When rolling out a new enterprise-wide system or simply updating staff on changes, one question companies face is whether to use internal resources or hand over training to an outside provider.
Marc Brawner, information security officer for Kroll, is clear about the importance of IT training for corporations. With software becoming more and more complex, he says, “you want to send staff to get trained because otherwise your business may be missing out on an opportunity”.
Unsurprisingly, most IT training companies recommend the external option. But hybrid solutions, whereby both internal and external resources work together, are becoming increasingly popular.
Even companies such as UK-based QA, known for its portfolio of public training courses, have noticed the shift in emphasis.
“We’re seeing more clients wanting to focus it, and
tailor it to a specific angle,” says Richard Hordern, managing consultant at QA. “And often, we’re doing some form of needs assessment beforehand.”
This approach, he says, is how companies can “get the best of both worlds – making it fit the organisation as well as getting best practice and input from specialist trainers.”
However, with a range of tools and service providers to choose from, finding the right mix of customised training, external instructors, e-learning and use of internal resources, companies need to identify the skills with which they want to equip their staff.
When it comes to the technicians themselves, the external solution is often the most suitable.
“The real techie specialists are always likely to go on some kind of public course because it doesn’t matter whether it’s culturally fitted,” says Jon Buttriss, a director at Computeach, the UK specialist training company.
“And that way, they are also learning from their peers, which is crucial,” he adds.
This approach does not work so well for end-users, who are going to be operating the software and systems rather than improving or fixing them.
Because they need to know how the software is used in their particular role, they need something more tailored, rather than a deep knowledge of the technology.
And because of the different ways in which companies operate functions such as HR or finance, sending employees from these departments on public classes can be ineffective.
iTrain Education, a UK-based independent Oracle, Java and SAP training company, found this out the hard way.
“Our history is as a technical training company and, as Oracle moved further into the applications space, that became an area we needed to support,” explains Duncan Brown of iTrain Education.
“So we looked at the product, put a few public dates up and had a range of people from different companies come on a single course – and it was an unmitigated failure.”
The trouble was, says Mr Brown, that HR people from different companies had ways of conducting their business that were specific to the culture and processes of their organisation.
“So we realised very early on in servicing that part of the market that you can only sensibly do that as tailored training – because you’re not really teaching them the application, you’re teaching them how to use it in their business.”
Increasingly, tools available on the market are giving companies greater flexibility when it comes to decisions on how to deliver their IT training. One example is OnDemand Software, a division of US-based Global Knowledge. The software includes functions such as the ability to record actions relating to, say, an HR transaction, and create instant content with which to teach that process to others.
“It’s a tool that the customer can use themselves,” explains Chris Pickett, chief strategy officer at On-Demand Software. “So if they have the wherewithal, they buy it and roll it out themselves but if they want help, they can talk to us, or to systems integrators such as Accenture, CapGemini or Deloitte, that have built practices around the technology.”
It is not only systems integrators that are incorporating training products such as OnDemand into their offerings. Software manufacturers themselves are incorporating them.
In the past, software companies might have stressed the ease of use of their products; today they are as aggressive as training companies in promoting training – because it is in their interest to do so.
“If it doesn’t go well, it’s not good for the [client] company but it’s also not a good thing for the software company because clients are less likely to pay maintenance or come back and buy additional modules,” says Mr Pickett.
“Trained users are successful users,” he adds. “And successful users buy more software.”