university systems are adopting the "best practices" of successful businesses. At the heart of this initiative is a technology infrastructure that promises to streamline administrative tasks and give educators and administrators more time to focus on the business of educating students.

X@XOpenTag000

To meet the challenge of accomplishing more with less, many school and university systems are adopting the "best practices" of successful businesses. At the heart of this initiative is a technology infrastructure that promises to streamline administrative tasks and give educators and administrators more time to focus on the business of educating students.

X@XCloseTag000X@XOpenTag001

These enterprise-wide systems, most notably from companies like SAP, Oracle, J.D. Edwards and PeopleSoft, have the capability to simplify everything from ordering pencils and tracking grant funds to issuing payroll checks. But as the business world has discovered, the key to unlocking the benefits of these powerful systems is people who know how to use them.

X@XCloseTag001X@XOpenTag002

For many reasons, learning these systems is easier said than done. Highly complex business software demands rigorous change from the workforce of the school district or university that installs it. To be effective in the new technology environment, everyone from a technophobic office clerk to a tenured professor (reluctant to ask for computer help) must be able to operate comfortably and proficiently in what is fundamentally a new paperless administrative world.

X@XCloseTag002X@XOpenTag003

With public dollars at stake, the pressure to deliver long-promised efficiencies is intense. John J. Donovan, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founder of Cambridge Executive Enterprises, addressed this issue recently in a speech to key government and education executives in Washington, D.C: "Public sector organizations are continually being asked to be more like the private sector," explained Donovan. "But what everyone forgets is that they are asking you to be like the best of the best in the private sector, not like private sector start-ups that fail."

X@XCloseTag003X@XOpenTag004

One way to help ensure a successful transition to new business technology is through effective employee training. Considering that most training department budgets in the public sector are lean, with small or non-existent staffing, many educational organizations opt to outsource training of the new business software, often identifying a training partner in addition to an implementation partner.

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Training Issues To Consider

X@XOpenTag005

The benefits to outsourcing software training are many. With a qualified software training provider, a school or university can "stick to its knitting," rather than attempt to find the staff resources, wrestle for budget dollars, get up to speed on complicated software, and teach it to a large and diverse population. In addition, an experienced training provider can help an organization sidestep common pitfalls and compress an already steep learning curve.

X@XCloseTag005X@XOpenTag006

Plus, an organization that teaches technology "for a living" can offer a unique perspective on some of the varied and complex issues surrounding training. Here are some to consider:

X@XCloseTag006X@XOpenTag007

Educators are a tough bunch to teach. Training should be built around up-to-date adult learning techniques and incorporate technology by offering a mix of computer-based and reference-based approaches. Referenced-based training should be designed modularly for a combination of Web-based and instructor-led delivery modes to ensure that participants can be scheduled for relevant training at convenient times.

X@XCloseTag007X@XOpenTag008

Course content should be customized to your audience. Relevance is everything. As an added incentive, credential the training with CEUs.

X@XCloseTag008X@XOpenTag009

Beware of the "fire hose" approach. That’s where you allocate four weeks for training, make everyone go, and dump an overwhelming amount of information on the group. A good training partner will identify exactly who needs to learn what and offer a solution that balances resources, infrastructure and requirements.

X@XCloseTag009X@XOpenTag010

Communicate early and often about what is going to take place. Too often employees have no idea what to expect from the new technology, are not prepared for how the change will affect them on a day-to-day basis, or do not know the benefits that implementation of the new software will provide to them and to the organization. Lack of knowledge about the new technology and changes to the business environment causes anxiety and often resistance to the change. Effective communication can meet this challenge head-on. Look for a training partner who can put in place a communications strategy to better manage change.

X@XCloseTag010X@XOpenTag011

Recognize that training is ongoing and budget appropriately. There will be upgrades to the software, new hires, ongoing documentation needs, departmental transfers — you name it. Plan to spend around 40 to 60 percent of your initial training budget every year for continuous learning needs.

X@XCloseTag011X@XOpenTag012

Installing and maintaining complex business software can be overwhelming. By focusing on effective training from the onset, and recognizing the need for continuous learning, educational organizations can more realistically expect "best of the best" results.

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Five Things to Look for in a Software Training Partner

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  • Experience counts. Looking at cost alone, the "mom and pop" training outfit that low-balls the RFP may look like the best deal, but consider the hidden costs. Do they have the expertise? You need several kinds of specialized knowledge to train professionals in work settings effectively: knowledge of the education industry, software, business processes, adult learning, and the latest education technology are crucial.
  • Are they certified partners with the major business software vendors? Partner relationships can prove helpful in both obvious and subtle ways. For example, because of an existing partnership with SAP, your training partner will have early access to software updates and may be involved in training development projects with SAP. This is added expertise they can bring to your project.
  • You shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Look for a training partner with experience from which you can realize direct benefits, yet with an approach that can be customized to your specific needs.
  • Can they go the distance? Can your training provider keep current with upgrades and provide support after go-live? What about continuous learning needs? Documentation requirements?
  • Can they offer training on a variety of business software? Let’s say you first install SAP accounting software, then later add PeopleSoft HR functions, and later still, add a satellite campus’ operations to the system. Can your training partner keep pace? 

 

DACG is a global consulting company and a leader in specialized employee education. Recent work in the education industry includes Baylor College of Medicine, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Houston Independent School District, the seventh largest school system in the United States.

 

 

Contact Information

DACG
Houston, Texas
(888) REACH-DA
www.dacg.com

This article originally appeared in the 12/01/1999 issue of THE Journal.

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