Planning and Delivering Effective PLM Training Programs: from Classrooms to E-learning
As discussed in a previous post, effective training programs are paramount to business value realization. Among other factors, end-user training involves a combination of timely awareness communications, effective and lean education programs.
Nowadays, e-learning is becoming the norm, though it can be quite impersonal and lack practical application outside the theoretical scope. This is why there are numerous software applications to leverage scenario driven run-throughs with interactive examples, complemented with social interactions with technical support and knowledge-based Q&A. Enterprise training typically includes a blend of e-learning, webinar recordings, how-to manuals, often complemented by classroom-led demonstrations and exercises. End-user training is typically tailored to solution complexity, implementation strategy and methodology (waterfall vs agile), how the solution will be validated, its transition approach (multi-phase, production pilot, full-blown deployment, etc.).
In this post, I highlight what it typically means to plan and deliver effective PLM training programs, and how to leverage e-learning.
Training is typically part of a learning continuum: from how a solution is designed and implemented, to its deployment and transition from project team to service operations and its support team. There are numerous knowledge transfer models which relate to learning in an organizational context. Nyffenegger (2020) made an interesting summary of the literature, highlighting (among others) the following points:
Key learning factors include individual motivation, self-efficacity and perceived accountability: basically, how individuals proactively and actively seek for new information and acquire knowledge.
Contextual factors are important, part of cultural and organizational considerations, as they contribute to how people behave when challenged and learn.
How organizations and project teams design and deliver course portfolio and learning paths, encouraging reflective practice and self-development.
How change programs drive knowledge transfer, in context of one or more from the above considerations.
PLM projects are often complex due to their multi-disciplinary aspects, process adaption, data quality challenges, system integration, data migration and other enterprise alignment requirements. People factors are part of the success equation; resistance to change can link to the lack of understanding of new solutions, combined with the lack of engagement throughout change projects. Education is not only about training end-users at the end of an implementation project. It includes working top-down and bottom-up when communicating about the rationale and progress towards the change mandate. Learning programs must include e-learning elements as it is not always possible to put everyone through a classroom training for timing reasons, and it is not always the most effective (and cost-effective) way of training end-users.
Nyffenegger (2020) suggested that e-learning adoption can be improved in a PLM context by:
Getting customer feedbacks (presuming, not only at the end of the training program, but also in the early days to account for further improvements in subsequent phases).
Building interactivity to “humanize” e-learning.
Giving parallel access to on-demand experts and ambassadors to provide guidance and support.
Focusing on small duration content to remain engaging.
Encouraging gamification and rewards to motivate end-users.
Leveraging micro-learning options to add flexibility to the learning curriculum.
Adapting a training program to a given change scope and timing can be overwhelming, especially due to limited appreciation of data management, integration or process re-engineering complexity. If is not unusual to observe resistance to change from end-users with previous poor learning experience and blame it on the tool or vendor; or vice-et-versa based on various causality factors.
Finally, the size, culture and modus operandi of an organization can have significant implications on training effectiveness. For example, start-ups are likely to be more open to modern learning methods than established and traditional businesses. The PLM scope and amount of change required are also important factors to consider when designing training programs.