Five Components of a Good Training Program for Software Implementations

ArMand Nelson, Director of Retail Strategy, BTM Global

You’re planning a big software implementation, like an ERP or ecommerce solution, that will really catapult your business and service to the next level. You’ve selected the software vendor, the implementation partner, and allotted the employee hours and company dollars to get the project off the ground.

Then your implementation partner asks, “What is your plan for training?”

If you’re like a lot of organizations, you don’t have an answer. You were so focused on the immediate tasks that you didn’t think about change management: the training and communication needed to launch and sustain a successful project.

Keep reading to understand the major components of a solid training plan for your next software project.

Determine who needs to be trained, and how much
You have several different audiences that will need training, and the levels of training will be different. I think of audiences in four categories, though these will vary based on your organization.

IT Team: These individuals are responsible for configuring and troubleshooting the system before, during and after go-live. They’ll work closely with your implementation partner throughout the project.

Super Users or Subject Matter Experts (SMEs): These are daily users who will also be the “go to” contact for their respective departments after the go-live. They will need rigorous training as it relates to their department’s responsibilities, and be willing to mentor their colleagues. If you have a small organization, your Super Users may be the IT team.

Daily Users: They will need to know the system as it relates to their daily work and will go to the Super Users with questions. Plan focused trainings by department for this category.

Everyone else: This group may only need to know a little bit, such as a certain process that touches their daily work, or new terminology to get everyone speaking the same language with the new system.

Know your training plan
Do you need an online forum or manual that helps users when they get stuck? Will you use online training modules, or in-person sessions, or a mix of both? Factor in the training needs, time capacity and budget as you plan.

IT should be working closely with the implementation partner every step of the way to deeply understand the system and how it works and interacts with the rest of your infrastructure. IT will also need to know configuration, troubleshooting, and other aspects that are best taught either by the software vendor, the implementation partner, or another vendor who has expertise in training IT teams on the system.

Super Users will require formal training but should also have plenty of time to “play” with the new system. Train them on the basics – like terminology and navigation – and then let them look around, enter data in the test environment, and do relevant tasks. This is also a critical time for the implementation partner and IT team to get feedback from Super Users on business processes: Do they reflect real-life work? Does anything need to be tweaked?

As Super Users go through training and help refine the processes, think about what’s needed to train the daily users in each department. Of course, all final processes should be documented in the training materials.

As you near the end of the project, it’s time to begin UAT training for the daily users: User Acceptance Testing. Bring in a few people from each department to start running through the new business processes. The Super Users will have tested out the processes by now, but the daily users from distribution, merchandising, accounting, logistics and other areas will confirm that everything runs smoothly in real-word settings. Super Users may lead these sessions or partner with the trainers to do so.

Although training for the “everyone else” category comes at the end of a project, this project shouldn’t be a total surprise to them. For example, if terminology is changing, put up posters or communicate electronically that X now means Y. Begin educating teams early so they are not overwhelmed with a lot of new information all at once. When it’s time to do hands-on training for everyone else, your Super Users may be the trainers or you may use a vendor.

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Set realistic time and budget expectations
Documentation, training and testing will become an enormous expense if you don’t think through processes and goals ahead of time. Although pulling people from their regular work is a necessary but significant expense, not doing it can turn a six-month project into a nine-month one because the training gets delayed and loses effectiveness.

Even with all the testing in the world, processes will be tweaked once the project is live. Continue to schedule trainings as needed after the go-live and update materials accordingly.

Get everyone involved – and have fun with it
If you’re planning a large project that impacts most people in the company, add some fun to it! Have a contest to name the project, or offer trivia contests or comedy sketches that entertain and teach how the project will make people’s work easier. I’ve seen first-hand how change management paired with some marketing flair can capture a team’s attention!

Lean on your implementation partner
When it comes to training, a lot depends on the size, resources and skillset of your organization. Your implementation partner can advise on change management processes, connect you with training resources, and help shape best practices based on what’s worked in similar companies. But ultimately, training and change management is your responsibility. Make it a priority as you plan and budget for your next project.