Toward IT Utopia…Software as a Tool

Lets talk about software as a business enabler, as a tool. Whether you use Excel, PhotoShop, AutoCAD, Quickbooks or SolidWorks, it is likely that you depend heavily on any number of business applications (software). There are three primary struggles when it comes to the business value of your applications: usability (learning how to use the product combined with what it can and cannot do for you), cost (upfront and ongoing), and support.
Lets tackle them in order.


Not all applications are created equal. It is likely that no one taught you to use Internet Explorer or even Microsoft Outlook. It is, however, unlikely that you sat down to unlock the mysteries of PhotoShop or SolidWorks all by yourself, as these are complex, extremely powerful, not terribly intuitive tools. In either case (IE or PhotoShop), most users utilize a tiny percentage of the power of their business applications and, even at that, do so inefficiently.

Consider the value of training. Would you put a staff member in front of the assembly line,  ultra-sound or even pizza oven and say, “Good luck figuring out how to run it! We’ll expect you to be productive by the end of the day!”

For some applications, like Microsoft Office, there are a plethora of training resources: books, online, on-site, etc. For others, particularly specialized applications, you’ll likely have to send someone out of town or fly someone in.

Finding the right resource, the resource that works for you and your staff is critical.

Some scattered thoughts in this regard:

  • Lecture is the worst possible method for knowledge transfer. It just doesn’t stick.
  • Hands-on is a requirement for software training: people learn and retain what they do.
  • Consider a train-the-trainer approach, particularly with specialized applications. Find an in-house resource, send them to class and let them train the rest of your staff upon their return.
  • IMPORTANT: Your most savvy technical user is likely the WORST candidate for being your trainer! Trust me: it comes easy to them, they expect it to come easy to others and their presentation/people skills are likely minimal.

The ROI for business application training is consistently validated. As much as I dislike the phrase and as oxymoronic as it may sound…training is a no-brainer!

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