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Training of Information Consumers, Part 1

Published
  • October 24 2003, 1:00am EDT

Jonathan would like to thank Lisa Owider, director of Client Education Services at Knightsbridge Solutions, for her contribution to this article.

Organizations that have realized significant value from the use of business intelligence (BI) technology understand that training is essential to the success of the solution. Individuals using the BI solution must understand the features and functionality of the BI software as well as the context of the data with which they are working. When end users have a strong understanding of the BI solution, they are far more likely to use the BI solution as well as develop greater insight into the business. This has, in turn, ignited new ideas, challenged existing processes and procedures, and facilitated changes to the organization. This article is the first in a three- part series that will address effective approaches to the delivery of training, course content and structure, and development of curricula that will elevate the knowledge of information consumers.

There are several options available to provide training to information consumers. These options range from traditional instructor-led classroom training to self-paced training via the Web. Each option is discussed below:

Instructor-Led Training (ILT)

All of us have experienced at least one form of ILT, which requires an individual who is knowledgeable in the subject matter to serve as the instructor and to facilitate the learning experience of the students. There are three commonly used approaches to delivering ILT:

  • Classroom training. The most commonly used approach in ILT is classroom training. The primary advantage of this approach is that students are able to interact with the instructor and each other face to face, which fosters group discussions, greater sharing of experiences by the instructor and the development of professional relationships. The combination of lecture and hands-on exercises led by an experienced instructor is the most effective methodology for enabling students to retain what they have learned. Of the three ILT approaches, this is the most expensive approach because of the facility setup and travel expenses of the instructor and/or students.
  • Virtual training or remote instructor-led training. As a result of travel restrictions, the desire to reduce corporate expenditures, and evolving technology, virtual training has quickly become an acceptable way of delivering ILT. In a virtual setting, there is no classroom facility. Rather, the instructor and students access a Web site and log on to the class from wherever they are located. Similar to classroom training, there are structured start and end times with breaks in between. However, the instructor delivers the materials via the Web site and voice via the Web or telephone. Remote instructor-led training has some of the benefits of instructor led, but at a lower cost and without face-to-face contact.
  • Case study workshops. Case study workshops are a more casual version of classroom training. This form of ILT is focused on a given problem that students must solve using their understanding of the technology and knowledge of the business. The instructor facilitates the learning process of each individual or team as they work through the case study. Most case study workshops are conducted in a classroom, which facilitates interaction between students and the instructor.

Instructor-Guided Training (IGT)

Course materials, student exercises and defined objectives are the primary components of IGT. With IGT, students enroll in a course and interact with the instructor at specified points within the curriculum or by a specified date. Students are expected to complete the materials and submit them to the instructor for review before progressing to the next learning module. This guidance allows the student to have frequent interaction with the instructor without the structured setting of ILT.

Many organizations choose to deliver IGT via the Web, but some use the traditional correspondence method. The Web option has the advantage of delivering content and enabling interaction in a timely, efficient manner. The correspondence approach leads to longer course-completion times given the inherent delays in mail deliveries between student and instructor.

Self-Paced Training

This form of training is most appropriate for those individuals who are self-starters, have a great deal of initiative and follow-through, and have the desire to complete the course at their own convenience. The three primary approaches to delivering self-paced training are described below:

  • Computer- based training (CBT). A reusable self-paced option is CBT, which results in a lower cost of training delivery. Because it is administered via a network drive or on a disk, students can access the material at their convenience. CBT is typically organized by individual skill level. Therefore, if a student needs training on the full set of skills, s/he can start at the beginning and go through the entire training. If the student needs a refresher or wants to pick up a new skill, s/he can start in that section, bypassing the other material. This approach promotes student independence and increases productivity.
  • Web-based training (WBT). WBT is similar to CBT with the exception that it is delivered via the Web and students can access the material any time, anywhere. This option also provides the most efficient means of updating materials without the associated cost of creating and distributing CDs.
  • Documentation/manuals/workbooks. Another mechanism for self-paced training is the use of documentation, manuals and workbooks that require students to read and work through the exercises on their own. While this is an inexpensive approach to training, it is not appropriate for individuals lacking self-discipline.

Knowledge Transfer

Knowledge transfer is more intimate and narrowly focused than the other approaches to training and offers students the ability to quickly learn the subject matter from experts. One approach to knowledge transfer is the use of mentors. Mentors provide guidance on an as-needed basis to individuals who already have a certain level of skill and understanding. Mentors address specific questions while sharing their own experiences with students. Some organizations also make use of "brown-bag" sessions as a forum for addressing topics of interest and enabling participants to learn from each other.

Summary

Creating and sustaining value from a BI solution begins with individuals who are trained on the BI software as well as the content and context of the data. There are several training options that can be used to assemble effective curricula and foster a learning environment within your organization. Understanding the methods available for the delivery of training is the first step in devising a comprehensive training strategy and program.

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