The broken world of end-user training

It has been a while that I promised to write about Product Training. I was interacting with the Client Training group in my company when I remembered the promise and also realized how the current model is broken.

The trouble exists both at the supply end of the chain and at the demand end. Let’s see. Like not too many poeple graduate wanting to become teachers, getting talented people to join client training is difficult. In most organizations Client Training is considered a cost center, which means it is pernnially under pressure to keep costs low. Consequently one trainer has to develop multi-product (or multi-module) skills. Now this thing works fine in primary school (geography teacher also teaches history) but in the professional world is a disaster. Training the trainers is mostly inadequate with the product teams’ unrelenting focus on shipping the product and then getting busy for either the next round or the sexy stuff like wine-and-cheese launch parties. 

On the demand side – at least in India – user attrition is a big problem. Teams of users leave and a new set comes in. The new set has experience of using Product B so now the company that sells Product A needs to come in and retrain. The problem exacerbates if the industry has many products catering to roughly  the same user group. 

Some organizations outsource training arguing the not-our-core-skill theory. The decision is fine as a standalone but when you look at the intricate interconnections between Product Management, Product Marketing, Market Intel and Training a big chunk of the intercdependant relevance goes away with the outsourcing. Some companies do a smart thing by imposing switching costs for their products in the form of user certifications. Unfortunately the execution of this strategy also ends up suffering from the same supply side problems I mentioned earlier.

Consider keeping training departments of product centric firms close to Product Management. Over a period of time, all training that has to do with historical and existing functionality should be moved from physical contact to digital delivery. Once that happens, the training module can actually be placed within the product and perhaps at a cost (That F1-for-help thing is actually training too, in some form). Alternatively, there are many different ways to deliver digital content to the user fraternity (yes, an i-phone version is downright innovative and outright sexy). At the end of the day the idea is simple – improve the content of the training and move away from traditional physical contact method of delivery.

Got other ideas? Let’s hear them.

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