In order to realize value from the investment in a business intelligence (BI) and data warehousing (DW) solution, individuals who access the solution must understand how to use it. A comprehensive training curriculum is a series of courses or training options provided to information consumers in order to train them on how to use the BI applications as well as educate them on the subject matter that is provided by the DW solution. When information consumers understand how to effectively use the BI and DW solution, their knowledge of the subject matter and the business increases which, in turn, creates informed business decisions that lead to operational efficiencies and identification of revenue opportunities. In the Part 1 and Part 2 of this three-part series, I examined various course delivery mechanisms and methods for incorporating adult learning theories into the training of information consumers. This article focuses on putting it all together by conducting a training needs assessment and then designing a comprehensive curriculum.

Before a comprehensive curriculum can be designed, a training needs assessment should be conducted whereby information is gathered, analyzed, and synthesized by a curriculum developer or training manager. During a training needs assessment, several pieces of information must be gathered and analyzed, such as:

  • Quantity, location and roles of individuals to be trained. Determining how many individuals need to be trained, what their roles are and where they are located is needed to size the training effort, determine the different types of information needed by users and assess the geographic dispersion of the individuals. We have found that if there are 10 or fewer individuals to be trained, standard training offered by the BI application vendors may be most appropriate because, in this case, it is not cost-effective to develop custom training materials or a comprehensive curriculum. If the number of individuals to be trained is greater than 10 but fewer than 100, a blend of standard training offered by the BI application vendors and some custom reference materials or courses can be effective to train on the BI applications and educate on the DW environment. If the number of individuals exceeds 100, the least costly and most effective approach to training information consumers is the development of a comprehensive curriculum.
  • Categorization of information consumer groups. Based upon the number of individuals, their roles, and how they will be using the BI applications, categories can be defined to group the various needs and types of information consumers. Most information consumers can be classified into one of the following groups:

Information viewers

This group is typically comprised of executives and senior managers who need information that is summarized and has been defined for them. They need the ability to view static information online and/or print to a local printer.

Casual information consumers

This group consists of managers and supervisors who require the next level of detail from the information that is provided to information viewers. In addition to the privileges of information viewers, casual information consumers must have the ability to refresh report information and enter desired information parameters for the purposes of performing high-level research and analysis.

Functional information consumers

Individuals in this group are typically managers, supervisors, and analysts who need to perform detailed research and analysis, requiring access to transactional data. In addition to the privileges of casual information consumers, functional information consumers must have the ability to develop their own ad hoc queries and perform OLAP analysis.

Advanced information consumers

Individuals in this category are those who have a strong understanding of both the business and the technology to access and analyze transactional data for analysis purposes. They must have full privileges to explore and analyze the data with the BI applications available.

  • BI applications. The BI applications and the corresponding features and functionality that will be used by each information consumer group will define the skills that need to be taught.
  • Training objectives. Understanding the training objectives is the foundation for designing a comprehensive training program. Training objectives can range from teaching individuals the features and functionality of the BI applications to educating individuals on the BI and DW solution through progressive courses that increase their BI applications skills and their knowledge of the information that is available to them via the DW. Commonly, training objectives are tailored for each information consumer group that has been defined.
  • Timing and speed of deployment. Ideally, training is provided to information consumers as the BI and DW solution is deployed to them. This allows for a smooth transition from training to actual usage of the BI and DW solution. A time gap between training and the usage of the BI and DW solution reduces the effectiveness of the training. The speed of deployment will help to determine the scheduling of course offerings and their frequency.
  • Budget. Understanding the number of individuals to be trained, the training objectives and the budget helps to define the parameters of the curriculum. The amount of funding available will directly impact the number of courses, the delivery mechanisms and the curriculum.

The information that was gathered and analyzed during the training needs assessment can be synthesized to design a comprehensive BI and DW training curriculum. The following is an example of a comprehensive curriculum matrix, excluding the frequency of the offerings:

Courses/Training Events Training Delivery Mechanisms Information Consumer Groups
Introduction to the BI and DW solution Classroom, remote instructor-led or self-paced training Viewers, casual, functional and advanced
BI applications training (tailored for each information consumer group) Classroom, remote instructor-led or self-paced training Viewers, casual, functional and advanced
Overview of the organization's business rules and data definitions (one course for each functional area or subject matter) Classroom, remote instructor-led or self-paced training Functional and advanced
BI applications vendor user groups and conferences Knowledge transfer Functional and advanced
Periodic meetings to share best practices, experiences, and ideas that are internal to the organization Knowledge transfer Functional and advanced
Advanced BI functionality training and education on the DW data model and content Case study workshops, instructor-guided training or knowledge transfer Advanced

The value of a BI and DW solution is dependent on how information consumers use it for reporting, analysis, and decision-making purposes. By offering a comprehensive curriculum, an organization can create a learning environment whereby individuals' knowledge of and skill in using the BI applications and DW solution are continuously evolving. This enables information consumers to more effectively use the BI and DW solution, thereby demonstrating its value.

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