The company I joined several years ago was in the middle of a new system rollout when I came on board. The existing system was manual. Bank tellers used typewriters and modified adding machines to process transactions, open accounts, and perform account maintenance.

The new system automated the entire workflow with the rollout completed in two phases. Teller machines were replaced in the first phase, and then we replaced the customer service machines in phase two. The complete rollout, which covered about 600 offices throughout the southeast United States, took approximately three years to complete.

If you have ever participated in a rollout, you know that countless months of planning can’t prepare you for everything involved in this kind of project. The training department must be involved early on in the process and stay involved throughout. These tips for what training should be doing during each phase will help you stay informed and involved if you are responsible for training during a rollout.

Getting in on the planning phase
Training should be involved from the very beginning. Training managers should have input on the design of the new system, and help with testing and scheduling. To create a successful training plan, the training department must know how to use the system, be aware of any deficiencies in the system, and be involved with planning the rollout schedule.

The creation of training materials is very important. They should include objectives of the rollout, benefits of the new system, and a step-by-step guide on how to use it. Trainers should be familiar with the old system to enable them to make comparisons and sell the benefits of the new system.

As part of the rollout, you will need to create a training center if you don’t already have one. We worked with our vendor and our regional trainers to determine equipment needs, including whether we would be able to deploy temporary equipment in some offices.

The initial rollout schedule was very aggressive, and it was modified several times during its three-year duration. This break allowed the training department to reevaluate the plan and make modifications.

Responsibilities during the training phase
During the training for the rollout, the training department had to manage train-the-trainer training, keep training materials updated, and provide support to trainers and users.

Training the regional trainers was a large part of the process. They had to be trained far enough in advance for them to go back to their regions, prepare their training materials, practice on the system, set up their training center, and schedule classes. They also needed time to review the system, ask questions, and then adjust the class to reflect the workflow. Scheduling classes was a big challenge. We had several branch offices train together so that we had enough trainers to cover the classes. There was a computer-based training (CBT) module that tellers could use, and, to save time, many trainers made the two-hour module a prerequisite.

Providing support after the rollout
After the training was completed, the department’s role shifted to support. Initially, support staff worked on-site to answer questions and provide user support as each office went live with the new system. Support personnel had more thorough training, and some had taught a class or two to obtain a more in-depth knowledge of the system.

Updating training manuals was an ongoing task. As the rollout progressed, software upgrades, modifications, and enhancements took place. The training department updated the training materials and distributed these updates to the regional trainers. The regional trainers made sure everyone was aware of the changes.

During this phase, trainers also monitored performance and looked for retraining needs in part by reading help desk logs, which tracked problems ranging from the system not working to a user requesting help with a particular function. I used the logs to look for system misuse and to identify retraining opportunities. Any system misuse was addressed immediately with the regional trainer, who contacted the office to answer questions and retrain users. When someone called because they needed help performing a routine task, I identified this office to the regional trainer as a retraining case. The regional trainer would then spend a day in the branch giving a review course.

Ongoing responsibilities
The training department’s participation is very important in all phases of a system upgrade from start to finish. If trainers can provide input to all parts of the project, the success rate of the process goes up significantly. In addition, the training department should remain involved as long as the software is in place.
Has your company switched systems during your tenure? What was your role in the project? What is the most important role for a training department in this process? What can you do if the project gets off track? Send us your tips for getting through a system rollout with your sanity intact.

Alicia White was a training manager for a branch automation project at a bank headquartered in the Southeast. She is currently a business analyst for this same project. She is also an IT instructor at a local business college.