Five Components of a Good Training Program for Software Implementations

Kimberly Berneck, President and CEO, 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, troubleshooting, and supporting 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 during and after the go-live. They will need rigorous training as it relates to their department’s responsibilities, system capabilities, and business processes, 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 throughout the project phases. 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, store operations, marketing, 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.

A note on lifecycle training: Regardless of your audience, consider whether they need a one-time training program or a longer term training lifecycle. If someone needs to learn a specific task, a training program may be most appropriate. But if your goal is a knowledge transition and building experts within your organization, you’ll need a more in-depth approach that covers business processes from end to end. This is especially important for business processes that are evolving or changing or there are new capabilities being provided; give your team the information and tools they can re-use and enable their own teams to grow and the time to continue training and become more knowledgeable with the new system.

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 skills 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.

Here at BTM Global, we partner with all our clients on their training approach. Typically, we identify scope areas and operational support areas to train on prior to a production go-live, as well as plan knowledge transition over a certain timeline. We assess whether they have the resources with the right knowledge and skills to accomplish life-cycle support on their own, and whether those resources need additional training. Based on those assessments, we prioritize trainings that get the client the quickest wins, along with which areas they own and we own. We put together a plan with checkpoints along the way, ensuring a collaborative knowledge transfer and reliable support for the rest of their organization.

Ultimately, training and change management is a key to any project’s success. Make it a priority as you plan and budget for your next project.