The evolution of IT Training within Agile projects

Benefit from engaging the Change and Learning team from the start of your project.

As companies move towards Agile Project methodologies, they are seeing the benefits of having Training and Change work in conjunction with the project team from the beginning. I am currently working within agile IT and Asset Management project initiatives at a major Supermarket. Through this experience I have noticed several benefits of this agile approach from a training and project perspective:

Benefit 1: Greater project knowledge

When you’re standing in front of a group of eager end-users they view you as the fountain of all knowledge. Sometimes, the trainer is the first person they have spoken to about the new system implementation and they expect you to know it all. You need to know the business process, the organisational structure, the end user’s day job, the software, the how’s, the why’s, the meaning of life… the list goes on. Unfortunately, it’s impossible for the trainer to know everything and most notably, how a business came to make its decisions in the first place.

Working within an agile project means working in parallel with the project team. The beginning of a project is a critical time where the scope is ever changing but you are fully aware of why these changes happen and the reasons for it. Being embedded early on enables the trainer to provide a greater level of understanding to the end users.

Benefit 2: Time

To build and design quality, role specific training course requires time. Deadlines are tight – and they still are within sprint’s, but the difference is that a training course is built week by week in stages. These building blocks can be constructed with the similar approach to a sprint:

  1. Meet with stakeholders, become an active participant in scrum meetings, gather and share knowledge, capture ideas and document decisions. 
  2. Plan the documents/materials you will build for the week. 
  3. Design and Develop your materials. 
  4. Test the system whilst documenting the steps, do you encounter any problems that you can share with the team? 
  5. Evaluate, quality assure and assess whether the training documents/courses produced continue to be suitable for the audience.

This method ensures accurate and robust documents are produced, this also reduces the number of knowledges gathering sessions you may need with the SME’s.

Benefit 3: Pilots

Agile projects can incorporate time for pilot releases of the software to a small group of employees to use in real life scenarios. You can also pilot your training courses to assess what can be done better.

I recently completed a pilot course for employees who are out in the field. They travel and rarely have access to a laptop, this meant that a Learning Management System (LMS) was not a viable option for hosting training documents. Sending documents through email or printing out hard copies was also ineffective. From this evaluation, we came up with an alternative approach. We began sending short reference guides and instructional videos to their mobile devices. These documents can be viewed as pictures and videos, they can be saved to the camera roll and can be accessed anywhere. This turned out to be a far more successful way to support and encourage change, so going forward we will utilise this approach during the subsequent roll outs of the application.

Benefit 4: Client Benefits

It is important to note that it is the end user’s adoption of a new system and processes that can prove if a roll out was successful or not. Deadlines and go-live dates can often take premise over assessing whether the delivered solution will improve what it was meant to in the first place. New systems are usually implemented to provide greater visibility, improve efficiency and ultimately reduce costs. However, these benefits can only be validated by an end user’s interpretation. As a trainer the end users are always at the forefront of your mind and reinforcing this notion from the start and bridging the gap between the workforce and the project team has been an essential and extremely fulfilling part of my role. These benefits are just the tip of the iceberg and I am excited to see what else I can learn from this agile journey and continuously improve the training approach as the initiatives progress.

Susan Nelson was a Learning Consultant at Cubic Consulting and relocated back to the UK early 2020 to give birth to her first child.

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