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End user training – Whose job is it?


A $5000 dollar electronic "smart" board is accidently ruined when an adjunct instructor unknowingly damages it beyond repair when he writes on it with a dry erase marker. Whose fault is it? Investigation into the incident reveals that the instructor was assigned to the room to teach a class. No instruction was given to him regarding the use of a "smart" board or any indication that there was anything other than a normal dry erase board in the classroom. Further investigation reveals that several of these "smart" boards had been purchased several months earlier and deployed into classrooms - the only training being a link to an online manual. The "smart" boards were not that visually different from a normal dry erase board other than they had a brand on them and they were on stands that rolled around.

Who do you blame in this scenario? The IT department for deploying technology without adequate training and precautions, the academic unit for not providing training to its adjunct instructors, or the adjunct instructor for not recognizing that something was different about this board and should have asked before he attempted to use it?

I believe the answer to the question is all of the above and the answer to the question of who is responsible for end user training is - everyone.

Kind of like the saying that it takes a village to raise a child, I think that in order to maximize the use of technology in an environment, everyone needs to play their part. Like a parent, IT is often one of two parties that are responsible for the deployment of a technology - the other being the party asking for the technology. As part of any technology deployment plan I usually include two things; (a) initial roll out training and (b) defensive computing measures. What the heck are defensive computing measures? Let me explain.

Defensive computing measures are those actions taken, policies and procedures written and put into place that are designed to protect your technology investment. In the example given above, placing large conspicuous decals along the perimeter of the board warning against the use of the wrong kind of marker is a defensive computing measure. Other examples would be chaining computing equipment to furniture to keep it from walking off or using specialized keyboards in a garage to keep greasy fingers from ruining the input device.

At this point some of you might be thinking why should I care about deployment? It's enough to make sure that I provide the environment for equipment to be deployed and anything after that is the end user's responsibility. My answer is that IT has the responsibility to provide more than a stable computing environment. If end users are not productive with the tools that are provided, is there any value added by IT? Again using an old saying - If you give a man a fish you have fed him for a day, but if you give him a fishing pole you have fed him for life. I think that statement is missing something. It should say if you give a man a fishing pole and teach him how to fish you have fed him for life. IT needs to be the delivery mechanism for both the fishing pole and the training.

Now having said all that, let's get back to the fact that I said everyone has a role in end user training. I have the expectation that I will provide the fishing pole and the instructions on how to fish to my first batch of villagers, but I expect that any new villagers will be taught how to fish by their brethren villagers. In this vein, I expect to work with end using departments to ensure that they are prepared to train others and that they have a plan to do so. Technology deployment should be a cooperative effort after all. Lastly, I expect villagers to help one another and it is a wise organization that fosters a helping attitude amongst its employees.

Where the budget for end user training lies is more political than it is practical. Proper planning will make sure that training is a critical path item and who performs the training can be negotiated. I do not consider a project completed unless the proper instruction has been given, so making sure that it gets done is one of my shared tasks in a project plan. I don't get to sign off until I know it has been done - and done right.

In the grand scheme of things, having end users skillfully use the tools I deploy to do their work better and faster is what makes IT so satisfying. I'm not silly enough to think that every employee is going to do so or is capable of doing so (which is why you employ defensive computing) but my hope is that the vast majority will and maybe one or two might actually thank me for a job well done. The thanks aren't necessary, but sure are welcome.

32 comments
woodfordjoshua
woodfordjoshua

Corporations face major hurdles when training employees in-house. A lot of otherwise astute IT Professionals believe their users can and will get their information using the "Help" menu. Not only is using help menus inefficient, but studies have shown that users typically only use 13% of their software's capability. This means that users are not as productive as possible and that companies miss gaining maximum value from their software investment. BrainStorm, Inc. has compiled a list of common excuses and solutions for poor end-user training. It is a great resource and can be viewed at http://www.brainstorminc.com/images/email/whatsyourexcuse.pdf

egarnerit
egarnerit

I am an IT manager for a 130+ person architect firm. The IT department is expected to know how to use (and be experts) for every piece of software we have -- Software that they use everyday. The list is AutoCad, Photoshop, InDesign, Squiggle, Sketch-Up, all Office products, including Project. Fortunately I have one guy on my staff that all he supports is AutoCAD. He spends 20 hours a week doing "Help Desk" for AutoCAD, 90% of that is training the using, who by the way has a degree in Architecture, and the greatest majority of that, we have already produced "how tos" that no one reads. To add insult to injury, when every we hold a training, we are luck to have 5 or 6 people show up. We are therefore, repeating ourselves multiple time not only to multiple people, but often the same person. Story - we had one person that had a special printing situation that would arise every 2 to 3 weeks. I figured it out for them, showed them the proceedure, whatch them write it down, just to have them ask me to help the again the next time. This occured over a dozen times, where as, she would not even try, but just email me and state that she was needing to do that special printing again. So is this normal/reasonable?

hcetrepus
hcetrepus

This statement is only good if you assume that it is true. Training by IT is fine and dandy IF there is a reasonable allotment of time for it. I grow tired of seeing instructors (I work in education) go to the latest conference, and come back wanting to order 1,000 dollar software, or buy the latest fancy new peice of equipment that will revolutionize how they will be able to reach their kids, and then look at me bewildered because I don't/can't drop what I'm doing and figure it out for them. A greater repsonsibility must lie with the end user, especially in the example given. There has to be a line drawn somewhere. We have a MOUS instructor that wants to have help given her on how to use Office products 0_o I am a teacher at heart, I enjoy training but to a degree. I have other things that I am actually PAID for to accomplish. Another example. Dept A ordered some new fandangled time clock software, complete with the ability to either swipe a card or enter a personal PIN number to track time down to the second. I installed the software and delivered the product: This wasn't good enough. I needed to stop what I was doing, study the manual, learn how to use it and THEN explain it to them. I simply don't have the time to do this. I have no special training that teaches me to "learn software applications" any better than they could have, had they chosen to sit down and read it. These are more educated folks than I am, making nearly double what I am. I feel like I run around and spend all my time tying shoes and sharpening pencils. I am all for having a designated IT staff/member who's sole role is end user training, but putting on yet another hat is stretching me too thin.

WKL
WKL

I blame the smart board manufacturer for making a product that is so similar to a regular whiteboard that it isn't obvious to the typical hung-over zombie coming to work in the morning, for not posting warnings all over it to not write on it, and for making an expensive product that is so easily damaged if you do write on it. It really isn't anyone else's fault, IMHO. They're also at fault for contributing to a culture of finger-pointing and blaming, which the author of this article is also promoting.

arthur.bonilla
arthur.bonilla

where did training come into the job description. That is a whole 'nother job to do it properly. In my shop we have two training officers who should be but are not tasked to do that kind of training. Often IT is thought of the logical choice for that selection but if they are not trained trainers then it can complicate the issue especially with computerphobics. IF and thats a big IF, the IT dept. is granted a position for an instructor then all is well, if not then it's just more mission creep for a normally understaffed dept. Leadership at the top must make training a dedicated process in order for it to succeed. I'm either hired as a trainer or as IT not both, unless the job description calls for it and we are paid accordingly.

verd
verd

I blame Hillery Clinton, after all she wrote the stupid book about how it takes a village. Someone should have shown the idiot how to use the thing or at least given him the manual.Why is this so hard to understand? He sounds like the guy at the auto shop whose computer was making a weird sound so he sprayed WD-40 inside it and wondered why it stopped working. IT people should train end users, and why not? As a network consultant you can make more money that way by charging for the time. See it does not take a village to do that. And NO it does not take a village to raise a child. Stupid concept thought up by a stupid liberal BIMBO. Poor analogy

Absolutely
Absolutely

The "smart" board should have a cheap, disposable writing surface.

Ralph Skinner
Ralph Skinner

I.T. staff generally do not do good training. 1.) Computer users think that we speak in computerese/jargon and disengage. 2.) People remember best when presented with the information as they need it. I.T. is often too busy to give the thorough sit down and discussion for this. 3.) That being said we are called upon to do training. My preference is for regularly scheduled training times that focus on the top two or three issues requested by management or driven by help desk data. It depends on identifying and skilling up the power users in each department so that there is a go to person who is a colleague/peer and understands the specific context of the computer as used in that job. Training is also a part of implementation and support. Yet, the organisation should be reasonable in its expectations: I have had to train sales people that were hired with no PC experience to do a job that was at least 30 percent computer based. If the job requires the skill it should be part of the hiring specification or there should be a training department to train the unskilled up. The customer should be briefed whenever equipment is issued. If the item is a workgroup or comany wide item, then, everyone whole departments would be invited to training. At the very least, brief the department managers and power users then leave them to brief the others. When new equipment arrives it is I.T. who should acquaint themselves by reading the manuals. Then, make list of any operational, warning, note, hint and tip type comments from those user guides. This compiled list will contain the topics for the customer briefing. A copy of this should left with the user after the briefing. Also, be sure to give a copy of this to the help desk along with troubleshooting or operational diagrams. Deskside training has often been a hot topic. At one company, the director of marketing told me that training the end user was the number two priority for the I.T. department. Priority one being to assure the telecoms lines and servers were up and running. He went on to tell me that I.T. couldn't present information to small groups because, in his opinion, the training needed to be one-on-one. So, the I.T. department must provide 15 - 30 minutes of deskside assistance per user at least once per quarter. The topic of the training was to be selected by the user and delivered at a time convenient to the user. The problem with this was: 1) 15 - 30 minutes of presentation per user per quarter multiplied by the number of users meant that my staff was expected to spend approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of I.T's available scheduled hours per quarter doing training ad hoc user training sessions. (2) For some user selected topics the I.T. presenter had to spend another additional time preparing the tutorial / lesson (3) and because the users drove the topic and the time they often cancelled the sessions and it would be up to I.T. to accomodate. It was I.T.'s responsibility and we were being held accountable for that training even if the users claimed they didn't want any training or didn't have time for the training. (4) I.T. was initiating the interaction and users played this up by scheduling odd times and cancelling or playing stump the I.T. guy (measuring the I.T. guy on his knowledge of the equipment, software, and how it applied to the specific job / training request). This was great for the training of the I.T. staff but a considerable waste of time. People do not learn best while being distracted by their workspace (phone, people dropping by, and/or while their work colleagues are eavesdropping). If I.T. is responsible for end user training, then, outside the initial product briefings and orientations, help desk data should be used to direct training topics. In my experience offering a regularly scheduled weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly training topic for a maximum of 8 - 10 users also works. The Tech Republic Lunch and Learn series is a good start. But, on top of this, it is up to the managers and H.R. to hire computer literate and motivated people. I have heard users use lack of training as an excuse for not meeting deadlines or doing work that was expected of them. Sometimes these excuses were given even after the user had been trained. "I couldn't file my report via Lotus Notes because no one has ever shown me how to do a file attachment". So, my advice is to be sure to establish a good orientation program for new comers and be sure that it is consistent. We don't mind helping but we do mind taking the blame. If you have a question about how to do something don't wait until it is a problem to tell us about it. Let us know and, then, we will find the time to work through the problem. Whatever you do, if you are working in a blame culture, be sure to develop some way of recording the training and keeping that in the I.T. department or even better yet -- if there is a formal record of training elsewhere -- feed it back to the the unit/line managers and/or H.R..

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"The 'smart'? boards were not that visually different from a normal dry erase board ... Who do you blame in this scenario? ... or the adjunct instructor for not recognizing that something was different about this board and should have asked before he attempted to use it? I believe the answer to the question is all of the above..." I don't know what an adjunct instructor is (or a 'smart board' either), but if it looks like a regular white board, how can he or she be expected to share the blame?

dholowiski
dholowiski

Reading through this blog posting, I wonder if the ?smart? board in question is a genuine SMART Board? interactive whiteboard or one of our competitor?s products, which are sometimes incorrectly referred to as "smart" boards. The surface of SMART Board interactive whiteboards is both compatible with high-odor, dry-erase ink and ideal for displaying a high-quality projected image. (SMART doesn?t recommend using low-odor, dry-erase markers, including markers that smell like strawberry, vanilla or chocolate.) Being able to write on SMART Board interactive whiteboards has always been an important feature for our customers. Some customers use our product in Non-Projected mode, which allows them to write on the interactive surface with dry-erase markers and save their notes on their computer. However, many of our customers also use a projector, in addition to using dry-erase markers on the interactive surface. You can clean a SMART Board interactive whiteboard the way you would clean a standard whiteboard: wipe the interactive surface with a whiteboard eraser or a dry cloth. If residue?sometimes referred to as ?ghosting??remains on the interactive surface, use glass cleaner such as Windex? household cleaner or Expo? White Board Cleaner. For stubborn stains, you can use isopropyl alcohol (IPA). Visit www2.smarttech.com/kbdoc/1414 for more information about cleaning this product. Although we discourage using permanent ink markers on our interactive whiteboards, you can remove permanent ink from the interactive surface by writing over the permanent ink with a high-odor, dry-erase marker, and then the wiping it off. Visit www2.smarttech.com/kbdoc/77938 for more information about removing permanent ink. SMART understands the need for customer training and provides a number of training materials at http://smarttech.com/Trainingcenter, including Live Online Training several times daily for all of our products. Our Maintenance and Troubleshooting sessions include information about cleaning your SMART Board interactive whiteboard. If the ?smart? board you?re referring to is a SMART product, you can contact SMART technical support. We?re happy to provide you with guidance for cleaning your interactive whiteboard. Dave Holowiski SMART Technologies Team Lead, Technical Support Hardware, Front Projection SMART Board interactive whiteboards and accessories www.smarttech.com/contactsupport Support +1.403.228.5940 or Toll Free 1.866.518.6791 (Canada/U.S.)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

New user, posts the same link multiple times, is located near the company, barely on topic. If you're going to promote a company, how about clearly stating your relationship?

kpennington
kpennington

Business should identify and manage training champions who deploy and provide training support to the business people. They know the business, speak the language, know what the outcomes should be. Business should be responsible for identifying what IT will assist it to meet business outcomes and provide the appropriate training and support. IT gets it in to the environment and makes sure it works/backed up/supported/performs. Business is responsible for making sure it delivers value and business outcomes. Champions agree an SLA with the business with regards to training and support, charge them for time wasted, accredit those who have received training and provide the licenses/access. No license/access without training. IT is supposed to be moving to a service orientation. Treat your IT department like a service company. Know what you do, and do that well. IT provided to the business without training is a total waste of time. The business is 100% responsible for training. Business has become lazy since advent of IT departments.

hcetrepus
hcetrepus

It is the norm, but it is certainly not reasonable. To have to teach someone with a a degree in architecture, out earning your support staff what, 10 times? Is just silly. I do very similar things here every day.

arthur.bonilla
arthur.bonilla

It is the Norm. Unless as I stated in my original reply you have someone who is properly trained as an instructor then you will continue to go through that hassel. One thing...follow-up, follow-up and do it some more. re-enforcement just after teaching, it goes a long way. If you ask your designated trainer "did he/she light the light bulbs over their head and they say no, then the information was not imparted to the "student" or you need to designate a new trainer. A trainer who is good at what they do has "tools" in their toolbox that take time and great effort to develope and to drop that on an IT shop unresponsibly is a gross injustice to the IT shop and their valuable work.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

"Story - we had one person that had a special printing situation that would arise every 2 to 3 weeks. I figured it out for them, showed them the proceedure, whatch them write it down, just to have them ask me to help the again the next time. This occured over a dozen times, where as, she would not even try, but just email me and state that she was needing to do that special printing again." I don't think it's either normal or reasonable, but I'm probably not a good judge of normal. It has gotten to the point with my client that I just reply to his emails with "google is your friend". I think he is finally beginning to get the message. I know our IT department complains a lot about several staff members/instructors who act in similar fashion to your 'one person'. Maybe it is just sheer perversity.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

"I grow tired of seeing instructors (I work in education) go to the latest conference, and come back wanting to order 1,000 dollar software, or buy the latest fancy new peice of equipment that will revolutionize how they will be able to reach their kids," It isn't the equipment or software that is going to reach the kids anyway, is it? It is the instructor and his/her methodology. The rest is icing on the cake.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

that is a sub-department tied to IT. It is their job to provide a variety of media, including computers, document projectors, DVD/VCR machines, TV's, 'smartboards' along with training in how to use and not use the various media they supply. This is likely not true for a variety of companies.

AlphaW
AlphaW

Not sure when this happened, but one day IT staff became responsible for training everyone on every purchase. At a previous company I had to go to the CEO to stop the managers from hiring new assistants that knew nothing about Outlook and MS Excel. They would hire, then dump the people onto IT to help them get their jobs done.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm a lousy trainer. Fortunately, I know it. I can develop plans, rehearse my material, set up the room, test any needed equipment; I've got all the preparation skills down cold. Don't ask me to explain something more than twice. I only know a couple of ways to explain something, and then I lose patience. I'm not upset at person asking the questions, I'm frustrated that I can't effectively get my point across. Unfortunately, both appear the same to an outside observer, and it looks like I'm mad at the student.

raintree
raintree

She only made use of it. Not liking a person who used a concept does not invalidate the concept. The author was simply trying to point out the idea that, in any group or organization, it takes working together toward a common goal to get anything accomplished in an effective way. It's probably impossible to come up with an analogy that someone is not going to like.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

She may (or may not) be a stupid liberal bimbo, but I can't help but wonder how much attention you've paid to what she's said when you can't even get her name right.

clippership
clippership

Or as the Prototypes say, "Who's gonna sing?" (read: help) that customer create an email account as they apply at Target? Even though computers have been with us for a generation (25 years) What can we learn from this?

hcetrepus
hcetrepus

There isn't a white board on the planet I know of (Smart or dumb) that encourages the use of permanent ink markers. It's an end user function (i.e. the human capacity to read/reason) that is to blame for getting their permanent ink markers mixed up with their dry erase markers. It's not about the board, its about the Pens

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I am an 'adjunct instructor'. Adjunct is some sort of 'ese' for part-time. Probably a term instituted to attract faculty that otherwise wouldn't be interested due to inadequate pay, complete lack of bennies, sh*t assignments, and that freaking elitist mentality that permeates the institution which is education in America. To put it badly - a 'smartboard' is a 'mimic' of a computer monitor in large size with a variety of interesting and useful touchscreen-like embellishments. A screen keyboard and mouse (fingers) are available, a variety of colors for writing/drawing are available; a smartboard is a very useful classroom gadget. A monitor image is projected at the smartboard, but unlike a common projection screen, a very high level of user interaction is possible due to the aforementioned enhancements. Admittedly I am technically inclined, but I find it difficult to believe that someone - a teacher in particular - can EASILY mistake a smartboard for a whiteboard. They are noticeably different. Noticeably different visually. There are buttons on a smartboard. And yes, EVERYONE is to blame. The 'adjunct' for not knowing what his/her classroom was equipped with as well as not paying attention to the [nearly] obvious difference between a smartboard and a whiteboard, IT Tech Support for not knowing that some real (though 'well-papered') dipsticks work in the classroom, and whatever staff runs the faculty orientations (which are required periodically). Er, ummm... the academic department that hired the adjunct. Caps for emphasis-yeah, I gotta figure out those tags...

Jim.Thomas
Jim.Thomas

We do own a SMART Technologies SMART Board, with the OptiPro surface. And while the user manual initialy tells you how to clean dry-erase markers from the screen, in Appendex A: Using an Interactive Whiteboard without a Projector, this note is found: "Warning If you own a SMART Board interactive whiteboard with OptiPro disregard this section. The OptiPro surface is optimized for use with a projector and should not be marked with dry-erase ink." We also had and issue recently where some consultants used this SMART Board as a dry-erase board. While I was finally able to remove most of the ghosting of the markers, it definitely did not remove as easily as a regular white board. I will be sending out an e-mail to the department reminding them of the proper use of the SMART Board and to monitor the usage of it by our visitors. Jim N. Thomas Educator Information Technology Department Children's Health System Birmingham, AL

hcetrepus
hcetrepus

This assumes too that the folks getting the training actually want to learn. Is the individual in the example that incoherent to perform the print job his or herself? Or is the real issue they feel they shouldn't have to? I have both instructors and deptartment heads that have told me it is MY job to back up THEIR data. How should they know what they need to back up? It's really that bad. Ever see the video of the two people on an escalator, and it stops as they are half way up? They just look around and begin to yell "Help!"... "Will someone please help us?" And they moan and groan, and just stand there waiting on someone to turn it back on. Thats my (our) world, everyday.

arthur.bonilla
arthur.bonilla

but, the lines of responsibility must be known, accepted and adhered to if you want to work together. Ultimately it is the responsibility at the TOP to make sure people/departments work together. It is also the responsiblity at the TOP to make sure if you implement something that it will work. Supervision may not have to install it, train for it, promote it, etc..., but if it makes the investment choice make sure ALL the departments contribute what they are supposed to do. Put work where it is supposed to go. Managers often forget the job responsibilities of their subordinates and give the work responsibility to most likely suspect!!. It boils down to getting the work out of your people and being consistent and thorough with your expectations and follow-up, follow-up and follow-up some more.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Dry erase pens won't come off a smart board either. An aforementioned well-papered dipstick destroyed a smartboard on my campus by writing on it with dry erase markers. This was a smartboard that had whiteboard on both sides of it, was framed so as to noticeably stand out from the whiteboard, and had a different 'ledge' for holding the specialty pens, which were in the ledge. Oh, and the buttons on the ledge. Sheesh.

pam.rickey
pam.rickey

I don't know what kind of smartboards your campus has, but the ones we have at our college are definately NOT easily distinguishable from a regular whiteboard. Yes, there are a couple of things that would tip someone off who knows about smartboards, but I doubt anyone who has not seen one before would recognize the difference. In fact, I would say the manufacturer went out of the way to make it as much like a regular whiteboard as possible. Even the electronic "markers" are made to look like regular dry erase markers. I don't see how any blame could be attached to the adjunct instructor. Why would he think to ask about a whiteboard in the room?

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

there are instructors, department heads, and a variety of other staff members on my campus that assume the same about our IT staff. Ridiculous. My data, my responsibility.

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