Monday, July 27, 2009

The way to market an IT solution - Look at the storyline and how they build it.

Was digging thru my mail archives and found this one addressed to my team during the release of Google Wave. Felt good again about the email, that I am sharing....

You must now have realized that work alone is not going to get you places. You need to talk, evangelize, support, energize, and invigorate the work.

As usual, Google guys have got it right with their latest offering.

My suggestion: Create a group and watch it together. You will have lot of lessons and insights to change your work practices.

Note: It is the developer guy who speaks, types fast (uses spell checker in right way) and yea dances too. The PM just prompts.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Low Budgets, Less Time introduces stereotypes and constraints

Isn't it ?

When you are looking for quick solutions "NOW", you tend to ask and see what majority people use and buy. You seem to think that if it works for them, it will work for you as well. Further, such instances lead to dire needs, that you intend to cut the "desired" features and go for the basic stuff "that works", a compromise.

Thus you make the purchase, lest allow the sales person earn his "incentive" (I was told to use this word, instead of commission) through his skills on selling. A "bad" situation indeed.

In other instances, you understand the need and desire for a solution that eases some time off you. You have been doing the job and now, with a little automation for a small fee, try to do more with earlier constraints removed. The catch is this. For a better budget, you get to free "all" your time for better and productive tasks. But inflicting self constraints and not opening up, leads to desired vs accepted level gap.

What do sellers and vendors do.
  1. Do what is accepted by majority, that is create stereotypes, thereby innovating a solution at bottom pyramid.
  2. Put limitations/constraints on the solution, as to what is delivered and leave what is possible, for better times, thus manage time.
See what has happened? When both consumer and producer should work and concentrate on the "solution", both are now looking at "cost and time" and fitting the solution inside the slot machine.

Hence, please give sufficient time to allow for work, iterations, discussions, wider feedback to get the best bang for your buck. Instead of going down a range, try moving within a range judiciously, to accept/tweak feature/functionality that are desirable and useful.

Any alternate line of thoughts, welcome.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Knowledge - Skill Trade Off.

For working adults and for business, Knowledge is a liability. Proficiency is an asset.

Coming from a professional making living selling and consulting on e-Learning content, this might be strange. But it is true. We go to campus to hire graduates knowledgeable in software, concepts and programming languages. But after few years, it is experience and the work done that is of prime importance and interviews than the same knowledge with which you entered the industry. People with high degree of knowledge and low on adaptation of them as skills do not get the same success as they get in academic world.

In smaller organizations, the theme is "Learn on the Job". This means, they need to apply the knowledge and gain the skills. If not known, they need to pick up the skills to deliver it on time. If they do not gain the full knowledge but are skilled, they are better and reliable resources.

My favorite pet theme in initiating a new member is "Welcome to the unlearn land"
Imparting e-Learning or training in businesses for giving knowledge, is not a worthy investment. The best way to gain knowledge still is the school or college system. So, if resources are in need of knowledge, say financial management, it would be a good investment to sponsor their education in school. But if the resource needs skill, say in managing cash flows of the company, then e-Learning would be best medium to re-tool them to become productive resources.

To achieve this, Multiple views, multiple presentations for same content, multiple situations, should be made available to users to let them gain the knowledge for the job requirement a.k.a skill.

Self Evaluation Case Study:

I majored in Computer Science and later on a Management degree program. They definitely made me where I am. But how many books, theories, do I use in real life ? Rather, when I joined my first company, we were moving away from Authorware and Java to HTML/Javascript. Javascript fascinated me and I was one among the prime movers into that technology.

How was it possible ? Obviously Yahoo and Google searches helped.
Was it one site, one author, one training provider, one professor, one mentor, who helped me in it ?
Definitely no. It was multiple sites, multiple code snippets, various coding styles, multiple mentors, knowledgeable peers, multiple books that helped me gain the proficiency.

Would it be possible for an organization to provision them to their employees?

Yes, with mashable and single source script/storyboard, it is possible to create multiple delivery mediums and content streams in the same cost that it makes to create an elaborate training program.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Skills for a Learning Professional

The Learning Circuits Blog question for the month: "What new skills and knowledge are required for learning professionals?" coincides with a similar discussion, me and my colleague are having over at Ning: explore learning solutions forum.

These are not new skills, but should be in must have checklist.

Self management skills required:
1. Use of task management software to track tasks and time. I recommend todolist

2. Knowledge of MS Excel: While most learning professionals are experts in word, power point, knowing MS excel is more important. Leaving it as a managers tool for tracking is not a good understanding of the software itself.

Few important skills required in excel are:
  • Linking cells,
  • Frequently used formulas,
  • Conditional Formatting,
  • Work with data manipulation and Report sheets,
  • Pivot table and Pivot charts.
With above skills, Solution that excel could provide are:
  • Information Architecture,
  • Content Analysis/Course Outline/Gap Analysis,
  • Incident/Bug Tracking
  • Questionnaires: Learning Needs Analysis, Customer Satisfaction Surveys, Polls
  • Wire frame and Prototype through Excel
  • Project Tracking and Project Management tasks like resource allocation, planning
  • Store Code/Visual Templates and Code Libraries

3. Understand the final output architecture. If it is going to be in HTML, then it is better to avoid transition effects (unless recent javascript frameworks like EXTJS, JQuery are used.) If it is flash, then the instruction area, size, total word count, how to handle scrolls need to be understood. Check if the text input format is XML, text file, from database, or an object file or is directly embedded in flash/HTML.

If RAD (Rapid Application Development) tools are used, what are their limitations, how much customization and tweaks are possible.

An important question that any learning professional should answer is: How soon will RAD deliver by end output ready for release?

4. Usability and User Experience guidelines and intermediate level of heuristic parameter knowledge in visual communication and functionality design.

For providing Great Solutions:

1. Understand mind mapping and use effective tools: I recommend Free Mind.
2. Record and Note every expectation, instructions and sequencing and structuring progress. I recommend Evernote.
3. Learn XML: The first place to start would be "W3School" e-Learning courses.
4. Learn Manifest file in SCORM: I really do not know why technical people create them, while it is ID who should be checking the LO chunks and create IDREF.
5. Read books: Recommended reading would include:
1. System Thinking Books
Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge, Seeing Forest for Trees by Dennis Sherwood

2. Consulting Books
McKinsey Mind, Seven C's of Consulting

3. Presentation and Training Books.
How to Wow with Power point, Show Biz Training

and anything you like. The key is read books in lateral areas.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Selling Performance Support System

Recently, we have been receiving requests of Performance Support. However, explaining it as PSS (Performance Support System), makes customers feel that it is a jargon used to sell more than address their requirements.

Hence it was imperative to give perspective of the business impact of the solution, they are expecting.

If you want a team, say to use say a CRM system or improve sales, what options do you have ?

1. Give them a full day training.
2. Give them a book with a test after 15 days.
3. Provide test machines or install CRM in all desktops, for users to learn by experimenting. Provide with computer simulated customers to practice sales.

OR PSS provides:

1. Capsules of the training for 10 minutes or less than that and allow users to practice at their pace. The training could be simulated walkthrough's, interactive practice sandboxes, case studies and peer responses, etc.

2. When users need to use it for a requirement, provide exactly what they need to know at that time, to use the system effectively.

Given the above scenarios, let me know how you would rate them on following questions.

1. Which of them is more productive, easy and meaningful ?

2. Which of the approaches, allow for longer term retention and application of concepts on job ?

3. Which of the methods is more likely to "stick" and condition the users to use the system with confidence ?

4. When do you think your users would adapt to the system faster ?

5. Which one would you choose ?

Performance Support Systems are a bundled offerring that features:

1. Coherence
  • Walk throughs and Interactive models should be available
  • Provide voice over support
  • Include TIPs and knowledge checks to bring about a coherence in the course

2. Compactness

  • Task based learning nuggets
  • Allow for skip-through and printing of step instructions

3. Continuum

  • Learner Management and Feedback
  • Community Interactions

So when you shop around for e-Learning in future for any application rollout, new process, change in existing work style, you most likely are looking for Performance Support Systems. Consult your vendor for their solutions and their references to determing their effectiveness .

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