One of the steps in the transition to Windows 8 that is often overlooked is providing end-user training.
During my 20-plus years working in IT, I have seen countless situations in which the IT staff will perform an operating system upgrade over the weekend, leaving the end users absolutely bewildered when they arrive on Monday morning.
Experience has shown that no good comes from performing this type of transition. The end users lose productivity and the help desk gets bombarded with phone calls. All of this could be avoided by providing some basic end-user training.
One of the most common arguments against end-user training is that training end users on new operating systems is expensive. Even so, there are a few things to consider.
First, if you skip the end-user training, then most of the users will have to contact the help desk at least once. Although not necessarily tangible, there are very real costs associated with help desk calls. When you consider that most users will probably make a help desk call after an operating system upgrade and that some users will call more than once, you can begin to see that skipping end-user training can be expensive.
Another thing to consider is that the end users do not need to be operating system experts. As such, there is no reason to send end users to the same $2,000 per week official Microsoft training class that members of the help desk staff might attend. Users only need the basics. They need to know how to log into Windows, how to access their applications, how to change their password, and how to log back out.
Because end users really only need the most basic training, there is no reason why you would have to send users to an expensive off-site training class. In fact, there are any number of cost-effective ways that you can provide the users with the training that they need.
One option is to provide in-house training. Over the years, I have seen this done in a couple of different ways. One company that I worked with brought in a Microsoft-certified trainer for half a day and had the trainer teach the users what they needed to know. That actually worked out pretty well, but it did cost the company a few thousand dollars.
Another company set up a classroom with about 20 computers and had a member of the IT staff develop a training curriculum and teach the end users what they needed to know. Personally, I think that this approach to training could have been very effective. Unfortunately, the training was poorly implemented.
I mentioned in the previous paragraph that the classroom had room for about 20 end users. The positive aspect of this was that the classroom's small size allowed each user ample opportunity to ask questions. The negative aspect of the training process was that there were over 1,000 users in the company. Training 20 users at a time ultimately proved to be ineffective.
The class lasted for half a day, which meant that roughly 40 users could be trained in a day. This meant that only about 200 users could be trained in a five-day work week. The reason why this was so problematic was that some of the users received training more than a month before the upgrade actually took place. By the time that the upgrades happened, some of the users hadn't touched the new operating system in so long that they had forgotten everything that they had learned.
Another common option for end-user training is to provide users with video-based training that they can watch on their PCs. The advantages of video-based training are that you can keep costs low (assuming that you produce the video in-house) and you can reach a large user base with minimal effort because end users are free to watch the video when they have time.
Unfortunately, there are some disadvantages to video-based training. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage is that a significant percentage of the users won't take the time to watch the video. They might be too busy, or they might not be able to figure out how to access the video. Some end users will inevitably think that they don't need the training.
Another problem with video-based training is that it does not give users the opportunity to ask questions in the event that there is something in the video that they do not understand. This can be a real problem if creating the video was a way of preparing users for a radical new environment (such as the Windows 8 interface).
Ultimately, I don't think that there is any such thing as the perfect training method. Each of the training methods that I have discussed have their advantages and disadvantages. However, even a moderately successful training program is better than not having a training program in place at all. Failing to provide end users with training increases help desk costs while also lowering user productivity and morale.