Vendor-Created End-User Training: A Lifeline or Just Enough Rope to Hang?

 Donna Bailey, Instructional Design Specialist, MasterControl Inc.

So you’ve implemented a new software system, and you’re supposed to go live with it in four weeks. It has taken you months to get to where you are: months bordering on a year. You’ve had to let some of your normal job responsibilities slide because of how much time this implementation is taking, but it can’t be much longer, right? You go through your checklist: Is the system configured the way you need it to be for your company? Check; or at least you think so. Are your documents imported and easy to find? Check; well, you can find them, but you honestly don’t know how your end users will find them. Do you have a support group at both your company and the software provider on the ready? Check; kind of. The people in your group went through the same training as you did so that means they know at least as much as you do, and you have a business card from the software trainer and the number for tech support if something goes wrong. Have you developed and distributed the end-user training? Hmmmm, no. Well, that can’t be too hard, right? Just take a couple of screenshots, write some steps, and bang—you have end-user training.

Only that isn’t what happened because creating training is a lot harder than it looks. Now it’s down to the wire, and you’ve trained only half of your employees. Those you have trained are struggling and can’t find or do what they need; and they’ve locked themselves out of the system, so you have to reset their passwords now; and you haven’t even thought about how to train your end users in other locations; and you’ve been holding for tech support for fifteen precious minutes only to be told your system is working fine, and that it’s not your system, it’s the configuration; and the trainer you emailed is training and can’t talk to you; and those in your group are busy doing their jobs like you’d like to be doing if…and, and, and.

And now you’re stressed. Your boss tells you, “Hey, that’s what it’s like to implement a new system. Good luck with that. We’ll be ready for our go-live date, right?” And you know “yes” is the only answer she’s expecting.

Pros vs. Cons
But what if the provider that created the software created the training?  Would that ease most of your worries? Here are some pros and cons to consider:

PRO: Less Stress. You have enough to worry about with implementation. If there’s already training available, use it. Why recreate the wheel?

CON: Generic. The training isn’t designed specifically to the rights you’ve set up in your system. Also, it doesn’t have your documents, your logo, or your name anywhere on it.

PRO: Built by Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). The SMEs who created the training know more about the system—and have more experience using it—than you do. They know what each end user needs and how to build on previous knowledge.

CON: Too much Training. Users may receive more training than they need because the training has not been adjusted to your configuration.

PRO: You don’t have to do it. Enough said.

CON: No help. If users have questions, where do they go for help? Do you know the material well enough to answer their questions? To offer one-on-ones? If you had created the training yourself, you would know the material well enough to address any questions for concerns. In theory.

PRO: Ready now. If you’ve identified users who will be using the system a lot, and you could send them to training today to give them the next few weeks to practice, shouldn’t you? Then when you roll out training to the rest of your users, you’ll have other champions that can help them adjust to the new system.

PRO: Watch it. You’ll be able to watch the training yourself and become more familiar with what end users are likely to experience and where there might be hang-ups. You’ll also be able to create guides for those trouble areas if the software company hasn’t already created them. 
You can probably guess which side of the fence I live on. I’m not suggesting there won’t be a need for some classroom training or even a WebEx or two, but if the software provider whose system I’m implementing has already created training, you better believe I’m taking it. I’m going to watch it, see where I can add to it, and roll it out to a few heavy users for feedback. Then I’ll make adjustments and roll out training on go live to everyone else. I’ll be ready with guides, one-on-ones, and whatever else I think my users will need. Most importantly, I’ll be able to make the guides and have the time to focus on my users because I didn’t have to create the training myself.

Ultimately, I’m looking for a successful implementation, but a large part of that success will depend on whether or not my users have succeeded in handling the system. And having the end-user training already created is just the kind of lifeline I look for when I’m deciding on a system. How about you? Have you ever used vendor-created end-user training? If so, what do you consider to be the pros and cons?  

Donna Bailey, MasterControl instructional design specialist, trains system administrators in configuration and introduces clients to MasterControl. As an instructor, her focus is on clear, meaningful education for all users. Donna, who joined MasterControl in 2011, has extensive experience in online training and technical writing. She was at the forefront of online education through the college systems in San Diego and has conducted online training for companies in various industries for the last six years in Salt Lake City. She has an MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and a BA in English. Donna develops course content for MasterControl’s new online end-user training program, MasterControl University On-Demand. Donna and MasterControl’s education team offer a wide array of educational services and resources, including in-person software training at MasterControl’s U.S. and European education centers, onsite training at customer facilities, live or recorded training, continuing education, and a free sysadmin certification program. 
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Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of his or her employer, GxP Lifeline, its editor or MasterControl Inc.