CXO

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.

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