If you are about to adopt a new piece of cloud software into your business processes, or already have and are facing challenges, it’s vital to consider not just how the software is actually set up, but how you best support your team to use it to optimal effect.
Providing appropriate training will create maximum value from your investment, and the earlier you do so, the more efficient it will be to develop the training structures and materials you will need.
If people don’t know how to use a piece of software, there will naturally be mistakes in data entry, errors in following processes, and so on - in other words, potentially a bit of a mess. Members of your team who do not feel comfortable or competent using the new software are far less likely to adopt it fully and be committed to its success.
‘Training programme’ might sound a little bit concerning, we can almost hear you thinking, "How much work is actually involved in doing this?" The answer is, it really depends on the size and complexity of your organisation. If you are a small team, it’s likely you will be able to cover the required knowledge fairly easily. If your team is larger, and you have different people responsible for different parts of the process, then it could be more involved.
The below outline highlights some of the key considerations that we consider within our cloud application onboarding process, which we hope will help provide some possible structure for you to work to.
Who are you training?
Rather than starting with what you need to train people how to do, start by outlining who you will actually be training. By doing this, you’ll have a better sense of the degree of existing knowledge, technical competency and general readiness to adopt the application.
A common scenario we see in businesses is knowledge silos - where information about business processes is compartmentalised. This primarily occurs when multiple people are trained on different parts of the process. While it makes sense for most people to only receive training on the components of the system they will be using, you may like to think about nominating a single person to be a Champion or Hero who learns everything. This ensures that a single person knows all the ins and outs of the software and can provide further training internally when needed; or, step in if for some reason a team member is away from work.
What do they need to know?
By understanding who needs to receive the training you can get more clear about the knowledge they need to use the application effectively. This doesn’t just mean the actual buttons they need to click and the data they need to enter, it also means understanding the overall business process and the role they play within that. Apart from anything, this knowledge is important as it ensures that people appreciate the impact of any variations they may make within the process, but from observation and perhaps more importantly, it will mean that they more fully understand the value that they are adding to the business and be more engaged when it comes to adopting the software - they will see how it all makes a difference.
You are training people on the process not the software, so when thinking about the technical details of what they need to know about the software itself, try to do so in terms of the step in the process that the users are completing, not just the ‘functional’ description. For example, it is best to think about, ‘Preparing a GST Return’ as a process that may include several functional actions.
We specifically suggested thinking about technical competence above because not everyone needs to be an IT Whiz, but those who are not comfortable with computer and software technology will tend to have a slower adoption curve, and struggle more on an ongoing basis. Being aware of this allows you to design your training programme appropriately. You may like to provide a little bit of extra support and time with those less comfortable with technology, covering finer details that you may take for granted - such as logging in and out easily, resetting passwords (trust us, this can take up far more support time than is really necessary), or the process for preparing and uploading files.
How will you deliver the training?
Once you have a sense of who you are delivering training to and what they need to know, you can start to think about how this training will be delivered.
By and large, it’s worth preparing some documentation. This could be as simple as a numbered list of steps to perform within a process, or it could go as far as a document that includes detailed images and procedures. In some circumstances you might even like to consider video, or a piece of software such as Clarify.
You can also leverage reference materials provided by most application companies. They all tend to have great online resources that you can either refer people to using links, or use as a guide for your own custom instructions.
It’s most likely that your training will include some form of in person run through of the system. While it can be a little more difficult to achieve this in larger groups, it really is vital that those being trained operate the computer as much as possible, and actually perform the actions themselves. Showing people is not enough, they really need to click some buttons in order to learn properly. It makes the system real, and as with anything, familiarity leads to comfort. At the same time, it will highlight any steps in the process which are potentially problematic or less easily understood and that deserve further attention.
As you go, ensure that you take notes on where to amend any documentation you have prepared. An alternative that works well if you are training only a few people, is to prepare the documentation together as you work through the training.
How will you support your team as they learn?
Don't assume that you can show people things once and have that knowledge be absorbed and remembered forever. People may need refreshers both early in the adoption process and over time, plus of course there will be new team members who need training. You may like to have this 'On Demand', and let your team know to ask when they need it, or you may like to schedule some regular reviews.
There's also some simple things you can do to ensure that people don't get tripped up with common obstacles. For example, if there’s data that needs uploading periodically, then it’s recommended that you create a set of templates that can be used to do so. This drastically reduces the risk of data errors and uploading problems.
Not only will you find that your process gets refined or modified over time, but cloud software is subject to ongoing change, sometimes at quite a rapid rate. You need to factor in updating your team on these changes, which may be as simple as a quick email explaining the change, or more involved training. Additionally, not being able to easily adjust documentation in these scenarios will mean that it becomes outdated and won’t be referred to.
Remember, the aim here is to enable people to perform their roles efficiently using the new cloud application through training, not to perform their jobs for them on an ongoing support basis because they are not comfortable with the process.
What’s the difference between support and training?
At times the distinction between these two things can become confused, and the consequence is that a significant amount of resource can be used on providing ongoing support when more training is needed. As a general rule of thumb, if someone requires assistance with a task more than twice after their initial training, then we would suggest that indicates the need for additional training of some form.
If that scenario arises, you may also like to review your training information to ensure that it covers the required knowledge (there can be a difference between what you think people need to know, and what they actually need to know).
Training people on how to use new cloud applications is absolutely crucial. If you don’t, you will find that there are ongoing mistakes made, and many of the efficiencies the software was introduced to achieve will be lost. Training is something you can perform yourself with a little bit of time, but if you’d like some assistance we have an established training framework we use within our onboarding process, or can help to design a custom programme if required - just let us know.
Wherever you have reached in the cloud adoption process, training is quite simply one of the pillars of success. All the hardwork that has been committed to selecting and implementing a new piece of cloud software can be lost if it is not embraced by your team, so we highly recommend giving it the attention it deserves.