Training: User know-how essential for winning projects

Projects could fail if staff aren't sufficiently trained to use a new implementation, because they won't use it in the way it was intended, says Global Online Promotions technology director Noel Duckworth

Projects could fail if staff aren’t sufficiently trained to use a new implementation, because they won’t use it in the way it was intended, says Global Online Promotions technology director Noel Duckworth.

Duckworth helped create the infrastructure behind the company’s Kachingo lottery game, which is used by Woolworths, BP and Superliquor in 500 outlets.

Demonstration laptops were taken to BP and Superliquor to show staff how Kachingo would work, using actual transactions, while Woolworths’ staff were trained at their point-of-sale systems. Staff at GOP’s Auckland headquarters tested the system with dummy promotions. If something untoward happened, it meant they were checking their IT system as well, Duckworth says. The system required quality testing, servers sent to remote outlets and connections to point of sale systems.

The use of Linux as the operating system in the $10 million technology rollout could have been a potential training problem, but Duckworth says check-out staff wouldn’t have noticed any difference. The developers who created the software to operate Kachingo are likely to have been familiar with Linux as they are the type who would experiment with such technology in their leisure time, he says.

However, Leigh Jackson, GM of service management at systems integrator Gen-i, says using open source can give rise to training concerns.

“You really have to look at what your applications are designed to achieve and what your user base is capable of. How many people are fluent in Microsoft versus the likes of StarOffice? If you are starting a company from scratch, you need to think of training constraints. You need to be able to employ people straight off the street who can do simple business tasks.”

When software company StaffCV moved from Christchurch to Auckland, employees spent three weeks learning procedures for reporting and documentation, but owner Jason Kerr says the training will help his staff gain full use of the company’s ACT sales management software, rather than just 30% of it.

“We needed to have a DOS for Dummies approach — these are the 10 things to do. We do not allow flexibility; people have rules and we have to do the same. When you are spending $15,000 to $20,000 putting in a system like ACT across three different locations and 30 seats, we want to make sure the money is not wasted.”

Recently launched HP distributor eXeed New Zealand uses a modified customer management system already used in Australia to handle HP’s database, products and pricing.

The company had a structured training programme for its six New Zealand staff to get to know the software but found what mattered was “getting people to have a play and see what it could and could not do”, says eXeed managing director Andrew Bain. For eXeed, because the system was specifically developed for selling HP, this system was “the given core” and training and other issues had to work around it.

Bain says IT managers must realise that only 5% to 10% of learning for any new system happens on a training course, and companies must realise modifications and changes may be made to a system down its implementation journey, so more training may be needed.

Independent Auckland consultant Ian Howard notes that employees are not without responsibility in the training area.

“There is [an] attitude of ‘I can’t do it because you have not trained me’. That identifies to me a candidate seeking an alternative career. A lot of the time training money is wasted because it is not relevant or timely,” he says.

Training is required when “that need is real and felt by the user”, says Howard.

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