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.
(Photo credit: Maurizio Pesce)
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.
It's difficult to know what customers want in general, but this is especially true when it comes to their education needs. Customers say one thing but then want another. There's a clear discrepancy between customer feedback and the numbers you gather from your education programs. How can customer education managers balance the two to truly determine what education their customers need and then create the right offerings for them?