Systems analysts engage in an educational process with users that is called training. Throughout the systems development life cycle, the user has been involved so that by now the analyst should possess an accurate assessment of the users who must be trained.
In the implementation of large projects, the analyst will often be managing the training rather than be personally involved in it. One of the most prized assets the analyst can bring to any training situation is the ability to see the system from the user’s viewpoint. The analyst must never forget what it is like to face a new system. Those recollections can help analysts empathize with users and facilitate their training.
Training strategies are determined by who is being trained and who will train them. The analyst will want to ensure that anyone whose work is affected by the new information system is properly trained by the appropriate trainer.
All people who will have primary or secondary use of the system must be trained. They include everyone from data entry personnel to those who will use output to make decisions without personally using a computer. The amount of training a system requires depends on how much someone’s job will change because of the new interactions required by the revised system.
You must ensure that users of different skill levels and job interests are separated. It is certain trouble to include novices in the same training sessions as experts, because novices are quickly lost and experts are rapidly bored with basics. Both groups are then lost.
For a large project, many different trainers may be used depending on how many users must be trained and who they are. Possible training sources include the following:
- Systems analysts.
- External paid trainers.
- In-house trainers.
- Other system users.
This list gives just a few of the options the analyst has in planning for and providing training. Large vendors often provide off-site, one or two-day training sessions on their equipment as part of the service benefits offered when corporations purchase expensive COTS software. These sessions include both lectures and hands-on training in a focused environment. They may also extend the experience with online user groups, dedicated blogs, or annual user conferences.
Because systems analysts know the organization’s people and the system, they can often provide good training. The use of analysts for training purposes depends on their availability, because they also are expected to oversee the complete implementation process.
External paid trainers are sometimes brought into the organization to help with training. They may have broad experience in teaching people how to use a variety of computers, but they may not give the hands-on training that is needed for some users. In addition, they may not be able to custom-tailor their presentations enough to make them meaningful to users.
Full-time, in-house trainers are usually familiar with the skills and learning preferences of personnel and can tailor materials to their needs. One of the drawbacks of in-house trainers is that they may possess expertise in areas other than information systems and may therefore lack the depth of technical expertise that users require.
It is also possible to have any of these trainers train a small group of people from each functional area that will be using the new information system. They in turn can be used to train the remaining users. This approach can work well if the original trainees still have access to materials and trainers as resources when they themselves are providing training. Otherwise, it might degenerate into a trial-and-error situation rather than a structured one.
Guidelines for Training
The analyst has four major guidelines for setting up training. They are (1) establishing measurable objectives, (2) using appropriate training methods, (3) selecting suitable training sites, and (4) employing understandable training materials.
Who is being trained in large part dictates the training objectives. Training objectives for each group must be spelled out clearly. Well-defined objectives are of enormous help in letting trainees know what is expected of them. In addition, objectives allow evaluation of training when it is complete. For example, operators must know such basics as turning on the machine, what to do when common errors occur, basic troubleshooting, and how to end an entry.
Each user and operator will need slightly different training. To some extent, their jobs determine what they need to know, and their personalities, experience, and backgrounds determine how they learn best. Some users learn best by seeing, others by hearing, and still others by doing. Because it is often not possible to customize training for an individual, a combination of methods is often the best way to proceed. That way, most users are reached through one method or another.
Methods for those who learn best by seeing include demonstrations of equipment and exposure to training manuals. Those who learn best by hearing will benefit from lectures about procedures, discussions, and question-and-answer sessions among trainers and trainees. Those who learn best by doing need hands-on experience with new equipment. For jobs such as that of computer operator, hands-on experience is essential, whereas a quality assurance manager for a production line may only need to see output, learn how to interpret it, and know when it is scheduled to arrive.
Training takes place in many different locations, some of which are more conducive to learning than others. Large computer vendors provide special off-site locations at which operable equipment is maintained free of charge. Their trainers offer hands-on experience as well as seminars in settings that allow users to concentrate on learning the new system. One of the disadvantages of off-site training is that users are away from the organizational context in which they must eventually perform.
Onsite training in the users’ organization is also possible with several different kinds of trainers. The advantage is that users see the equipment placed as it will be when it is fully operational in the organizational context. A serious disadvantage is that trainees often feel guilty about not fulfilling their regular job duties if they remain onsite for training. Thus, full concentration on training may not be possible.
Off-site training sites are also available for a fee through consultants and vendors. Training sites can be set up in places with rented meeting space, such as a hotel, or may even be permanent facilities maintained by the trainers. These arrangements allow workers to be free from regular job demands, but they may not provide equipment for hands-on training.
In planning for the training of users, systems analysts must realize the importance of well-prepared training materials. These materials include training manuals; training cases, in which users are assigned to work through a case that incorporates most of the commonly encountered interactions with the system; and prototypes and mock-ups of output. Users of larger systems will sometimes be able to train on elaborate Web-based simulations or software that is identical to what is being written or purchased. Most COTS software vendors provide online tutorials that illustrate basic functions, and vendors may maintain Web sites that feature pages devoted to FAQ, which can be downloaded and printed. Changes to manuals can also be gleaned from many vendors’ Web sites.
Because the user’s understanding of the system depends on them, training materials must be clearly written for the correct audience with a minimum of jargon. Training materials should also be well indexed and available to everyone who needs them. A summary of considerations for training objectives, methods, sites, and materials is provided in the table below.
|Training Objectives||Depend on requirements of user’s job|
|Training Methods||Depend on user’s job, personality, background, and experience; use combination of lecture, demonstration, hands-on, and study|
|Training Sites||Depend on training objectives, cost, availability; free vendor sites with operable equipment; in-house installation; rented facilities|
|Training Materials||Depend on user’s needs; operating manuals, cases, prototypes of equipments and output; online tutorials|