We've been talking a lot about certifications lately, whether they're worth it for employees, candidates, and employers. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Many companies are developing their own certification programs as a companion to customer education, which are then becoming industry standards for technologies (like the Microsoft or Oracle Certifications).
Before you even think about developing a customer education strategy, you must begin with a goal. It sounds simple enough, but too often, people who lead efforts to develop software training programs for customers just start developing a strategy, or worse, just start training customers on product features, without a clear vision for why education is necessary in the first place.
When your customers say your training is ineffective or you see from reports that product use does not increase following an education intervention, one of the questions you should ask yourself is, "Are we helping customers understand the context for why our product exists and why they need to learn it?" One major problem with software education is that it is focused primarily on helping people learn features. Learning features without understanding basic concepts and without understanding "why" will often leave people bewildered about how to use the software.
A show of hands out there: how many of you are thinking of converting your live training courses into eLearning?
(Photo credit: Maurizio Pesce)
Training surveys are one of THE most used tools in the customer education manager's toolbox. Surveys can impact everything from course design to facilitator hirings. The problem with most surveys is that they're not used properly. They're too long, go un-answered, don't provide actionable data, or just pile up in someone's desks, never to be used.
Earlier this week I was talking to a former colleague who's a director in a technology organization, and she recently attended a two-day training session. When I asked her how it went, she told me it was a good course, lots of good information, but she didn't like that it was only open to other managers from her organization. She would have preferred the course have attendees from other organizations so she could hear about their experiences too.
Many of today's technology companies use an Agile methodology to develop their software, like Scrum, Adaptive software development (ASD), Crystal Clear methods, and Extreme Programming (XP.) Many more use Agile in their non-software development business processes like marketing and product management. The iterative and collaborative nature of Agile allows people to focus on more than just the end product. Learning designers who are tired of the inflexible approach of ADDIE and more waterfall-related development methodologies might want to take a look at Agile and see how it can work for them.