The nature of training on enterprise systems

“How long will it take us to get completely trained?” I was asked recently.

“That would depend completely on your definition of ‘completely’,” I replied.

The challenge with enterprise products like TimeControl is that they can be configured to be so many different things for so many different people.  The strength of TimeControl is its flexibility.  This allows TimeControl to be a multi-purpose timesheet serving the needs of many different perspectives within the organization.  It can be used for time and attendance, time and billing, project management tracking, earned value, government compliance for R&D tax credits or the DCAA.  And all this from the same interface at the same time.

Yet not every organization is created the same.  Not every organization requires the same types of functions or tracking.  Even when two clients have a similar product to like to like SAP or MS Project, those products are not configured identically either.  So each implementation of TimeControl is often unique. Oh there are common elements but there are many elements that are different and not everyone even uses the same functionality.

What we’ve discovered here at HMS when we apply this challenge to training is that training is best done in layers.  The first layer or phase occurs during the original implementation.  If our technical staff assist with the implementation, we train the administration staff as we make decisions together on how to configure the system.  This has a high degree of success but does it mean that these administrators are “completely” trained?

If your definition is, “The administrators should be able to operate TimeControl in accordance with the configuration and existing processes we have defined at the time of implementation.” then the answer is Yes.

But, let the company advance for 6 months or a year even and we find that the level of maturity in the use of TimeControl in the organization is now such that the types of questions the client would ask have evolved.  Now there are questions on functionality that would have never been asked during the original implementation because the questions are now able to be understood or because the organization itself has evolved to have new timesheet requirements.

This isn’t unique to TimeControl.  We’ve seen similar phenomena when we look at project scheduling tools like Primavera, Open Plan or Microsoft Project Server.

Our view is that training should be an ongoing investment.  Do a little less on the first day than you’d expected.  Let that training soak in; be absorbed; be implemented in practice.  Then having a trainer come back or do another remote session for a few hours.  Use that to advance your own knowledge but also to advance the capabilities used of the software.  As new administrators come on board over time, they’ll naturally just take up training that is regularly scheduled.

Doing training in phases or layers ultimately gives the best return on investment.