Evaluating Your Options for IT Training

Brien Posey, Freelance Writer and Former CIO | 11/19/2012 | 16 comments

Brien Posey
With so many enterprise releases this year just from Microsoft alone, it is time to start figuring out how you're going to train your staff on all of it.

As a CIO, it is your job to make sure that the information systems under your control help the organization to meet its business objectives. Part of that includes evaluating your staff and the applications in place to make sure you can competently deploy the right applications.

Normally the task of evaluating new applications is relatively straightforward. This year, however, Microsoft is releasing an unprecedented number of new products. We have already seen the release of Windows Server 2012, Windows 8, Windows RT, and Windows Phone 8. Other products such as Exchange Server 2013, SharePoint 2013, Lync Server 2013, and Microsoft Office 2013 have reached RTM and will be released to the public very soon.

Part of what makes the evaluation process particularly difficult is that not only are there an unusually large amount of products to evaluate, but most of the products in Microsoft's current release cycle are designed to work together with one another. As such, the only way to get the maximum benefit from many of the new Microsoft products is to also purchase other Microsoft products.

I recently spoke to a CIO and asked what his plans were for getting his staff trained on the latest Microsoft products. His response was that his people are smart, and that he was sure they would figure out the new software.

While it is theoretically possible for an experienced IT professional to implement, configure, and manage the new Microsoft software without any formal training, forgoing training is a bad idea.

Proper training helps to ensure that the software is implemented properly so that your data is protected against disaster. Training also ensures that the IT staff will know what to do when problems occur.

Since there is no denying the importance of proper training, the next logical question is how best to provide that training. There are a number of different training options available, including training centers, in-house training, and video training.

Sending IT staff off-site to receive training from a Microsoft authorized training center is the most comprehensive choice. The main advantages to this approach are that your staff will receive hands-on training, and they can get all of their questions answered by a knowledgeable instructor.

One of the main disadvantages to this type of training is that the staff members will be out of the office for the duration of the training (which usually lasts three to five days). Another disadvantage is the cost. Training, especially for large teams, can be prohibitive.

Another option is to perform training on-site by bringing the instructor to your team. Although this type of training has proven to be effective for some organizations, the employees who are receiving the training sometimes have trouble focusing on the training because they are in the office, surrounded by day-to-day distractions.

Also, the per employee cost of on-premises training is often similar to that of attending an off-site training class. And instructors usually require a minimum number of students to be registered. For smaller staff sizes, this might prove difficult. The organization might have to provide the lab hardware used in the training class as well, which may or may not be possible depending on how far you are in your evaluation process.

Another especially popular option is video-based training. Many ompanies provide video-based Microsoft training classes (as well as training classes for other vendors). These classes typically cost a small fraction of what in-person training costs. However, there are disadvantages to video-based training.

For one thing, your staff members do not have a way of asking questions in the event that they do not understand something in the video. Another disadvantage is that your staff might be reluctant to spend the necessary amount of time watching the video, because they feel that day-to-day tasks should receive higher priority. Even if an employee does take the time to watch the videos, they might not get as much out of the video as they would a live training class because of being continually interrupted by phone calls, office chatter, and things like that.

One last option that is sometimes effective is to send one or two of your sharpest people to a training center, with the understanding that they will be responsible for teaching the material to the rest of the IT staff upon their return. Keep in mind however, that while this approach can save you a significant amount of money, it only works if your staff members are able to learn the material quickly and do an effective job of teaching that material to others.

In my opinion, using a Microsoft authorized training center is the best option for training your IT staff if you can afford it. If live training just isn't in the budget, then video-based training can be effective, so long as you make it clear that the training is a high priority and provide an environment in which the staff members will be free from distractions while they learn the material. You'll have to make the choice that is right for you based on staff size and budget. But don't skimp on the training. It is part of making your systems work, especially this year with all the new releases.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
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Gigi   Evaluating Your Options for IT Training   12/4/2012 2:23:39 AM
Re: Training Institutes
Syerita, the problem comes when companies are trying to short cut the training expenses. Train the trainer, one to one or customized training etc are some of the common methods they used to adopt as a part of cost cutting. In some companies, they encourage for self study with the help of on-line course materials, which are available with their repository.
Syerita Turner   Evaluating Your Options for IT Training   11/27/2012 8:29:43 PM
Re: Training Institutes
With so many new releases, training is imperative, however, the best course of obtaining the training will depend on all of the factors listed in this post. What small staffed businesses can also do is hire their own trainer and send them to the training or have them watch the video and provide the in-house training to the staff. As an IT trainer, I see this all of the time. I work for a small organization and any new system or software I have to learn it then teach it to the staff. So being on payroll as a "trainer" I am able to both learn and teach the material thus saving the company time and money.
Gigi   Evaluating Your Options for IT Training   11/26/2012 1:44:26 AM
Re: Training Institutes
Gym.prathap, that's always better because he may be a knowledgeable person. I used to prefer learn from the guru rather than so called 'trained trainer'.
gym.prathap   Evaluating Your Options for IT Training   11/20/2012 3:37:34 AM
Re: Training Institutes
I'm agreeing with you. Learning from the IT Training Institutes makes a live interaction beween the trainers and students, which helps to solve more doubts of the students.
Susan Nunziata   Evaluating Your Options for IT Training   11/20/2012 12:15:09 AM
Re: IT training testing for knowledge
@impactnow. Simple but effective solution. Works in school. But what would be the workplace consequences of a poor test result?
Susan Nunziata   Evaluating Your Options for IT Training   11/20/2012 12:12:03 AM
Re: Train the Trainer
@gigi. So it really all rests on the skills of the people selected for the training program and they would need to be evaluated not only on technical knowledge but also on their ability to communicate that knowledge effectively to others. Not everyone is a good teacher.
impactnow   Evaluating Your Options for IT Training   11/19/2012 11:21:40 PM
IT training testing for knowledge
I completely understand the implications of offsite training and think that remote training via online classroom or web enabled training could be beneficial. What about asking employees to take a test after the training? That would assure that they are attending classes and studying the material to become proficient on the application.
Hospice_Houngbo   Evaluating Your Options for IT Training   11/19/2012 11:18:42 PM
Re: Nice Joke
Nemos, you are right. But isn't that possible for people to pick up new skills on their own when they already get the background knowledge?
Gigi   Evaluating Your Options for IT Training   11/19/2012 11:04:51 PM
Training Institutes
Brien, it's always better to learn for the authorized training centres because they have highly qualified knowledgeable persons. Moreover the certificates issued by them have more value/credibility, when compare the one from franchise centers.
Gigi   Evaluating Your Options for IT Training   11/19/2012 11:00:56 PM
Re: Train the Trainer
Susan, you are right. Most of the companies have a similar approach -train the trainer, which I a very cost effective method for them. Training for each employee may cost more than hundreds of Dollars/Euros. So instead of that they will send a limited number of employees for training and in turn they will train the rest of employees. Eventhough it's very cost effective, the learning curve for other trainees may not be effective because it's all depends up on the knowledge of trainer.
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