Modern Middle Manager
Primarily my musings on the practical application of technology and management principles at a financial services company.
Training Wheels

Saturday, December 14, 2002  

I came across an article about the current IT trend of staying out of the end-user training business and how it will ultimately costs IT departments control over strategic innovation, leading to wasted capital IT investments. I have an issue with the article.

Problem #1: IT should not be "innovating" without support of the business units anyway. If a company wants to abdicate its responsibility to aligning IT with the business strategy then that's a bigger problem than who should be doing training.

Problem #2: Setting up marketing and/or the HR department trainers as strawmen within the article. There is another choice. The business units need to be in charge of their own training to avoid the HR empire builders and because it is in their best interests to bring new users up to speed. This is a great example of alignment. Why shouldn't IT tackle training? Well, the last time I checked allocating "training resources" (aka man-hours) would take away from user support, replacements, upgrades and the time it takes within an IT department to "sharpen the saw" of each IT employee. IT should be working with business units to add value and/or cut expenses through its expertise -- advice, analysis and development in pursuit of business goals. Business units should be accountable for the knowledge transfer -- it is their bottom lines that are affected profoundly by lack of training.

Problem #3: There are really two kinds of training being discussed but not identified in the article -- what we would consider "generalized knowledge" like using a spreadsheet or word processing program, and "specialized knowledge" such as how to create new accounts in the company's core banking system. The latter is what I am addressing by laying the training burden on the business units. The first one is easily solved, actually -- stop hiring computer illiterates. Yes, illiterates is the proper term. They are as much a burden in the 21st century as hiring someone who can barely read and write was in the 20th. There's too much background information that needs to be taught, too much intimidation they feel from the very tools they should have mastered to do their work. You don't hire a CPA who can't use an Excel spreadsheet so why the hell are you hiring administrative assistants or salespeople who write letters but don't know how to use Microsoft Word?

posted by Henry Jenkins | 12/14/2002 12:48:00 AM

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