Why IT training makes business sense

Spending millions on new software or hardware doesn't make a jot of sense if no-one really knows how to work it properly.

We’ve all seen it happen, perhaps even in our own business: Millions are spent on new software or hardware, complete with big promises made by the vendor, and it sits underutilised and not fulfilling its promises because no-one really knows how to work it properly.

What’s more, IT integration is becoming increasingly complex, especially in the era of anything as a service (XaaS), and when staff isn’t properly versed on a product.  This poses huge problems for organisations. Unfortunately, due to the widespread knowledge gap among staff, organisations are struggling to realise the full benefits of their software purchases and are facing increased risks as a result.

To compensate for this internal knowledge gap, many organisations seek assistance from third party support teams, often over relying on these vendors. Of course, this over-reliance leads to increased costs, which is the last thing any organisation seeks when they purchase a product purported to save on such a thing.

Given all of these factors, training is becoming an essential component of any product’s value as particularly in Australia- an early adopter of new technology- the IT industry moves at a past face characterised by continual innovation. This leads to a need for ongoing training.

Businesses spend more than $60 billion on training in the US alone and more than 50 per cent of all dollars go into technology, tools, coaching, and other "non-instructor led" solutions.

Globally the cost is estimated to be around $135 billion. The good news however, according to recent iHR survey results, is fewer organisations anticipate their 2014 training budget will be greater than that set for 2013, suggesting an intent on behalf of organisations to gain better value for money from existing budgets.  

A good place to start

While the need to alleviate costs is widely recognised, many organisations don’t know where to start when it comes to how they assess internal and external training and its impact on maximising the return on their IT investments. Internal resources should always be utilised before outsourcing, especially when it comes to knowledge of products used in the workplace on a daily basis.

As a first point of call, organisations must reconsider the way training is delivered and look to offering IT programs that reflect the current roles and career objectives of staff. In reconsidering an alternative approach, organisations should also look to implementing role-based training, as not only will this yield a higher ROI but it will also align functional areas of expertise by cost.

After all, there is little value in teaching a high-cost resource to be effective in executing repetitive operational tasks.

Role-based training establishes role clarity for those being trained. As part of the program, education services vendors should ensure valid and viable training lifecycles are presented to the customer in order to set appropriate budgets for new and supplementary training. 

In July 2013, CommVault looked to demonstrate the value of training by conducting a test with a customer that had consistently reported high numbers of monthly training-related incidents. To bolster the customer’s knowledge on core product elements, CommVault sent the customer to a Fundamentals and Maintenance course for its Simpana product. After completing the five-day training session, the pre-training incident log of 17.5 calls per month moved to just 6.5 calls per month; a decrease of more than 62 per cent.

This delivered a saving of $5,000. Before taking the course, the operating cost for this particular customer was $8,000 per month, not including the cost impact of customer productivity losses and downtime.

In addition to delivering improved ROI metrics, increasing a customer’s product knowledge also yields other benefits such as better resiliency, faster operational productivity and a reduced time-to-value ratio, regardless of location.

The playbook for multinationals 

In the case of multinationals- where staff are trained across borders, there are a number of additional considerations that need to be made when reviewing training programs, the most important being a recognition of the need to adapt training programs to different markets.

This is a common oversight from multinationals that often roll out one training program internationally, taking a ‘one size fits most’ approach. This method fails to recognise that training processes and protocols vary greatly between international markets; particularly between Western and ASEAN cultures. One way to deliver market-relevant training programs is by allocating local trainers to each market who can impart their knowledge to staff of local customers.

In this way, cultural learning differences can be accounted for which in turn will help with the consistent delivery of content across borders.  As international enterprises adopt new programs and procedures, it is important that what a student learns from a course in New York is the same as if he or she had done it in London or Sydney, etc.  

In addition to aligning training programs to different markets and trainee learning styles, organisations must also be wary of some typical flaws that are built into education/IT programs, regardless of location.  The following details some of these pitfalls.

Beyond the basic elements of cost and content relativity, many organisations are guilty of training for the sake of training and vendor-training organisations often operate under the premise “if I build it, they will come.” Apart from being naïve, this approach fails to recognise that education is an ongoing, two-way exchange of information and ideas and therefore, as course catalogues expand, education services vendors need to continually provide fresh content aligned with the needs of the student community.

It’s important training programs continue to address current market needs so as to remain relevant in a customer’s education spend. Here's some final advice for reviewing training practices:

·         Innovate constantly

·         Never stop questioning performance

·         Always ask the customer if expectations were exceeded, rather than just met

·         Always action on feedback, whether it is good or bad.     

Robert Brower is Vice President of Worldwide Customer Support and Training at CommVault. 

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