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Designers' Challenge - Software Training when Software's in Flux


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Succeed at Developing Training when the Software is Under Development Your company is releasing brand new software to its customers and it’s your job to create the instructor-led training materials for a worldwide audience. The problem is the software is under development, functionality and the interface are volatile, the requirements, design and testing documents for the software are nonexistent and communication with subject matter experts is limited. Sound like an impossible task?

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Designers' Challenge - Software Training when Software's in Flux

  1. 1. D E S I G N E R S C H A L L E N G E - S O F T WA R E T R A I N I N G W H E N S O F T WA R E S I N F L U X
  2. 2. SO FTWAR E TRAINING WH EN SOFTWARE ’S IN F LUX Michaels & Associates Docntrain, Ltd. dba Michaels & Associates 11639 E. Wethersfield Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85259 USA Phone: 480-614-8440 Toll-free: 877-614-8440 Fax: 480-614-2775 Copyright © 2009 Michaels & Associates Docntrain, Ltd. dba Michaels & Associates. All rights reserved.2Page
  3. 3. SO FTWARE TRAINING WH EN SOFTWARE ’S IN F LUXS U C C E E D AT D E V E L O P I N G T R A I N I N G W H E NTHE S O F T WA R E I S U N D E R D E V E L O P M E N TYour company is releasing brand new software to its customers and it’s yourjob to create the instructor-led training materials for a worldwide audience. Theproblem is the software is under development, functionality and the interfaceare volatile, the requirements, design and testing documents for the softwareare nonexistent and communication with subject matter experts is limited.Sound like an impossible task? 3 Page
  4. 4. SO FTWAR E TRAINING WH EN SOFTWARE ’S IN F LUX How to Do It and Avoid the Pitfalls Let’s face it—most learning development managers would pack up their desk and contact a professional recruiter before taking on a project like this. The odds are heavily stacked against success. The thought of drowning in all the work, rework, late nights and other pitfalls trying to make the training a success sends shivers. But, you can do it with five-star results. Before you get started, take a deep breath and take solace in the fact that it’s not about how many hours you put in, how hard you work or how flexible and reactionary you are to changes. Rather, it’s about using a methodical approach to analyze, design, develop and deliver great training. Success is within reach if you follow these simple guidelines. 1. Align the right team 2. Determine your processes and procedures 3. Identify the needs of your entire audience 4. Get stakeholder approval 5. Develop in chunks4Page
  5. 5. SO FTWARE TRAINING WH EN SOFTWARE ’S IN F LUXAlign the Right TeamFailure to align the right team can result in a severe disconnect in the expectations for the training and to the desired learning outcomes. The rightteam consists of key stakeholders, subject matter experts (SMEs) and instructional designers who are savvy in determining the scope, projectschedule and direction based on input from the stakeholders and subject matter experts.Bribe Subject Matter ExpertsBuilding relationships with the right SMEs is paramount when developing instructor-led training for software that is still under development. SME bait(a.k.a. baked goods and other bribes of a similar nature) is a good waystart building rapport. At a minimum, bribing with bakedgoods ensures that people won’t run and hide whenthey see you coming. When people can connect orrelate to your plight, it is human nature for them towant to help. One way to help SMEs (and in thiscase, software developers) relate to your predicamentis to show them a diagram of your instructional designprocess. More than likely they will be amazed athow closely the instructional design and 5 Page
  6. 6. SO FTWAR E TRAINING WH EN SOFTWARE ’S IN F LUX systems design processes relate. Other things you can do to help turn the dire situation of limited time with SMEs are to educate them about the importance and value of the training and be conscious of their time. Build a schedule that both of you can live with, and prepare your questions ahead of time. You can even give your questions to the SMEs ahead of time, to reduce the ―face time‖ you spend with them. Identify a Point of Contact If for entertainment reasons you would enjoy watching your team run amuck, do not assign a point of contact. The havoc that follows might be worth the price of admission. On the other hand, if derangement is not the state you were going for, select a point of contact from the business side. This is the ―go to‖ person for your developers. This person should be able to find the answer to technical questions, coordinate and reconcile reviews and validate or approve changes to the materials. Make certain that the point of contact is committed to the responsibilities that come with this role. Getting answers to questions, reconciling reviews and making project decisions in a timely manner are essential to success and can take a fair amount of their time.6Page
  7. 7. SO FTWARE TRAINING WH EN SOFTWARE ’S IN F LUXDetermine Your Processes and ProceduresWrite a will to avoid probate and estate taxes before throwing yourself out of a third story window, or keep the project under control by using solidprocesses and procedures. Set up processes for project communications, analysis, design and development. Set up procedures for reviews, changerequests and versioning. Think of your processes and procedures as the rules of engagement for the project, and make sure everyperson involved knows and follows the rules.Allow Room for FlexibilityRecognize upfront that since the software is not complete, you may have to beflexible. Build into your processes and procedures the ability to develop out ofsequence. This way you can work on the parts of the software that are readyinstead of developing and then changing due to modifications in functionality.Fine Tune Your TemplatesWaiting to perfect your templates until after you begin development can resultin scrapping what you have and starting over with a new template. While you’rewaiting for the software to become somewhat stable, make formatting and usagedecisions about your templates. Then fine tune your templates to conform toyour design before you begin development. 7 Page
  8. 8. SO FTWAR E TRAINING WH EN SOFTWARE ’S IN F LUX Identify the Needs of Your Entire Audience You’ve heard it before – you’ve got to walk before you can run. The saying is also true when developing instructor-led training materials. To avoid the pitfalls of a poor design and ultimately poor training, you must first complete a thorough analysis. Start the analysis by identifying the needs of your entire audience. For instructor-led training courses, the audience extends past the learner and includes the instructor. When analyzing your learner and instructor audience, consider prior knowledge, motivations and abilities for both groups of people. Gain a Clear Picture of the Desired Learning Outcomes Armed with knowledge about your audience, it’s time to clarify what your audience should learn. Continue your analysis by determining the skills and attitudes you want your learners to acquire. To do this, first find out what customer problem(s) the new software product solves and the functionality it will have. Then, research the most important tasks learners need to perform to use the software effectively. Be sure to discover the level of competency required to define success. With this information, you should be able to compose well written learning objectives. Your objectives should be specific and describe a measureable behavior, the conditions necessary to perform the behavior and the desired level of competency. Make sure to get stakeholder approval for the objectives you write.8Page
  9. 9. SO FTWARE TRAINING WH EN SOFTWARE ’S IN F LUXDetermine the Instructional StrategyNow that you have well written objectives and stakeholder approval, it’s time decide how toteach the skills and attitudes you want learners to perform. Use your objectives to determineand create the best ways to present, practice and assess the material, but keep in mind thatthe more learners interact with the material the better they learn.Determine the Strategy for the Instructor GuideDuring the analysis, spend time finding out about the instructor’s prior knowledge,motivations and abilities. Then, put that information to use and decide how much informationand support the instructor will need to effectively teach the material. Design the instructorguide to include this information in an easy-to-find format.Get Stakeholder ApprovalDuring the analysis, design and development phases in the project, be sure to getstakeholder approval. This is so important because it ensures that everyone is on the samepage. Stakeholders know what they are getting and you know what you’re developing. Thenext page includes a checklist of guidelines to help focus your stakeholders review effortsduring the different phases of the project. 9 Page
  10. 10. SO FTWAR E TRAINING WH EN SOFTWARE ’S IN F LUX Review Criteria Questions to Consider Please use the questions below to guide your hands-on review. Your expertise and knowledge in the content area is important to the development of accurate and useful training materials. The responsibility of the reviewer is to assure that information provided in the materials is complete, clear, and accurate from a content standpoint and to assure that the materials are accurate and useful from a business perspective. Complete and Accurate Content User Experience  Do the tasks in the materials align with the desired learning  Are the materials easy to use or navigate? outcomes?  Does the overall design layout meet business needs?  Do the tasks identify what the user needs to know to be  Are the graphic or other media elements such as slides appropriate successful? and of reasonable quality?  Is there anything included that should not be included?  Is branding or use of logos correct?  Is the content technically accurate?  Is the content clear, concise and complete? Overall Experience Instructional Strategy  Can the learner apply the skills and attitudes taught in the materials immediately?  Is the presentation of the tasks in a logical order?  Does the mix of presentation, practice, activities and assessment fit well together?  Are the activities accurate and meaningful to end-users?  Do the materials adequately describe the systems and the job tasks?  Are all the procedures and instructions clear and accurate?  Are there cautions that should be included (i.e. about system data loss, risks to the company in certain types of sales or situations, etc.)?10  Do the materials offer useful tools such as a job aid or reference card where appropriate?Page
  11. 11. SO FTWARE TRAINING WH EN SOFTWARE ’S IN F LUXDevelop in ChunksOkay, now that you have stakeholder approval, you’re ready to start development. When software isstill in the development stages, the most effective approach to developing training materials is tobreak down your efforts into smaller chunks. Developing in smaller chunks allows you to be moreflexible because you can work as parts of the software become complete or more stable. Chunkingmay also create opportunities for you to reuse content in a different context.Store Content Chunks in a Central RepositoryKeep your project organized, manageable and accessible by storing your content in a centralrepository available to all team members. By keeping content in one place, it’s easier to assemble allof your learning chunks into a course when you’re finished.Polish the Graphics for Your Materials LastDon’t worry about getting polished screen shots early on. It’s a waste of time and you’ll end upredoing this work. Instead, wait until the end of the software development lifecycle when most of thebugs are fixed and the functionality and interface are mostly stable. 11 Page
  12. 12. SO FTWAR E TRAINING WH EN SOFTWARE ’S IN F LUX If you’re ever tasked with developing training for software that is under development don’t pack up your desk and contact a professional recruiter. Instead, follow these simple guidelines and deliver great training. Not sure where to start? Drop us a line and well be glad to get you started. Michaels & Associates — where tough training comes easy. toll-free: 877-614-844012Page