Recently, I heard some TV pundit say that the ups and downs of the stock market, if created in metal, would make a great saw.  In short, the pundit was telling us what we already know — the economy is in a quandary and doesn’t know where to go.  As our good friends at BNet are saying, it’s 1873 all over again.  Even with the world seemingly crashing all around us on some days, life must go on.  Businesses still have problems to solve and technology continues to be leveraged to solve these problems.  Moreover, tech companies continue to develop products and services designed to help companies meet their objectives.

As new versions of software come out in the marketplace, CIOs must continue to find ways to get staff trained on what may become mission-critical applications and services.  For example, Windows Server 2008 has been out for a while now, SQL Server 2008 is available, and Microsoft is prepping new versions of Office and desktop Windows.  Of course, Microsoft is not the only vendor out there; not by a long shot.  Every week, some new technology makes its way into our plans.  Plans are great at the CIO level, but until one of our real tech pros gets into new technology to figure out how it ticks, the plan will remain just than – a plan.

We all get a ton of mail from training vendors telling us about their latest and greatest courses on all sorts of new technologies, but with training budgets often the first lines to get the axe, money to send people away for days-long classroom training is much more difficult to come by today.  Here are some ways that you might be able to stretch that remaining meager budget a little further:

  • Look to your licensing agreements for opportunities.  Under Westminster College’s Microsoft Campus Agreeement, we get access to Microsoft’s plethora of online training courses that cover both the desktop and server spectra.  Although most of you won’t be under a Campus Agreement, these services can also be included in Microsoft’s other licensing agreements.
  • Get a subscription to O’Reilly’s Safari service.  Safari isn’t all that expensive, but you get searchable access to a ton of books by a number of publishers, including O’Reilly, IBM Press, Microsoft Press, Cisco Press and many more.
  • Consider buying prepackaged training materials.  There are quite a few vendors out there now that produce training materials — including certification materials — across a spectrum of products.  For example, TrainSignal creates Microsoft, Cisco and VMware courses (as well as others) that can be used to learn how to use products from these companies or pass certification exams.
  • Subscribe to TR Pro.  Way back in the day, all of TechRepublic for a pay-for-play site.  Today, most of the site is free, but you can still subscribe to TR Pro for some really useful goodies, including training materials on various products.
  • Learn to love Amazon.  I know I mentioned Safari earlier, but sometimes a real book is a great thing and it’s not all that expensive.
  • Find others that need the same training and split the cost.  We’re starting to do some of this in mid-Missouri with some of the training that we need for our ERP system.  Quite a few colleges in our area use the same system, so we could easily bring a trainer to one campus and have folks from other campuses join us and split the cost.

Hopefully, the economic issues that we face today will go away relatively soon.  Until that time, though, keep you and your staff well-trained.

Do you have any other ideas on ways that you can save on training?