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Systems Alliance Blog

Opinion, advice and commentary on IT and business issues from SAI
Keyword: training

Imagine you are an end user for a complicated application. You find yourself stuck - unable to finish your work because you’re unfamiliar with the operation you’re trying to perform. What resource would you turn to for help?

For most users today the next step involves a search bar – whether it’s a purpose built in house tool or the ubiquitous Google. They grab only the information they need to complete their work and move on.

Now put yourself on the other side of the table as the vendor.  Is the knowledge you just gave the end user a product of just in time training or is it application support?   If the content and the means of delivery are exactly the same, does it really matter what you call it?

Training

Two Sides of the Same Coin 

The only clear way to draw contrast between these two processes is the delivery timing.

Training is effectively Support that’s being delivered before users know they need it. It is the proactive introduction of information to end users before they understand enough to know what to ask. This needs to be delivered when users are learning for the first time or when there have been substantial changes in the way they utilize your products or services.

Support, delivered well, becomes both problem resolution and just in time training that happens to reinforce or refresh the user’s knowledge. It is the reactive delivery of information provided when users request it. With shrinking attention spans, it can often be difficult to recall every component of training after it’s been delivered.  Reinforcing previously learned material to apply knowledge, understand a change, or resolve an issue (self-help) would fall under support.

Three Things to Consider

In the emerging world of “Customer Success”, distinctions between training and support are subsumed into the greater objective of satisfying your customer’s requirements at the right time (right now) and making it as easy as possible.

With traditional training and support models being disrupted as they crash into one another, it’s important to start thinking about how your organization delivers content to end users. Here are three things to consider:

1.       Do you have the right tools?  Let’s jump back to our search savvy end users. Their expectations are high when it comes to tools.  If your tools aren’t as easy to use and as fast as the Google Search bar, they’re going to look elsewhere. If they’re not using your tool, is the information they get going to be accurate? Will that hurt your relationship with the customer?

At the same time, as your customer base grows, scalable and asynchronous delivery is generally cheaper to provide than a one on one interaction with the customer success team.  This doesn’t mean you can skimp on content or launch a poorly thought out self-help tool.  Substantial investments are still required to plan and execute or you’ll end up spending on both as users give up on using your self-help tools and call for help.

2.       Is your content structured correctly?  Boring, lengthy, and dated content that requires a substantial investment of users’ time is out. Short, informative, and search indexed content that is built for “microlearning” is in.  Give your users what they want and nothing more.

3.       Does your “training” inform your “support” and vice versa?  Your model has to be flexible enough to allow a continuous feedback loop. Input directly from end users as well as reviewing trending data from your ticketing system can drive improvements and help you determine what is the most important content to add, highlight, or refresh over time.  Failing to adopt an agile approach will decrease the value of the content over time.

Interested in learning more?

Ready to jump in and figure out how to better serve your end users?  Check out our website at SystemsAlliance.com to find more IT Strategy and Operations insights or visit Acadia-Software.com to learn how the Acadia Performance Platform is providing critical content to drive effectiveness at organizations like Mohawk Industries and Anheuser Busch InBev.​

 

It’s been over a year since the death of Freddie Gray in police custody sparked outrage and several days of riots in Baltimore. On May 23rd a verdict in the trial of Officer Edward Nero, one of a group of Baltimore police officers implicated in Gray’s death, was announced. That verdict was not guilty on all counts. But more interesting than the verdict was the judge’s explanation for his not guilty ruling.

One of the key questions was – did Officer Nero follow proper procedures during the arrest of Freddie Gray? That question centered on whether or not this police officer acted properly in helping to place Gray in the police van where he later sustained fatal injuries. The prosecution’s case against Nero was largely based on the fact that the Baltimore Police Department recently enacted a policy that arrested individuals must be seat belted when transported in a police van. Freddie Gray was not secured with a seat belt, which was considered a critical contributing factor to his injuries, and ultimately his death. This new policy was enacted shortly before Gray’s death and Baltimore Police Officers were notified via email.

At this point in the story, the facts ended and the questions began. Had Officer Nero read the email detailing the change in policy requiring suspects to be seat belted? Was he aware of the procedure for properly seat belting a suspect in a police van? The defense argued that Officer Nero had not checked his email and was not aware of the policy change or of procedures to seat belt suspects in police vans. The prosecution’s challenge was that the Baltimore Police Department did not have a process in place to verify that Officers read or understood policy changes. It was also apparently common for Officers to not check their email regularly. Bottom line, the prosecution could not prove that Officer Nero was aware of the change in policy requiring suspects to be secured with a seat belt. This fact was a key reason the judge cited in his not guilty verdict. Since the prosecution could not prove Officer Nero was aware of the seat belt policy, the judge ruled his actions were reasonable, not negligent or criminal.

That’s a profound sequence of events – gaps in effective process and a lack of audit trail for policy and procedure communication becoming critical factors in a high-profile, politically-charged criminal trial. To avoid a repeat of the process gaps surrounding the Freddie Gray case, the Baltimore Police Department has since implemented a technology solution to ensure that policy and procedure changes are distributed to Officers and an audit trail is maintained as Officers read and acknowledge that content. While technology is no panacea for a flawed process, it is an important component of creating an effective process.

Not a Unique Challenge

While this example of gaps in policy and procedure communication focuses on police, we see similar issues in other industries as well; healthcare is a great example. Just like the police officers who rarely checked their email, the same is fairly common among clinical staff in healthcare environments. These individuals – doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants – are not spending their day at a desk in front of a computer. So getting their attention via email is a challenge and acknowledgement of policy and procedure changes is often haphazard in these settings.  We’re actively working with organizations in the healthcare space to help address some of these challenges.

The Lesson

Whether the environment is a police department, a hospital, a manufacturing facility or even a restaurant, ensuring that critical policy, procedure and training information is distributed to staff, and an audit trail of their acknowledgement is recorded, are critical factors to minimizing risk and legal exposure. The first key component is having an effective business process in place to ensure that relevant content is accurate and up-to-date. Next staff must be educated on why understanding and following these policies, procedures, guidelines, and work instructions are critical to their own, and their organization’s success. Then we have to make it easy for them to comply and for us to keep track of their compliance. That’s where the technology comes in. To effectively enable this process change with technology, a platform with the following capabilities is crucial:

  • Web-based – the content you’re distributing should be accessible across any device that your staff may have available to them. Providing the content in a web-based format is the most effective way to ensure usability across the broadest array of devices possible.
  • Easy to use – if it’s difficult to find or access the content, your staff will not embrace the process. The platform you choose must be easy to use to make it simple and quick for staff to access the content, read/digest/acknowledge and get back to work.
  • Mobile-optimized – the individuals to whom we need to distribute content are not necessarily sitting at a desk in front of a computer, they’re walking the halls of a hospital, driving a police car or repairing a production line in a factory. The content must be accessible and optimized for use via smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices so that staff don’t have to stop and walk away from what they’re doing to access the critical information we’re making available to them.
  • Audit trail – in order to keep track of who has accessed and read the content, the platform should allow staff to acknowledge reading the content, with a permanent audit trail of that acknowledgement maintained by the system.
  • Quizzing – while acknowledgement helps to check the compliance box, it doesn’t really guarantee that the staff member read or understood the policy before acknowledging it. Distributing a brief quiz with a policy or procedure, and requiring staff to complete that quiz as part of the acknowledgement, helps you validate that the content has been read and understood.
  • Reporting – effective reporting to show managers which of their staff have/have not acknowledged critical documents or satisfactorily completed quizzes to demonstrate their knowledge.

I stress again that technology alone is not a solution to a process issue, but the right technology platform in conjunction with an effective change management process can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of an organization, and on the reduction of risk. We’ve gathered tremendously valuable information around these topics through hundreds of hours of interviews during the recent launch of our Acadia product. Call or send me an email and we would be happy to share information with you.

Too many organizations have made substantial investments in IT only to see those initiatives fail spectacularly despite their potential. Whether it’s a new ERP system, a cutting edge SaaS solution, or just a routine system refresh, your investments will be wasted if your staff doesn’t know how to best utilize the tools provided.

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