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Creating curriculum for rollout? What you need to know before you start.

June 12, 2012

I often consult with and assist clients in making decisions about which topics to cover in their Office 2010 rollouts. Before delving into the actual features, I like to ask the following questions to help guide us through the process of making the right decisions:

1. Who’s your audience, and what are their needs?

One size does not fit all. Culture, location, position, existing knowledge, work habits, and needs all play a critical role in choosing the right blend of topics to cover for each audience. Recently I spoke with a client whose attorneys do the majority of their own word processing. Compare that with another firm whose attorneys primarily live in Outlook and outsource all document production to their assistants, and you have two significantly different learning plans and training durations. These differences don’t just occur from firm to firm, but sometimes between offices, and even within departments. In your planning and analysis phase, do your due diligence! Focus groups and surveys are an excellent way to conduct needs analysis.

2. What are the business drivers of the firm?

Knowing why the firm chose to upgrade and what the new technologies they want to leverage are, will help ensure those topics don’t accidentally hit the cutting room floor.

3. How does the outgoing system work, how does the incoming system work, and what are the differences?

Relating the old to the new and focusing on the differences streamlines the time in the classroom.

4. Are there any third-party tools that replace native functionality?

Most of our clients have multiple products that plug into Outlook and Word to enhance functionality. Sometimes third-party tools “hijack” the native Word buttons, or alter the steps that need to be performed—such as converting a document from 2003 to 2010 format when a DMS is present. Another decision to make is whether to train your users on just the third-party tool, or to include the native. Understanding how third-party tools interact with the native product will help guide you through identifying additional curriculum changes you may have overlooked.

5. Does the new technology improve any processes?

New technology is supposed to help us work faster and smarter, right? Research and identify how this new technology could streamline existing processes to bring value to your training program. For example, the Group feature in Outlook in combination with the Schedule View helps me to schedule appointments with project members more efficiently and reduces rescheduling. In addition, using Lync and my webcam to connect with others makes meetings shorter and more efficient.

6. Are there any Best Practices that need to be reinforced during training?

Are users not saving their emails to the DMS? Are documents still not being styled properly? Maybe a little refresher is needed. Find ways to reinforce these skills during other exercises. For example, at the start of an exercise I may have students search for or use matter-centricity to locate an exercise document, or use the Search feature on the Start menu to launch applications.

7. What are the must have’s for rollout training, and what does continuing education look like?

By identifying the “must have’s,” we’re able to identify the “can wait’s.” The purpose of rollout is to get users back up to their existing skill level and minimize the loss of productivity. The purpose of continuing education is to increase productivity. Identify what can wait one-month, three-months, or six-months post-rollout, and develop your learning plans accordingly. Once the “must have’s” have been identified, separate them into two categories: things users do daily and things they just do once. For daily tasks, consider hands-on exercises. For one-time tasks, teach where to go to get instructions. Examples of one-time tasks include most default settings and personalization options.

8. What content do you have, what content do you need, and how much development time is involved?

If you’re going to spend ten minutes in training covering a new feature, and you’ll be writing that content from scratch, development ratios start at about 30 minutes per training minute and go up from there based on several factors. For a more accurate estimate of hours, include knowledge transfer time with a SME, testing in the new environment, and troubleshooting. What was once a 5-hour task could suddenly turn into a 10-hour task. Factor in the type of training materials needed—training guides, job-aids, eLearning.

9. When will your new image be golden?

Writing curriculum while the image is in beta gives you a good head start, unless that image drastically changes, forcing you to write a new lesson plan and update screenshots. Communication is the key. Conduct weekly huddles between the project manager, application integrators, and training team to communicate regularly about the status of the image, which features are final and which are still under development.

10. What technology challenges do you face, and what technology is available to overcome those challenges?

Due to backend requirements, having access to the new desktop in a live environment is often unfeasible. We see many clients utilizing a VM beta environment for training teams to test and write curriculum prior to going live. Some firms have also used a VMs as part of their preLearning strategy as “kick-the-tire” labs for their ends users.

There may also be more work than time in the day. Technologies that allow multiple people to work on different segments of the curriculum simultaneously—SharePoint or other technologies—can make the difference between hitting a deadline or coming up short.

I hope these questions will help guide you through the process of selecting the topics to cover in training that will most benefit your users and meet their needs.

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