My People Don’t Understand Our Applications

July 12, 2011 - 0 Comments

Guest Post by Contributing Author Ken Presti

Scenario #1:

“I put it in the system. Really, I did.”

“Then where is it?”


Scenario #2:

“Help! I can’t figure out how to do that.”

“It’s right here. Just look in this drop down menu.”

(Wait 5 minutes)

“Help! How do you do the other thing?”

“It’s right here in the other drop down menu. Just take a moment to look around. It’s not hard to figure out. Just look for a couple of minutes.”

(Wait 3 minutes)


No doubt, we’ve all seen these situations before. The first one is usually a case of pilot error – perhaps even of chronic proportions. The second one usually represents someone who realizes it takes less mental energy to call for help than it takes to even try to figure it out for themselves. This might seems like a brilliant tactic to them, but #1, they’re not learning how to navigate the program if they’re not actively exploring it, and #2, whomever is riding to the rescue isn’t exactly getting their own job done while they’re doing all the helping.

This is not to say that every call for help is about being lazy or clueless. And it’s also true that a few people have an almost irrational fear of screwing up their system by trying anything more than the most basic functions.

Many times it’s not the user’s fault. In some cases, the documentation that supports the application is not exactly robust. And also, applications are created by developers based on what makes sense in their own stream of logic; not necessarily the stream of logic that you, yourself, might use.

The good news is that help, in the form of application training, is usually available if you take the time to look for it. Your channel partner may be the first one to ask. But the fact that they are the ones integrating the product does not necessarily mean that they really know how all the bells and whistles work. So you’ll definitely want to drill down into their level of expertise at the operational level, as well as at the integration level, upon which they’re already executing. Assuming that the channel partner is a viable option, this service might only be provided at a train-the-trainer level. Or the fees may be dependent upon the number of people that need to be trained.

Alternatively, there are many training services out there; many of which you’ll be able to identify either through the partner, or through the actual vendor that develops the product. In most cases, this will be online training, which can be a great thing because your people can learn at their own pace, and can schedule their time around peak work loads. In certain circumstances, virtual classroom, or actual physical classroom presence may be necessary. But the need to show up at a particular physical location is getting more and more rare as time goes on.

Speaking of time, you’ll want the training to happen as immediately adjacent as possible to the person’s actual use of the program. Whether we realize it or not, software is a situation in which we learn by doing. Thus, the intellectual knowledge of how to do operate an application has a fairly short half-life if it’s not being actively used. In this context, books and guides can also be useful sources of “refresher” information.

So there are plenty of avenues to help your people get up to speed on the apps used by your company. And by helping them to navigate the various options, you can go a long way towards improving your return on investment on business applications.

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