If you skimp on training, you may burn every penny you save later in the project when it’s inconvenient and more costly. Even your expert team members need training and time to become confident in their skills and knowledge of new tools and methods.
Your core team members will need in-depth training before you start the POC sprint. You should engage experts from your consulting partner to build the initial dashboards according to best practices. Hiring an expert partner for this work is necessary if your team has not achieved advanced skills by the start of the POC. Your first dashboards must be excellent to maximize first impressions.
Plan on follow-up sessions after the initial training (typically several months later). These sessions allow your team to ask more directed questions and quickly move their skills from intermediate to advanced. The follow-up sessions should be two to four months later.
Consider providing introductory training to the end-users who will review the POC sprint content before completing your POC sprint. While this isn’t mandatory, it is desirable. Four hours of basic training will help them appreciate the software’s capabilities.
You must develop expert knowledge of the software, technique, and data to get maximum value from your BI system. Legacy thinking applied to new tools won’t work. Your team must develop new thinking, new methods, and new/better outputs. The training should be nuanced for each type of user.
Training Tailored for Each User Type
In the last post, we introduced the three categories of user groups. Each group needs training tailored to their needs.
Analysts need in-depth training. They are the foundation of your BI system because they will build the dashboards and data sources that everyone else will use. Analysts should receive training in the chosen dashboard software and best data visualization practices. They should have at least basic knowledge of SQL and become familiar with the data sources they will mine for reporting, analysis and discovery. Your best analysts must develop expert-level skills with the dashboard software.
Heavy users will not be doing data acquisition or transformation. Still, they must know how to modify published dashboards to answer specific questions. Their training can be limited to learning how to change dashboards and views that your analysts have published. This group will benefit from exposure to relevant dashboard examples from the user community. Hence, they can develop an understanding of what is possible even if they don’t need to learn how the dashboard was constructed. They can be trained by your technical analysts or outside consultants to obtain more skills. Some people have a natural ability that makes them want to obtain expert-level skills. You should encourage this and fund additional training for them. Invest in the next level of licensing that provides them with analyst-level capabilities. You can reassign those licenses to other staff if they aren’t using the software enough to justify the cost.
Information consumers will get value from the dashboard environment by learning how to filter and highlight existing dashboards and export content out of a dashboard into their presentation tool of choice, spreadsheets and writing tools. These users form the backbone of value generation from your BI investment. Their training requires two to four hours. This group’s engagement is critical to developing a data-driven organization. Their training should focus on primary navigation, filtering, navigating the outputs and developing enough knowledge to ask for something new as needs arise. These consumers need to be aware of best practices and what is possible so that they understand how to articulate their needs effectively.
Technical employees need different (more in-depth) training than analysts, heavy users and information consumers.
IT staff are tasked with developing new data sources, cleaning data, structuring it and maintaining its quality, timeliness and performance. They need to have expert-level skills with the software, knowledge of industry best practices and continuous learning options. To manage the back end, they will need training in the cloud environment (Amazon, Microsoft, Google Cloud). One or more must understand the data transformation tools, database, security and governance environments.
Consider augmenting your technical staff with external experts if they need help. These external resources can be an excellent sounding board for your team, and they will accelerate learning. Expert consultants can provide a knowledgeable second opinion on essential software and design decisions. Suppose you must blend existing security protocols with new software. Experienced consultants will have experience with different methods for achieving the desired result.
Training Methods for Your Deployment Team and IT Staff
Training for your deployment team and technical analysts can be accomplished best using these methods:
- Classroom training: Two to three weeks of classroom training will be necessary for certification in your chosen tool sets. This cohort must accumulate several months of practical experience before gaining expert-level skills and knowledge.
- Contracted Services: Provide IT experts access to training through contracted services. In some cases, it may make sense to contract these services permanently for less frequent needs (security protocols, system monitoring).
- Internal user groups/Center of Enablement (CoE): Your experts should be people running your help desks and periodic user meetings for your company. Assist them using consulting experts with experience if they need to learn how to start.
Your best analysts should form the backbone of your ongoing training of more casual system users. They should be the core team your end users engage with for help. This team should also have the discretion to retain experts to help with this work if the questions are outside the scope of their knowledge or if they need to keep up with training needs.
Be patient. Even the most brilliant people need time with new software to develop expert-level skills.
Before you have a large group of people using the system, you must consider how to secure your data and make the correct data easy for them to find. We’ll cover this in the next post on security and governance.