Technology Training: Why We're In Hell - InformationWeek
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IT Leadership // IT Strategy
Commentary
12/19/2014
08:36 AM
Grumpy IT Guy
Grumpy IT Guy
Commentary
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Technology Training: Why We're In Hell

Is the problem the death-by-PowerPoint training that everyone hates? Or that our enterprise apps look worse than Keith Richards with a hangover?

10 Holiday Party Attire Atrocities
10 Holiday Party Attire Atrocities
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

I will cut to the chase. It is going to be 2015 in a few weeks. We are not even close to the "turn of the century." That was 15 years ago. Why are we wasting time and money this far into the 21st century "training" people to use Captain Obvious IT applications?

The source of my grumpiness: a slight change in ERP has created organizational histrionics. Train! Now! Touch every single one of BigCorp's users!

Why? Do we maybe have a problem with change? Sure, we used to have to teach people how to hold a mouse. But have we forgotten that we don't (or shouldn't?) hire people without computer literacy nowadays? If you cannot navigate the boxes of our ERP, maybe you somehow passed our HR "quality" hiring process by mistake.

[He said what??? See Crazy Tech CEO Quotes: 2014 Edition.]

Or maybe you dropped through a wormhole from 1995 and are having trouble adjusting to the 21st century. Quick! Where's the time machine? It would be easier to return you to the 90s than train you!

Either way, maybe you don't need to work here if we need to give you an hour or two of training every time the ERP gets updated.

Or maybe our apps suck.

Actually, they do. Some of our apps do suck. I will give you that. For instance, nobody is grumpier than I am about how bad the usability of our ERP is. Talk about a back-to-the-future moment: Our ERP requires Internet Explorer 7 and uses OCX technology. Right on, 1990s guy or gal! And it is very clear that some kind of screen scraping of a COBOL mainframe app was used to design the "Native Web App" that we now "enjoy."

So I guess apps are not completely off the hook.

Nobody seems to need to get trained on Amazon. Nobody needs to learn the Googles. My elderly parents seem to do OK with Facebook and their iPhones. Even an alien would probably be able to use Twitter. Well, maybe.

(Image: Matthew Simmons/Wikipedia)
(Image: Matthew Simmons/Wikipedia)

But this much is true. Not every app at our organization is as bad as the ERP. Some of them are pretty intuitive. And we still train people, put them through agonizing death-by-PowerPoint, and put together sloppy screenshots with arrows and circles that somehow assume that these arrows and circles communicate something more than "Kill me now before I have to train someone else in completely stupid-simple software and waste me entire day while people more or less ignore me!"

It is a waste.

If all corporate apps became as obvious and easy to use as Amazon or Google, maybe we could start to do something productive instead of sitting in corporate training, pretending to listen while Facebooking. If we could put 1,000 or 10,000 hours into making corporate IT as easy to use as an iPhone app, instead of costing the company 100,000 hours of wasteful employee training that doesn't actually need to be done for sentient humans in 2015, maybe we'd get somewhere.

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Grumpy IT Guy avoided historic disasters and clueless people while working his way up the IT ranks, but he retained his keen sense of humor. He now leads an IT organization somewhere in America, as part of the FBI's Grump Protection Program. Need advice? Send questions to ... View Full Bio
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jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2014 | 8:20:21 AM
Re: No amount of PowerPoint will save you
That kind of situation can really build animosity between sales/marketing and app dev. It is not healthy, but all too common.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2014 | 7:25:39 AM
Re: No amount of PowerPoint will save you
@jagibbons, I'm sad to admit this but I've heard "we don't have time to document the last changes just get it out the door" more than once.  It's funny because those late changes/updates/features are almost always the first things people ask about.  They get the documentation that was put together as the project was progressing and it feels incomplete.  The best part though is hearing the sales team sell those changes "well this is an undocumented feature that not many people know about".  That makes me cringe because the intention is often that the majority of the user base should know about it.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
12/30/2014 | 7:10:38 AM
Re: No amount of PowerPoint will save you
@SunitaT0, I'll agree with you that many times people just need a little reminder or a slight nudge to grasp a piece of software but I'm talking about entire SOPs put together into a PowerPoint presentation.  I guess the idea was that someone would watch the slide show as they did their job and follow it step by step for the rest of their career. I find that the slideshows rarely teach anything, they do inform but they are typically very surface level.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2014 | 1:41:13 PM
Re: No amount of PowerPoint will save you
Training using powerpoint can be helpful if the slides are easy enough to follow. Lets face it, when we take a course at a company, trainers assume that we already know 50% of the course. Simply nobody is going go wade you through the basics. In this case PowerPoint can be a boon and a curse. Used too much and you would ensure zero understanding of the topic, and if used too little would create knowledge gaps which are again very tough to deal with when a person actually secures a seat.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2014 | 1:38:27 PM
Re: change will equal training
@kstaron: the author is not wrong. Most people who undergo internships aren't upto the mark. They accomplish two things: firstly they don't secure a job, secondly they simply waste the time of the trainers. IT trainers have it the harshest. 
kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2014 | 10:14:05 AM
change will equal training
Whenever something changes, let's face it, somebody is going to need training. If there wasn't a need, you wouldn't need half the people staffing the IT help desk. Something intuititive to you is going to be alien to somebody else. In an ideal world the training could consist of a 1 page cheat sheet to make sure everything goes well combined wit a few minute video showing how it's done. After you make the app as easy and functional as possible, you need to do the same for the training. (Hint: powerpoint does not help you there.)
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2014 | 8:21:02 AM
Re: No amount of PowerPoint will save you
Documentation and training are parts of the overall project that often get cut when development falls behind (QA too). The result is a sub-par application with no materials to assist support and users. Sad, and preventable.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2014 | 7:55:05 AM
Re: No amount of PowerPoint will save you
@David, I've seen entire training manuals made in PowerPoint.  Not only does it not make things better, when over used it makes them much worse.  I remember standing behind someone while they flipped through the slides to find the part in the presentation that covered what they were trying to do it was a very painful experience.
Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
12/29/2014 | 3:25:14 AM
Re: Too true
"The goal should always be to build and deliver and application that doesn't require training. When I think of really well designed applications, tools like Gmail and TurboTax come to mind. The applications are intuitive and do their function really well. I know it isn't realistic for all applications to be super easy. It should be the goal we all strive toward."

Jagibbons, you are right about certain things and self sustained peoples. I know many people's are putting effort to learn themselves with the help of help tools. 
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
12/22/2014 | 3:46:10 PM
Re: Too true
...without proper ucstomer education how can they understand its operation and functionality.

The goal should always be to build and deliver and application that doesn't require training. When I think of really well designed applications, tools like Gmail and TurboTax come to mind. The applications are intuitive and do their function really well. I know it isn't realistic for all applications to be super easy. It should be the goal we all strive toward.
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